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How to Increase Sales at Your Dealership with AI Powered Assistants – John Ruble, Conversica


AI powered assistants have shown to be highly effective for increasing sales, quality of service, and improving other activities around the dealership. These virtual aides help dealers handle more sales leads and manage your most viable follow-ups. Joining Jim today to further discuss artificial intelligence in your dealership, is John Ruble, vice president of strategic partnerships at Conversica.


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Jim Fitzpatrick: Welcome to CBT, Jon.

John Ruble: Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Tell us what kind of things will you guys be rolling out at NADA in the next couple of weeks here?

John Ruble: I’ll tell you we’re really excited about NADA this year. We’re rolling out an end-to-end customer solution, really an engagement solution to help attract customers to the dealership, working on the sales side to engage those customer emails leads or web site leads. And then after that job’s done by our AI, we’re gonna take over and help retain those customers in fixed operations, maybe in FNI products so we really … this is the first year we’ve had an end-to-end solution to solve all the problems of the dealership as far as engagement goes.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That sounds pretty cool. What is conversational AI? We hear a little bit more about that these days and certainly you guys are on the leading edge of that. Can you tell us about that?

John Ruble: That’s a great question. There are a lot of different types of AI. Conversational is an AI that has learned human phrases, human conversation and can actually communicate in a human-like manner and even identify sentiment of a customer, carry on a conversation, identify, “Hey, it’s time to hand over to a human being.” So it really solves a lot of problems that a dealership may have, engaging and [scaling 00:01:59] in personal one-on-one conversations.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So will it detect one’s attitude if they’re getting a little testy that-

John Ruble: Yeah, she’ll understand a customer that’s maybe had a bad experience and instead of notifying the salesperson she’ll actually notify management. She may drop a couple of people in the grease at the dealership but in the end the customer gets taken care of.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. And that’s the most important thing. What problems does conversational AI solve for the dealer?

John Ruble: Another great question. I’ll kind of break it down into two segments: On the sales side, our AI handles inbound internet leads. And we’ve found through our studies over tons and tons of data that it takes on average six to seven contacts to actually engage with a customer. And when I say engagement that’s a two-way conversation between the AI and the customer. As we know, salespeople, even BDC agents, don’t have the bandwidth to continue to reach out to try to engage customers. So we can automate that area of weakness on the sales side, continue to work that customer. We don’t prejudge any leads. We hear all the time from dealers that … or dealership employees that third-party leads from the manufacturer aren’t that great. Our AI doesn’t care. She’s gonna work each one. Have a one-on-one conversation at the right time with those.

John Ruble: On the fixed ops side is a completely different problem. For decades because of the sheer number of records that a dealership may have in their DMS, it’s almost impossible to have a one-on-one conversation with 10,000 records at the right time with the right message. So what we’ve done in this industry is we’ve relied on marketing kind of as a band-aid to try to retain those customers. We found a better mousetrap. We’ve solved that problem. We can actually have 10,000 different conversations going on that are personalized and one-on-one and again recognize what that customer’s saying back and then act accordingly from there. So we’re changing the game in fixed ops as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That sounds like it. I mean there’s not a dealer out there that didn’t just hear that and say, “What?” That is incredible, especially in a day now in the auto industry where we cannot afford to lose one sale or one service customer.

John Ruble: Right.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And no dealership, I don’t think, has the luxury of losing customers at any area of the store, right? And it sounds like this is a cure for that.

John Ruble: Every dealer will tell you their marketing efforts are seeing diminishing returns.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

John Ruble: Customers are getting over marketed.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah.

John Ruble: So now when a customer gets a personalized message from the dealership, our AI, they’re blown away. So there’s a CSI aspect that we don’t even equate into the factor. We have many dealers tell us that their CSI scores are going up because that customer experience is now starting before they hit the service drive. They’re blown away from the service they’re getting and they feel important. They don’t get that from marketing.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s amazing. So when are you guys launching the artificial service advisor so the car just rolls in?

John Ruble: Yeah. Well, we built it about two years ago. Kind of did a slow roll out. We had to train our AI and over the last year we had a huge year selling it so now we’ve kind of … we’re coupling it all together as one solution rather than two separate solutions because we feel it’s critical for a dealer to watch that customer from point A to point B.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

John Ruble: And be there for that whole customer journey.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And what about different languages? If somebody calls up and they speak Spanish. Do you have accommodations for that?

John Ruble: Yeah. We have Spanish. I think five other languages. We’ve gone global now as a company. Not only in automotive, we help several sports teams sell season tickets to high tech companies that use our solution for their sales teams. Health care. I mean we’re all over the board now. Although we did start in automotive, we’ve branched out.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And we know by studies now that the millennials and Generation Z would actually rather do business with somebody that’s on the other end of the phone that’s artificial intelligence rather than a human being. I don’t know if that’s healthy or not but it just seems to be that’s the way it is.

John Ruble: The beauty of ours is it’s so human-like people … I think it’s less than 1% of the time they say, “Hey, is this a robot?” So again it kind of goes back to how smart is your AI? Is it true AI? Ours has probably got a Ph.D by now.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And it’s actually teaching other AI students, right?

John Ruble: Yeah, exactly.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Think of all of the big companies out there that the average consumer touches in his or her day where AI is just part of the process. I mean you count on it.

John Ruble: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Whether you’re calling up your credit card company or you’re calling up your bank or you’re calling up even the OEMs sometimes. If you’ve gotta call GM directly or some of the other big companies out there. So why not on the dealer level? I mean it just makes I think for an easier process for the consumer today because of the technology and how far it’s come with companies like Conversica out there that’s really refined it and made it more really about the consumer than about the dealer or about the company that’s got this technique available to their customers, right?

John Ruble: Absolutely. And it’s highly cost-effective. I mean the human capital savings is immense. In every situation, AI can scale at such a level that humans can’t that it’s so cost-effective.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. I read an article recently that said about 75% of all car shopping is done after 8:00 at night. And obviously in many cases dealerships are closed at 8:00 at night. So here you land yourself on a particular vehicle and you’ve got really no place to go until 9:00 the next morning. And in most people’s busy lives they may forget about it or move onto something else. So if you’ve got techniques out there and technology out there I should say like this that can help that consumer right there on the spot, whether it be 9:00 at night or 4:00 in the morning, that’s pretty cool. You don’t want to miss that customer.

John Ruble: Absolutely. And it’s funny you bring that up. I just had to get a new vehicle about three months ago and I sent out three leads to three different stores about 30 miles from my house. And didn’t get a response back except from one dealer. And then I started looking at it, they were a client of ours. I didn’t know they were a client. But I could see that our AI was reaching out because I’m familiar with it. And even knowing that I felt better going to that dealer because I felt like they engaged with me knowing that they were using my solution. So it was pretty cool to see it from my end as a consumer how to interact with it.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yep. From airline tickets to department stores to credit card companies. You name it. It’s all about AI and really helping … as I said the consumer and the customer through that process for whatever they’re calling for. So you guys are on the cutting edge of AI for the auto industry. I know that. I want to thank you. John Ruble, vice president of strategic partnerships with Conversica. Keep up the good work for dealers. We appreciate it. And hopefully, we’re gonna catch up with you I think in a couple of weeks out at San Francisco for the NADA convention. So we look forward to that. And thanks again for joining us. Thank you.

John Ruble: Sounds great. Thank you.

CBT Automotive Network, the number one most-watched network in retail automotive. CBT is a part of the JBF Business Media Family.

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