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OK, Automotive, It’s Time to Start Talking About AI

AI can empower your teams by handling the most basic items that can require a lot of an employee’s time.

Hunter Swift is the vice president of product of STELLA Automotive AI, an intelligent digital assistant for the automotive industry that handles inbound calls, answers questions and books appointments.

What Is AI, Really?

We use this to describe all kinds of technology these days — predictive analytics, dynamic chat, digital assistance and bots. But true Artificial Intelligence (AI), as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “the theory and development of computer systems to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making and translation between languages.” 

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Given that definition, does your dealership’s technology actually offer you an AI service? Does your automated phone menu respond to customers’ questions? Does it even sound natural? Does it recognize vocal tone or inflections that can provide indicators of a customer’s frustration? Are there long pauses between when a customer responds and when the automated menu proceeds to the next question? A chatbot, an automated menu, round robin phone system or an automated interactive voice response system is not real AI.

Why Does AI Matter for Automotive?

The overall goal for using AI within retail automotive dealerships is to improve productivity. Today, AI can empower your teams by handling the most basic items — service scheduling, for example — that can require a lot of an employee’s time. It allows employees to focus their skills on more complicated issues, while also providing a consistent, fast and easy experience for the dealership’s vehicle owners. 

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Current tools that may be referred to as “AI” really don’t help ease the workload on dealership staff; they often are just used as a backup when staff members are busy. This is compounded by the fact that it has become increasingly difficult to find, hire, train and manage automotive BDC personnel. But the obstacles don’t stop there. If your dealership is lucky enough to find and hire great employees, inbound appointment phone calls can take up to 80% of an agent’s time in the store. This prevents BDC employees from being able to focus on revenue-generating outbound calls, not to mention true customer complaints, and leaves phone systems flooded with thousands of after-hours and overflowing voicemails. 

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Automotive customers are bombarded with poor dealership experiences. Outdated IVRs contain inconsistent steps and extensive call waiting times. It’s not uncommon for customers to sit on the phone for over a minute before speaking to a live person. The traditional phone directory assumes that customers know exactly whom they’re trying to reach, while the automated phone tree offers a limited number of options. If the customer’s need doesn’t fit nicely into one of the preset options, that customer gets bounced around in an endless loop.

And this is just the beginning. As these AI tools mature, they will be able to handle more processes to empower and enable your teams. We will rely on AI for processing information the same way we became dependent on internet search engines to help us get answers and the same way our grandfathers and grandmothers embraced the telephone.  

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What’s the Next Step?

Do your research and identify where AI can improve your business. One of the biggest pain points is in phone handling and staffing. While there is absolutely no replacement for talented, well-trained and effective employees, we all know that we would prefer that these talented people handle important jobs. Artificial intelligence tools can provide the knowledge and skills to allow that to happen. Using artificial intelligence to relieve your employees of mundane tasks, such as appointment setting, in favor of larger ones is vital in order for your dealership to flourish.

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