While you’ve probably heard of ChatGPT by now, 2024 marks the year that AI tools will start really hitting the mainstream — especially with the billions of dollars invested in AI in 2023. In other words, there’s going to be more AI for car dealerships to take advantage of.

That said, many dealers haven’t had the chance to try it yet, or they’ve tried it and haven’t figured out exactly how best to take advantage of the technology.

If you’re relatively new to the AI scene, this article will give you some ideas for how you may want to implement an AI like ChatGPT (along with a few challenges to look out for), so your dealership can leverage the benefits it provides.

What is ChatGPT and how does it work for dealerships?

If you haven’t given it much attention yet, ChatGPT is an advanced AI program created by OpenAI. A big reason it’s so popular is because it can chat with users in a way that’s similar to how humans talk. Basically, it’s a sophisticated tool that’s been trained on a huge amount of written material to create realistic and relevant responses to the questions it gets.

AI isn’t just for corporate tech jobs either. At dealerships, ChatGPT can be useful in several areas, such as helping to answer customers’ questions about cars, prices, and services. Dealers can use it to help customers book test drives or service appointments and answer their service-related questions.

It’s also handy for following up with potential buyers. By adding ChatGPT to their customer relationship management (CRM) systems, dealerships can make their communications more personalized and automate some of the routine work.

ChatGPT isn’t the only AI for car dealerships to try out, but it’s definitely the most popular. There are also some major competitors though, such as Google’s “Bard,” Meta’s “Llama,” or Anthrophic’s “Claude.”

For the purposes of keeping things simple today, we’re focusing on ChatGPT, but the points discussed apply to any generative AI tool that enables integration with your dealerships platforms.

What keeps customers coming back to your dealership in 2023?

Insights from Nearly 1,500 Dealership Customers

How might you use ChatGPT at your dealership?

  • Enhanced customer service capability: By setting up ChatGPT within dealership websites or customer service platforms, it can instantly communicate with potential customers. Dealers can tailor the system to answer FAQs about vehicle specs, pricing, and availability, or assist with service inquiries like appointment booking.
  • Efficient processing of customer feedback: Combing through a bunch of written surveys can take time. Instead, dealerships can use ChatGPT to process survey results and reveal trends in customer satisfaction or areas for improvement. Paired with the right tools, ChatGPT can even scan social media or review sites to aggregate and analyze public sentiment about the dealership.
  • Enhanced BDC productivity: ChatGPT serves as an effective assistant by swiftly creating email responses for a range of customer inquiries, from complex questions to complaints. This accelerates email handling, boosting overall productivity.
  • Reduction in operational costs: Similarly, implementing ChatGPT to handle tasks traditionally performed by customer service reps, like answering routine queries or scheduling service appointments, can be done by integrating the AI into a dealership’s CRM system or scheduling software. This automation reduces the workload on human staff, enabling them to serve more customers or to concentrate on larger or more complex customer service issue.
  • Improved marketing efficiency: ChatGPT can help generate creative content for marketing campaigns. By defining the desired outcomes and target audience, you can quickly get a first draft for marketing emails, ads, and social media posts.
  • Improved automated messaging: DriveSure’s research finds customers appreciate automated messages when it comes to reminders, deals, or updates.
  • Enhanced appointment scheduling: Using human-like conversational language, ChatGPT offers 24/7 service, enabling instant, accurate responses for booking and inquiries. This integration with CRM systems ensures personalized, error-free scheduling, elevating customer satisfaction and fostering repeat business.

What challenges or risks should you bear in mind with ChatGPT?

  • Risk of deprioritizing quality customer service: To avoid an overdependence on AI, which can lead to a depersonalized customer experience, dealerships should establish clear boundaries for AI use and maintain a staff of trained professionals to handle more personalized interactions. Integrating ChatGPT should aim to support, not replace, the human element of customer service.
  • Quality personalized output depends on data you provide: The reliability of ChatGPT as a customer engagement tool depends on the AI being furnished with high-quality, accurate data, such as the dealership’s inventory, services, policies, and even communication style. A dedicated setup (such as a third party application) is required to ensure the AI has up-to-date and comprehensive information to pull from.
  • Misinterpretations and inaccuracies: To mitigate the risk of ChatGPT providing inaccurate information, dealerships may need to monitor the AI’s responses. This includes setting up a feedback loop within the customer service software to track and correct misunderstandings or mistakes in the AI’s communication.
  • Transparency about the use of AI: Nobody enjoys wondering if they’re chatting with a real human or not. If you’re using an AI chatbot to speak with customers, make sure to make it clear upfront (i.e. don’t try to pass off the chatbot as a human representative).
  • Deciding when to escalate to a human: While ChatGPT can mimic human-like conversations, its limited ability to understand uncommon situations might be an obstacle in some cases. Your setup will require a system where the chatbot can seamlessly escalate conversations to human representatives if a conversation is unique or difficult to resolve. In these cases, it’s best to have a setup that brings a human rep into the chat.

While some of this sounds like it could be more trouble than it’s worth, an AI chatbot’s flexibility actually allows it to be more helpful and less frustrating than an automated phone system would, especially for tasks like service scheduling. Getting personalized responses is much more pleasant than navigating a phone system, even if the responses aren’t perfect. For instance, if you’ve used ChatGPT yourself, then you might have seen how well it responds politely to you in a personalized way, regardless of what you say.

With that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at service scheduling with AI, since this is an area ripe for improvement.

Using AI for dealership service scheduling

In our 2023 Dealership Service Retention Report, we discovered a notable preference among customers for human interaction, especially when scheduling services. The report highlighted that while 42% of customers prefer speaking directly with a dealership representative, only 3% opt for an automated system as their first choice.

Considering the fact that of all the reasons customers might go somewhere other than their dealership for service, 32% of consumers said “limited availability for service appointments.”. This underscores the need for a balance between automation’s efficiency and human reassurance and flexibility — and the need to create a better scheduling experience.

If done right, integrating ChatGPT into automated scheduling systems (like a chatbot on your website) can bridge this gap. ChatGPT has advanced conversational abilities and offers a more personalized and engaging experience than traditional automated systems.

Pulling info about scheduling and other relevant data, it can provide alternative time slots and respond in a more personalized manner than an automated phone system. According to some dealers, generative AI tools like this can solve an estimated 60 to 80 percent of customer needs when calling into a service department in order to schedule the service.

While it’s AI-driven, ChatGPT can provide customers with a sense of understanding and empathy often missing in standard automated solutions, and can help tackle a lot of routine tasks with less time and effort. Consider how you plan to start implementing it at your dealership.

What keeps customers coming back to your dealership?

Download the 2023 Dealership Service Retention Report to see what dealership service customers have to say.

Join us for a free online event on July 28th!Battling 5 Dealership Service Defection Points with DriveSure