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Artificial Intelligence: A Big Win-Win for the Car-Buying Experience

AI, when combined with natural language processing and machine learning, can help buyers research and compare vehicles and make it faster and easier to find the one best suited to their needs.

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We all know that getting a new car can be an exhilarating experience for the buyer — from the “new car smell” to that first getaway road trip that we all dream of. But there’s no denying that some aspects of the car-buying process are sub-optimal and truly frustrating for car buyers.

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Since every dealer wants to deliver the best experience for their customers, my firm recently commissioned a survey to learn more about the realities of the car-buying process. We explored attitudes and pain points and also sought to understand more about how automation can improve the car-buying experience. Our survey of more than 1,000 Americans looked at:

How Americans choose where to buy new cars
Common pain points of the car-buying experience
Ways to make the car-buying experience more enjoyable

The issues that consumers experience when it comes to buying a new car are significant to our industry because roughly one in five Americans (some 19 percent) have bought a new car or truck in the past year or plan to buy one in the coming year. Our findings illuminated the good and bad in the process, provided us with some useful guidance about improving the consumer experience, and pointed to ways our industry can leverage technology to relieve the pain points when it comes to getting that “new car feeling.”

How Consumers Decide on a Dealership: Past Experience Is Key

When asked why they decide which dealership to visit for their car purchase, some 44 percent of women and 35 percent of men said that a good past experience was the most important reason to visit that dealership. Men also cited the reputation of the dealership and the availability of special pricing and offers (at 35 percent each) as leading reasons. But the message here is quite clear: Build a positive relationship with the customer and they will come back multiple times.

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Trust and Rapport: Central to a Positive Experience

In addition to past positive experiences that drive repeat business, the survey data also shows that trust and rapport with dealership personnel are essential to a pleasant car-buying experience. Some 37 percent of Americans say they most dislike having to work with a salesperson they aren’t sure they can trust, and this response was equal among men and women. This finding goes hand-in-hand with the need for dealers to deliver positive customer experiences and cultivate long-term relationships that engender trust.

What’s Painful in the Car-Buying Process? Research and Negotiation

Buying a new car or truck can be a confusing process. And, given the significant amount of research that is required to choose the most appropriate vehicle, as well as to ensure that one is getting a fair price, it is no surprise that 29 percent of respondents named the time it takes to research or negotiate the best deal as the biggest car-buying headache. This is especially true of Millennials, as some 34 percent of those polled cited research and negotiation as pain points.

How Can Automation Help? Consumers Weigh In

Almost all the survey respondents said that automating the tedious and repetitive aspects of the car-buying process would create a better experience overall. Some 25 percent said that they would like to have help choosing the best vehicle for their needs, and 35 percent would like to automate the negotiation process in order to get the best deal. In terms of the sale itself, 20 percent would like to see the paperwork process automated, and post-sale, 21 percent of those polled would like to see automated service and maintenance reminders.

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What Does It All Mean?

Clearly, there is friction in the car-buying process, and obtaining a new vehicle can be a long, complicated and stressful process for all parties involved. However, the survey data tells us that there are some critical areas where automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be applied to improve the pre- and post-sale experience. AI, when combined with natural language processing and machine learning, can help buyers research and compare vehicles and make it faster and easier to find the one best suited to their needs. From a dealer perspective, AI and virtual assistants can more effectively follow up on a large volume of sales leads and maintain great relations with current customers, communicating with customers when, where and how those customers want to interact with their dealer — building positive, trust-based relationships over time.

Artificial Intelligence: Driving an Automated Future for Dealerships

While most contact with customers — and the “human” touch that comes along with it — is handled manually in the dealership business today, we are already seeing smart dealerships using AI and virtual assistant technology to automate many sales and service tasks. Persistent and friendly virtual assistants, designed to understand and interpret human language and responses, will increasingly be deployed to help dealerships stay on top of sales leads and move customers through the sales process, handing leads off to a live salesperson when appropriate to close the deal. After the sale, AI assistants will offer customers service reminders and courteous automated scheduling that leads to repeat showroom and service visits and overall increased revenue.

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Leading dealership groups are already leveraging AI to deliver a consistent, repeatable and high-quality customer experience and are achieving impressive, measurable results. Virtual assistant response rates run three to five times higher than marketing or sales emails, and AI technology significantly increases the number of quality conversations held with potential and future customers. At the same time, AI reduces the amount of time salespeople, BDC reps and service advisors spend chasing leads, resulting in greater productivity. AI is a win-win for dealers, removing friction from the sales process while enhancing revenue and business operations — and making the car-buying experience more pleasant for people on both sides of the sale.

Don Crawford

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