AI: A Customer Service Game Changer?
You may not know the definition of “artificial intelligence”—in fact, you may not even be familiar with the term. Yet, you’ve probably seen AI technology in action, such as when Netflix suggests programs to you based off entertainment options you’ve chosen in the past.
Keith Kirkpatrick, a principal analyst for Tractica—a company that studies the market potential for evolving technologies—is extremely well versed in artificial intelligence. And, he feels the technology’s uses in the dealership realm are numerous. AI makes tracking customer data easier than ever before, and can target and re-target consumers with a facility’s marketing efforts. The evolving technology can help a dealership drive targeted ads to an individual’s Facebook news feed, for example. What’s more, automated website “chatbots”—which, depending on the vendor, often don’t require a large investment—can answer questions about a dealership around the clock.
Kirkpatrick finds studying evolving technology like AI fulfilling, because it holds the potential to “make life faster, more efficient, simpler, and safer for humans.”
According to Tractica’s 2016 market intelligence study, the demand for automotive AI technology will jump from around $400 million to $14 billion by 2025. Thus, AI is quickly surging past the point of being a curiosity and is becoming a key to helping dealerships overcome their competition.
Kirkpatrick believes that, before long, AI technology “is going to be extremely valuable to dealers and other companies that are looking to reach customers and really build a connection.”
In this Q&A, the technology analyst offers to Fixed Ops Business his insight regarding how AI will likely affect dealership customer service moving forward.
What will AI impact the most with regard to dealerships?
The type of AI-related activities that dealerships will do will likely involve marketing. And, it’s going to be more on the back end, in terms of trying to improve workflow and processes behind the scenes. A lot of that you can do just by what we’ve called robotic process automation, which is taking sort of the dull, repetitive work, and having machines do it. … If I were a dealer, I’d be concerned about customer contact. That’s where AI plays a big role, looking at administrative costs and processes. How can it help me streamline my processes? AI could be used for a variety of data processing applications, like report generation, that sort of thing.
What’s the biggest overall value that AI presents for dealerships?
Companies are reaching out through technology like Facebook Messenger, that sort of thing. All of that is going to be extremely valuable to dealers and other companies that are looking to reach customers and really build that connection. The old adage is true: People do business with companies that they like and trust. And how do you build that trust? It’s by showing that you’re not just basically going out there with a big net, trying to grab everybody.
How exactly does AI technology typically work?
I think what you’re going to see is dealerships start to implement things like chatbots that are basically designed to not only learn from past conversations, but also incorporate things like sentiment analysis, so it can tell somebody’s getting angry very quickly about an unresolved issue and will kick it to a live agent to handle it. These are all things that will take place, and certainly smart dealerships will start to incorporate them.
In your opinion, what’s the best current piece of AI technology that a dealer could use?
Natural language processing can do things like analyze a conversation between a customer and an employee. And you can go through and analyze, “OK, a sales rep had 50 incoming calls this past month,” and it can analyze his patterns of speech and what happened when he said certain things—like, did it make a result better when he talked about 0 percent financing, or was it better when he talked about the warranty? It’s a lot easier for a machine to go through and look for keywords, or patterns, and really make the connection between things.
How can dealers best go about dipping their toe into using AI technology?
For dealers, I’d suggest starting with their repetitive processes and apply AI on the back end to identify patterns that might be there. Like basic chatbots for basic, first-line inquiries. It comes down to evaluating where a dealership may have issues in terms of efficiency, cost issues. And a machine does certain things very well, like answering a direct question that needs a simple answer.