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4 Ways Chatbots Can Improve the Car Buying and Ownership Experience

Man Using Navigation System While Driving Car

The use of chatbots is exploding across almost every consumer vertical. When done correctly, chatbots increase efficiency while also delivering better customer experiences.

Even though nearly 70% of consumers prefer to use chatbots, many automotive companies aren’t yet embracing this technology. While there are OEM-to-dealer complexities to consider, this AI advancement can help solve challenges automotive companies and their customers face every day.

Here are four areas in which chatbots can improve the car purchasing and ownership experience.

1. Sales and Marketing

By automating the initial research process for car-buying customers, chatbots can help them narrow their search and get them closer to purchase.

Simple Questions

Chatbots can be programmed to provide additional information around a specific car or help narrow a search based on the consumer’s needs. How many seats do you need? Are you looking for specific features? Working with a chatbot can help filter down options and remove irrelevant vehicles that don’t cover all requirements. This helps get customers to get closer to their decision on a perfect vehicle in less time, at which point they can engage a dealer.

The transition from Brand Site to Dealer Site

Chatbots can be instrumental in facilitating a seamless transition from the OEM site to the dealer site. Because many customers start at the brand site, a chatbot can gather important information that a dealer needs to make the sale and pass it along.

2. Servicing/Ownership

Chatbot benefits are not limited to pre-purchase consumers. Chatbots can also enhance the brand-to-customer relationship while also reducing inbound call, chat, and email inquiries by up to 70%.

Recall Information

Most automotive companies will experience major manufacturer defects and be tasked with getting this critical information to their customers. We helped a major automotive manufacturer navigate just this situation when we built a virtual agent to provide 24/7 support for recall information. The AI could advise on the recall information and explain details on timing, next steps, and how to schedule an appointment for servicing. Unlike a call center, this service is always available and is more cost-effective.

Ownership Details

Chatbots can help answer specific ownership questions instead of requiring owners to search their manuals or perform their own searches over the web. Day-to-day inquires around topics such as towing capacity, fuel type, and safety seat installation instructions can easily be retrieved by a chatbot. They would be specific to the model/make/year of the consumer’s vehicle.

3. Leasing

By automating the leasing process, automotive companies can help customers seamlessly understand their options and take action.

Leasing Information

We recently worked with the financial services arm of an auto manufacturer to improve their leasing experience, which included chatbots. Whether the customer needs information on how to extend their lease, what their vehicle is currently worth, or where they can renew their lease, the intelligent AI assists the customer and gives the precise answers they’re looking for, without any upsells or more information than they need.

4. Finance

While full ecommerce transactions via chatbot are not common practice yet, chatbots can still play an important role in helping customers understand their financing options.

Payment Options

We recently implemented a chatbot for a bank’s automotive lending division. For consumers who want to purchase a car, the chatbot walks them through their payment options and provides different scenarios based on the down payment or monthly payment maximums. We’ve also implemented incentive management capabilities to help consumers understand what offers are available and provide the most value to them.

Online Purchase Completion

While the industry is not there yet, we’ll one day get to the point where consumers can fully complete a car purchase online. In this case, chatbots can be used to guide people through the entire process of financing a vehicle, even pulling from past form fills and purchases to autofill information and recommend options.

In many of these cases presented, a strong relationship and shared strategy need to exist between the OEM and dealers for chatbots to be effective. We are currently working with an OEM to build and white label a virtual agent for its dealers. This helps the OEM maintain quality control and helps dealers offer a cost-free, ready-to-use solution to improve their online experience. This is one way to develop a unified strategy between all parties to maximize the effectiveness of AI.

Are Chatbots the Answer in Every Situation?

While chatbots can help automate and streamline important steps in the car buying and ownership experience, escalation scenarios that pull in a human to intervene must also be in place. Typical escalation scenarios include: after a chatbot tries three times unsuccessfully to answer a question when the customer asks specifically to talk to a human or the consumer asks a question the bot is not trained for. When escalating to a human, a best practice is to keep consumers in the channel they are currently engaged in (i.e., don’t make someone call you when they started the conversation in a chat).

It’s also important to note that while chatbots are key to seamless online experiences for customers, they need to be combined with a holistic marketing strategy to be most effective. Predictive analytics, personalized outbound email campaigns, and tailored digital experiences all allow automotive companies to reach the right person with the right offer at the right time.

What’s Next?

Chatbots can be an important part of digitally transforming your customers’ purchasing and ownership experience.

Perficient is implementing conversational AI for several automotive manufacturers and leading companies across other industries, helping them handle customer interactions and improve the speed and accuracy of the services they deliver.

If you’re ready to get started with chatbots on your own site, contact us.

To learn more about our artificial intelligence capabilities, click here.

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