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AI chatbots and digital retailing: how do customers want to communicate? — Ted Rubin | ActivEngage

Digital retailing has created hundreds of new opportunities for auto dealers to interact with consumers. But in the age of texting, search engines and artificial intelligence, what do car buyers actually prioritize when communicating with retailers? On this episode of Inside Automotive, host Jim Fitzpatrick is joined by Ted Rubin, CEO of ActivEngage, a people-powered, web-based live chat and communications solutions provider, to discuss the latest insights and trends in the dealer-to-consumer conversation.

As technology has changed the way we communicate, so too has customer preference. While consumers of the past may have wanted dealerships to engage with them in a more business-like manner, studies show that a majority of shoppers want to interact with brands the same way they engage with family and friends. “Dealers are starting to recognize that and they’re starting to look more toward how can they interact with these customers and give them that unified experience,” explains Rubin. Just as most people prefer to text rather than call, car buyers want the option to chat with their retailers in a convenient, efficient manner. Digital retailing makes this form of communication easy: unfortunately, however, not all forms of internet-based interaction are created equal.

An increasingly popular method for expediting conversations with consumers is to use AI-powered chatbots. However, Rubin notes that many companies employ these tools without paying attention to their weaknesses. While he admits that the technology is impressive, he believes it still has a long way to go before it can replace human interaction, especially in the areas of digital retailing and customer service. This is because computers still struggle to replicate empathy, pick up on nuance or troubleshoot issues with complete accuracy.

As such, AI is largely incapable of producing an authentic experience, meaning shoppers struggle to find any sense of connection with brands that use these platforms. “There’s no emotion with a computer,” Rubin explains. “I think that a lot of people are putting it…right in the front with the customer, and saying hey you can talk to this first, and they’re waiting for a point of failure before they transfer over to an agent.” This mistake can cause dealers to lose leads, as shoppers will often give up out of frustration once they are paired with an AI assistant. ActivEngage avoids this entirely by connecting clients with humans as soon as possible, something Rubin encourages auto dealers to do as well. This method ensures that customers get a personalized experience in their digital retailing journey without sacrificing convenience.

Rather than using AI chatbots as the first point of contact, worrying about whether their software tools are good enough or relying solely on technology to make communication more efficient, dealers should instead focus on making a solid first impression. “It’s really important that the first customer-facing interaction is a superlative interaction. Customers want to interact that way and they want to feel like they’re being accommodated, they want to feel like they’re empowered,” explains Rubin. The sooner retailers can accurately answer shopper questions, demonstrate their knowledge of the industry and show they care about their customers, the better they can connect with car buyers. In conclusion, digital retailing offers the ability to deliver a convenient, authentic shopping experience, but its effectiveness is vastly improved when auto dealers emphasize human-to-human interaction rather than human-to-computer.

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Colin Velez
Colin Velez
Colin Velez is a staff writer/reporter for CBT News. After obtaining his bachelor’s in Communication from Kennesaw State University in 2018, he kicked off his writing career by developing marketing and public relations material for various industries, including travel and fashion. Throughout the next four years, he developed a love for working with journalists and other content creators, and his passion eventually led him to his current position. Today, Colin writes news content and coordinates stories with auto-industry insiders and entrepreneurs throughout the U.S.

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