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Get Ready: Artificial Intelligence is Coming to Your Dealership

If you watched any TV over the holidays, you probably saw the commercials for Amazon Echo, affectionately known as Alexa, and for Google Home. These devices employ Artificial Intelligence (AI) to learn voice commands and perform tasks such as controlling smart home appliances, answering questions, placing orders online, playing music and more.


Right now these AI devices are meant for personal, at-home use. But in 2017, I predict we'll see new and more AI technologies being adopted in the workplace--including in dealerships! Here are three ways AI may impact your dealership in the coming year.


'Traveling' Personal Assistants


Drawbacks to Alexa and Google Home are that they are static, meaning you can only use them at home, and they are somewhat limited in their capabilities. But the technology is advancing at a rapid pace.


Google's assistant technology will soon be embedded into smartphones and cars. This means you can take your personal assistant with you wherever you go. Once this step happens, people will be using their assistants to help them in the workplace as well as personal functions.


AI assistants are very effective at setting appointments and meetings, literally taking over the back and forth email communications until an agreed upon time is reached, checking times against your schedule, then sending out the invites to all parties.


They can also send and receive emails and text messages, perform Internet searches and interact with smartphone apps, all via voice command.


Chat and Text Bots


Several vendors already offer chat and text bot applications that communicate directly with customers. These are sometimes referred to as assistants, but their primary functions are to engage with customers, answer questions and help bring customers down funnel to the point where they are ready to schedule an appointment. At that point, the chat bots can schedule the appointment or hand the prospect over to a salesperson or service advisor.


One of the main advantages of bots is that they communicate with customers instantly and any time of day or night. While your sales people and service advisors are with customers, out to lunch or call in sick for a day, the bots can effectively answer inquiries and FAQs, schedule appointments and notify staff if a customer's inquiry requires a personal call.


These bots are very efficient and capable of answering sophisticated questions such as:

  • Do you still have xyz car in stock?
  • Do you have this make/model in red?
  • What's the price?
  • How do I program Bluetooth in the car I just bought?
  • Is your service department open? Do I need an appointment?
  • How much do you charge for an oil change?
  • Is my car ready for pickup?
  • When will my car be ready for pickup?


In one dealership, their bot named "Lisa" was so effective that numerous Yelp reviews praised how wonderful and helpful Lisa was.


Some chat bots can be integrated with CRM, ILM and other communication platforms, increasing lead volumes and conversion rates. Facebook Messenger recently launched its own chat bot designed for businesses to use on their Facebook pages. These bots engage with Messenger users, answer questions and eventually deliver them as leads to your dealership.


Vehicles Connected to the Internet


In the next five years the practice of updating a vehicle's software with over-the-air updates will grow at least tenfold, according to IHS Automotive. Over-the-air software updates are used for maps, apps, infotainment, telematics and electronic control units (ECU). In the not-too-distant future, dealers will even be able to diagnose and correct some performance issues without requiring the vehicle owner to make a shop visit.


In the future when connected cars sense a problem or needed repair, they will notify the dealership and schedule their own appointments.


To prepare for a world where AI is pervasive, dealerships will need to review their IT infrastructure to make sure it can support the additional data requirements. This includes upgrading to fiber optics Internet connections, increasing WiFi capacity and replacing old network switches and other hardware such as PCs.


If you have recently upgraded your IT infrastructure, unfortunately you're not off the hook. The Internet of Things, or the number of connected devices, has nearly tripled in the last three years and will triple again in the next three. AI will be one of the contributors to an increased need for speed. I always tell dealers, don't upgrade your bandwidth to what your data needs are today. Triple that. Go there, otherwise in two years you'll need to do it again.

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