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Guest opinion: ‘Chatbots’ and the future of customer service

Parham Saebi, head of client relations, CRM Solutions at Arvato UK and Ireland

Car manufacturers are set to shift their focus from selling vehicles to creating new revenues streams through a more digital, customer centric business model as vehicle ownership falls by up to 50% in the next decade, according to figures compiled by Deloitte.

Emerging technologies will drive this change, specifically the enhancement of the connected car.

According to research from KPMG, more than three out of four automotive executives believe that a single connected vehicle can generate higher revenue over its entire lifecycle than ten standard cars combined.

The rise of the connected car – a vehicle with access to the internet – will undoubtedly transform the driving experience, enabling drivers to do everything from optimising vehicle configuration and user settings, to verbally updating their social media profiles, on the move.

It’s clear that the introduction of on-board apps and digital services will lead to an increasing number of enquiries from drivers about how to operate their connected cars.

Drivers will initially have the option of directly contacting a customer service agent with queries by pushing a button in their vehicle.

However, greater adoption of connected vehicles in the future will lead to more pressure on manufacturers to maintain the quality of service their customers have come to expect – both in dealerships and digitally – while effectively responding to an upswing in enquiries.

On-board digital assistants

Chatbot technology – text-based computer programmes capable of conversing with a human – has the potential to help to bridge this gap and a growing number of businesses across other sectors are already adopting it to handle simple customer service enquiries.

Retailers, for example, are deploying chatbots across their online channels to answer high volumes of pre-determined FAQs.

The same logic could be applied within a connected car. Conversational chatbots could provide immediate answers to topics usually tackled by a manufacturer’s call centre or dealerships.

For example, when prompted, an onboard chatbot could tell the driver what to do when a warning light flashes, provide guidance on how to use a vehicle’s entertainment systems or help navigate a newly installed upgrade.

By using this type of chatbot, manufacturers and dealerships could reduce the number of simple, high volume enquiries customer service agents have to deal with, freeing them up to provide more nuanced services that require a human touch. 

At the moment, chatbots can only mimic human understanding. They’re inherently unable to handle complex enquiries, or partake in detailed conversations. But, by integrating the technology with Artificial Intelligence (AI), a conversational chatbot could potentially provide drivers with their own autonomous digital assistant on the move.

This could deliver a customer experience with unparalleled levels of personalisation, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

AI has the potential to undertake complex speech comprehension and recognise user intentions, even down to the tone of their language.

This means that a chatbot that responds to voice commands could learn about a driver during a conversation and provide a service that is specifically geared to meet their personal desires and preferences.

This sort of automated support would complement existing customer service staff, who would continue to take care of more complicated issues and be available to help customers face-to-face on the dealership floor.

A trial we recently conducted for a major German car manufacturer confirmed that this application would work well in an automotive setting.

Chatbots were found to be particularly well suited to answering a large volume of technical queries and by integrating cognitive technology, they could respond to enquiries of increasingly complexity.

As they became more familiar with particular scenarios, they could select appropriate solutions for drivers independently.

Together with transforming the driving experience, the technology offers the potential for a truly omni-channel customer service, linking the manufacturers, dealerships and other service providers to provide seamless and fast solutions to driver issues.

For example, if a car breaks down, all the driver will need to do is alert their digital assistant and it will make all of the arrangements to get them back on the road, contacting the vehicle’s manufacturer, the driver’s insurance company and local breakdown assistance independently.

This level of sophistication is still some way off, but the expected popularity of the connected car is prompting an increasing number of businesses to start considering the potential applications of digital assistants. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, customer experience is king.

Automotive brands and dealers that are ahead of the game will have an advantage. Deploying chatbots to offer personalised support services to their customers when they’re on the move could help manufacturers stand out from the crowd.

Author: Parham Saebi, head of client relations, CRM Solutions at Arvato UK and Ireland

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