There are two types of 21st century tech-enthusiasts: those who love artificial intelligence and can’t wait to see all of the changes it will bring, and those who fear it becoming too powerful and wish we’d stop developing AI. Supporters will point to all of the positive strides made in the past few years, and how the potential for machines to revolutionize fields like medicine, psychology, and economics, ultimately helping society. The other side, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, talks of a robot revolt, and our blurring the lines between human and machine.
Is this the Death of a Salesman?
One of the biggest arguments against the recent developments in AI stems from the fear that machines will slowly but surely take all of our jobs. With so much progress being made, it seems that many of the tasks that are currently being performed by humans could be largely automated, so that work is done more quickly and efficiently, and using fewer resources.
The automotive industry is not immune to these worries– as websites become more automated and new technologies that utilize AI are introduced to dealerships, are the days of the human salesman coming to an end? Should we be moving away from the human-based model?
Some groups do believe so. Carvana, the big disruptor that has so many people in the industry worried, has deployed a new marketing campaign that boasts that by using its online buying platform, you can “get the car without the car salesman.” The company presents its move towards a completely online process as one made in the best interest of the customer, as shoppers appreciate not dealing with salespeople.
The jobs computers have started doing
While your dealership may not have cut any employees as a result of new technology, you most likely have shifted responsibilities around. Using tools on your website inherently means that there are certain tasks that your staff no longer needs to do.
Why is this the case? Well, to start, shoppers come to your dealership with a lot more information than they used to. They have most likely conducted hours of research online. In fact, according to Cox Automotive, shoppers spend at least 60% of the total time spent buying a new car online. They spend this time comparing vehicles, reading reviews, perusing the inventory of different dealerships, and receiving online price estimates of their vehicle. In the past, all of these steps would have involved a salesperson– there was no other way to gain all of this information. Now, shoppers enter just one or two showrooms with a pretty good idea of what they want and how much they expect to pay.
The automation is taking place on so many levels. For example, whereas in the past a shopper would need to call your dealership and interact with a salesperson to get an appraisal of their trade-in, they can now receive an estimate directly from your website. They can book appointments without interacting with anyone from your dealership. They can easily find all of your offers online, without any back and forth with a member of your staff.
Chat and text tools are making it easier for people to get in touch with your dealership, and they expect helpful, quick responses to all of their questions. In some dealerships, there is still an employee on the other side of the keyboard, responding to each shopper. Others have embraced AI-powered chatbots that mimic the responses of a human, interacting with customers and attempting to provide them with the answers they’re looking for. This is one area where folks are worried that jobs might be lost– if dealerships continue to employ these types of bots, staff will no longer need to respond to customer inquiries, unless something difficult arises, or someone actually comes in to the dealership.
Time to Find a New Industry?
Not so fast. Instead of competing against machines and the latest advances in AI, your staff can actually begin working together with them, to do their jobs even better and close more sales.
Richer Lead Data
By using AI-powered software on your website, your salespeople are armed with so much more information when they speak to customers. At a certain point in the buying process, most shoppers do walk into a dealership and speak to a salesperson before completing a purchase. It is based on this interaction and others that a customer might decide which dealership to buy from. AI software (like Falcon by AutoLeadStar) tracks every interaction a site visitor has on your website in your CRM. When that person converts, the salesperson who reaches out to them knows precisely what they are interested in, what other vehicles they looked at, and how long they’ve been interacting with your dealership’s website. Every follow-up interaction will be more valuable and helpful. Thus, instead of being replaced by AI, your salesperson can actually do a much better job by working with it.
Fewer Tedious Tasks
Many of the automations that can be done by a computer accomplish the more tedious, time-consuming, and mundane tasks that human team members deal with on a regular basis. For example, email automation can help streamline the entire lead nurture process, so that your staff does not need to worry about manually managing all of your email campaigns. Customers can be led down the funnel with very little work by your staff, because your systems can take care of it.
A further example of this is in your appointment-setting system. Instead of a member of your staff spending time responding to each request for a service appointment, trade-in appraisal, or test drive, your website can automatically work with your staff’s schedules to book everything online. Customers are also much more likely to actually book these appointments through your site, as they do not need to go through the hassle of speaking to a real person.
Bring the Human Touch
Maintaining an active social media presence is vitally important for your dealership to succeed. We haven’t gotten to the point where computers can write all of the high-quality content that can truly touch your customers. With all of their newly freed-up time as a result of other AI-powered tools, your staff can focus on creating content that will speak to your shoppers in a real, personal way. You can maintain your brand’s voice and image by promoting blog and social media posts that are specific to your dealership and clientele. The key is to recognize where AI can save you time, and focus your energy on the areas that require greater attention.
If there’s one other area that your staff can outperform computers, it is in maintaining personal relationships. At least for the foreseeable future, there won’t be any computers walking around your showroom interacting with customers. A sale will be dependent on your team’s ability to gain a level of trust from your shoppers, and convince them that they are getting the best deal from you. Instead of fearing computers, your dealership can embrace them and utilize them as an addition to your team, and not as a replacement for anyone.