The trendy term in the automotive industry for the past five years has been big data. It’s everywhere — from car wifi to oil change alerts to sensors determining speeding.

Fast forward and the ‘sexy’ coined term hitting dealerships is artificial intelligence (AI). Dealers use AI for audience targeting, customized marketing, and smart popups that display relevant content for each buyer at the right time.

Regardless of the term, the bottom line is this: the moniker means nothing unless it helps the dealership solve problems and set appointments.

Artificial huh?

What even is AI and what does it mean for your dealership’s future?

While big data reveals human behavior trends, AI uses a computer program to learn and think similar to the human brain. As a toddler accumulates experiences, the smarter he or she becomes. AI is similar; the more information you feed the program, the more it learns. The more it learns, the more capable it becomes at making smart decisions.

A common AI use are websites that present consumers with spending opportunities based on previous habits. Heard of “Netflix and Chill?” Yup, that uses AI by digging deep into your watching preferences and making comically relevant recommendations.

Does it help sell more cars?

Ah, connection. You might be seeking connection in your love life but your shoppers are desperate for connection when they call your dealership. It doesn’t matter how well you target audiences with ads if you can’t connect them to a qualified agent when they call. Unfortunately, dealers lose a majority of their hottest leads within the first 15 seconds of a call. They transfer or place callers on hold 68 percent of the time, which is detrimental because in a study, 74 percent of consumers said they’d choose another business after a poor phone experience!

“The phone is three to five times more likely to convert than any other communication channel, and as more consumers are using mobile devices for research, the primary and most effective CTA is the phone,” said Brian Pasch, Founder of PCG Companies. “If dealers don’t deliver the most first-class experience on that first call, we’re prone to encourage in-market shoppers to call another dealership.”

The problem is dealers continue to struggle to connect callers to someone who can help. Sure, bridges, multi-rings, and warm transferring have helped, but there’s still something lacking. To make matters worse, management often doesn’t realize just how much opportunity is lost by not connecting calls. There is a solution, and it’s AI.

Own The Phone with AI

By training artificial neural networks (a fancy term for how our brain makes connections) to look at past sales data, AI technology determines when callers were last reached out to and pinpoints the best time for the salesperson to follow up. AI cuts excessive wait times and transfers — buyers’ top frustrations! When a customer calls, AI can immediately look back at closing data and see how particular agents are handling sales calls. Then, it can asses agents and find whom to connect the caller with based on availability.

AI Expert Kelly Ford said the biggest way AI can serve as a remedy for the connection plague is through customer recognition. “There are many databases that hold customer information,” she said. “If AI can tap into those data sources, its ability to recognize and handle customers uniquely provides a cool experience for customers calling. It’ll place them where they need to be immediately because you’ll know enough information about them; with AI, you’re basically predicting the customer’s need before it’s even revealed.”

The benefits of pairing AI with your phone process are paramount, as described by Machine Learning Engineer Zach Newman. “It allows the sales team to do what they’re good at,” he said. “AI helps organize calls based on the outcome of every call, it’s used to compile call recaps whenever a vehicle is discussed, and it can assign calls to agents through voice recognition and push them into CRM — manual tasks. Even if you think a simple task doesn’t need AI, there are still ways where that automation can be applied to help you focus on handling leads well.”

Forward thinking

AI isn’t just a cool idea anymore; it’s revolutionizing the sales process, putting time back into your team’s day and helping them book more appointments. It’s the first and most pivotal step to selling more cars.

So where’s AI headed next for your dealership?

As Pasch puts it, the industry is in AI’s infancy. “AI’s next goldmine will solve for how to have consistent customer communications that are based on dozens of data points — connected car data, email response data, shopping data, call data — and mash that all together to create an optimal customer experience,” he said.

Maybe AI will even be handling your calls for you next. Its possibilities are endless.

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