Some prognosticators say that within the next decade the human population won’t be able to tell if they are conversing with another human or a chatbot. Despite setbacks and historic failures, chatbots have been used in applications earlier than you may think—the first chatbot, ELIZA, was created in 1966 by Joseph Weizenbaum and was touted as the first natural language processing computer program.
Today, chatbots may even advise you in your own home by the alias Alexa, Cortana, Siri, or Google. Chatbots are proliferating on the messenger app Telegram and range from trivia bots to poker game bots. Some bots even connect users like a dating website would.
In automotive, Carla and AutoEQ have bas developed by Carlabs. As a product, Carla has been wowing critics and inspiring hope for the auto industry. Why would a chatbot inspire hope? The auto industry has seen their sales process evolve over the years driven by a heightened focus on improving customer experience. It is here that chatbots may provide the greatest benefits for the in-dealership experience.
We believe that the initial place for chatbots and digital assistants to provide the highest value is in augmenting repetitive tasks by humans, not replacing them. They will learn with experience and repetition, but perform best when applied to a particular focus area verses trying to address all things for all people. With that in mind, here are our opinions on where dealerships may benefit the most (technology solution providers: are you listening?):
- Sales Reps – Some of the most frequent questions sales reps get are “is that vehicle still available?” and “what vehicles should I consider for $xxx per month?” By marrying inventory data with pricing parameters, combined with trade-in and simple financing guidelines, sales reps will be more efficient and effective in guiding consumers to the proper vehicles, which saves everyone time.
- Trade-In Valuations – The UC or inventory manager today is armed with great inventory management tools, but they require a lot of manual interaction. That process could be far more efficient if those operating the mobile tools were able to speak to the application to enter basic trade info and then ask the application for input like price to market or supply and demand scores.
- Service Scheduling – Scheduling and service loading have not changed much over the years. A chatbot for the consumer to interact with while requesting an online service appointment and a slightly different version for the service advisor to use while in the service lane—with the ability to advise and inform on the fly (think automated recall notice or previous declined service notification)—would be a welcomed addition.
- F&I – The leading drag on reducing the in-dealership sales time is typically the prep needed by the F&I manager as they check the data to ensure the forms are correct. This starts with proper data input. While dealerships are involving the consumers more in that process, many don’t do it with the diligence they should (inputting their first name as “Bob” instead of their legal name “Robert” for example) and customers quickly become bored when faced with a screen full of questions. A friendly chatbot would certainly improve this customer experience and likely increase the accuracy of the data.
Will chatbots and digital assistants revolutionize the industry? No, not in the near term anyway. Will they play a role in incrementally improving the customer experience? They certainly will, if done with a fair amount of careful product development and usability testing upfront. This technology holds plenty of promise.
(Image License: Creative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0 The Blue Diamond Gallery)
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