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3 Tips for Purchasing Conversational AI Software for Your Dealership

The word “AI” is used so frequently in automotive that the true definition has gotten lost. Dealers are hearing about artificial intelligence (AI) built into chat tools, email software, digital marketing platforms and recently, in telephone software. But how do you know if what you’re buying is really AI? At STELLA, we know how important it is to make sure you are purchasing exactly what your dealership needs. Here are three tips to consider when purchasing conversational AI for your dealership.

1. Is it an IVR or conversational AI?
Many phone systems are actually IVR tools. An interactive voice response is an automated phone system that allows calls to access a limited set of pre-recorded menu options. You’ll be familiar with this if you’ve ever placed a call and gotten a “Press or say 1 for Sales, Press or say 2 for Service, Press or say 3 for Parts, etc” type recording. While IVRs do help set up a specific menu of options, there is no artificial intelligence involved, and certainly no conversational AI that takes place. IVR software prolongs wait times, since callers must listen to a list of options- sometimes multiple times in a row, before selecting the option closest to what they want. Thanks to the overly abundant use of IVRs in today’s automotive dealerships, the average wait time for a caller is over 2 minutes! This has led to 28% of callers to auto dealerships to simply give up and hang up in 2021. An IVR is helpful only when the caller's needs fit neatly into the list of preset recorded options. Conversational AI, on the other hand, doesn’t have a menu list of recorded options for callers to select from. Instead, callers explain what they need and the software is intelligent enough to either handle the task, or at a minimum, recognize which department to transfer the caller to for assistance. Conversational AI can recognize speech in other languages. For example, if a Spanish-speaking caller contacts your dealership, true conversational AI technology will recognize that the language is not English and connect the caller with a Spanish-speaking employee.


2. Is it a fully-unassisted platform?
Does the AI platform need a human’s involvement to fulfill its tasks? If it does, that’s considered an assisted platform and does not qualify as conversational AI. For example, if your telephone AI tool makes callers transfer to a human to book an appointment at your dealership, that’s not true AI. A true AI platform can respond to the caller's needs and fulfill the tasks that it’s been set up to do on its own. This means that if you purchase AI software that claims to be able to book appointments, the software can fulfill those requests without human intervention. A fully unassisted platform is goal-oriented. Using AI within today’s retail automotive dealerships doesn’t help if humans still must do all of the work. That defeats the purpose of implementing the software in the first place. If software needs human supervision in any capacity, that is not conversational AI. A true conversational AI platform does not need human oversight to make sure that the task or goals are being completed. When shopping for conversational AI software, be sure to ask whether the technology is fully unassisted and/or unsupervised. If it still needs humans to do the work, keep shopping!

3. Does it use natural language?
Natural language processing is a tremendous differentiator when considering true conversational AI for your new or used car dealership. NLP refers to the ability of your AI software to understand spoken words or text the same way that a human would. Basically, once NLP is implemented, the software understands the intent of the conversation, not just a few select keywords. When it comes to selecting a conversational AI telephone system, this would reflect in the ability for the software to ask open-ended questions such as, “How many I help you?”. Natural language processing enables the AI software within your dealership to interpret speech, measure sentiment, and determine what’s most important all on its own. With NLP, the conversational AI platform learns on its own the more it is used within a dealership. This means that the software improves as its used within your stores. Any AI software without NLP will only ever be as good as the first day it’s implemented. It will not improve with use.

The next time you’re looking to purchase conversational AI software for your dealership or dealer group, remember to consider three questions:

  1. Is it an IVR?
  2. Is it fully unassisted and unsupervised?
  3. Does it utilize natural language processing?

If the software isn’t an IVR, is completely unassisted and unsupervised, and uses natural language processing, you’ve found a winner, or, more likely, you’ve found STELLA!

Article By: Ben Okuka, Head of Product


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