The Human Advantage in the Automotive Industry

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While artificial intelligence may provide clear enhancements to the automotive retail space—communication, equity mining, and management support—there are some definite and apparent advantages that human intelligence offers over artificial intelligence.

Ethics

First, a computer’s ability to offer ethical solutions is only as good as the person writing the code. Several months ago, one of the dealerships I consulted with ran into a snafu when a customer-facing artificial intelligence set an appointment for a pre-sold vehicle. The problem wasn’t the vehicle itself—there were alternatives available—but that the customer had driven 2 hours to see the car. You can imagine the frustration and anger that followed. While the A.I. had not technically done anything wrong, it had breached the customer’s ethical expectation of the dealership. There was also no easy way to explain to the customer what had happened.

“We are sorry, ma’am. The person you thought you were talking to was a computer.”

This was not a win-win. However, if a person were involved in the conversation, the dealership might have avoided the situation through a simple attentive, and direct interaction. 

In an article for Forbes, Carol Tate, Director of Ethics and Legal Compliance for the Intel Corporation, states: “Rules matter, but culture and ethics matter more.”

As human beings, we are capable of discerning and balancing our obligations. The human mind allows us to interpret right from wrong and compare our choices with the short and long-term ramifications of such actions. We know that our current behavior will have far-reaching consequences—positive or negative—down the road. This is one of the strongest arguments for human oversight when working with artificial intelligence. An A.I. cannot be trusted to make reasonable, conscientious, ethical choices.

Gut-Feelings

Artificial intelligence is equally unable to make decisions based on their intuition. According to Webster’s Dictionary, intuitive reasoning is “the faculty of apprehending a priori truths or principles” (don’t worry, we didn’t understand that either). Simply put, it is the ability to arrive at an answer through perception and hunch.

Intuitive reasoning is the skill that pays the bills in sales. The half-a-second-too-long pause, the change in vocal tone, or the shift in posture allows you to read your customer. It is the way a GSM knows how far they can push a deal before it falls apart or the way a B.D. Agent knows when to ask for the appointment.

While a computer must be programmed to intuit, humans are equipped with an instinctual skill fortified by a lifetime of social training. Without the ability to discern non-verbal and environmental cues, an A.I. does not have the opportunity to interpret a conversation in the same manner as a human.

Depending on the scenario, this can become a rapidly compounding problem. 

Emotions and Empathy

Last week I had a concern with my cell phone bill. According to the information, I was reading, the cell phone carrier had yet to log a nearly $200 payment. I was frustrated, nervous, and stressed when I tried to reach out to support.

“Please choose from the following options.” The provider app prompted me.

“Human.” I typed.

“Please choose what type of concern.”

“Human!” I typed again.

“We would be happy to help you. Please choose …”

“HUMAN.”

Several minutes later, I was still exasperated.

“Your current balance is $XXX.”

“Does that include my payment?”

“You can check your balance by dialing..”

I never got to a human. The experience was off-putting and left me wondering if it might be time to switch providers. This does not need to be the experience we offer our customers.

Because of the importance of customer retention and the high emotions prevalent in vehicle repair, the service department is heavily based on human interaction and connection. Arguably more so than the sales floor itself.

When customers enter the sales floor, they are excited and anticipating. They know the process will take some time but are eager to achieve a goal. When customers enter a service department, they are often frustrated, stressed, and unprepared for the financial implications. They know the process will take a while and are annoyed at waiting.

There is a high probability that your senior service writers are the most skilled mediators in the entire dealership. They can intuitively reason the ethical and legal responsibilities of their job at lightning speed, all while offering emotional support that lowers stress levels across the entire building. These skills are not to be taken lightly. They are the backbone of success within the dealership. As is evident in other industries—such as the cellphone industry—customer service-based artificial intelligence is another example of how a computer cannot navigate the minutiae of an automotive dealership.

So What Does That Mean?

No, we are not infallible, but I would argue that our flaws create the differentiation between human and artificial intelligence. The idiosyncrasies of the human experience enable us to view the unseen and hear the unspoken. In the automotive retail space, this couldn’t be truer.

When considering whether or not to implement artificial intelligence into your daily processes, it is essential to take into consideration the amount of time and energy involved in the management and maintenance of your A.I. Humans may not be able to respond to a customer in under 5 seconds, or communicate with 200 people at once. Still, we live, breathe, and feed our families on our ability to intuit our surroundings at a lightning-fast pace, and that distinction can be the difference between success and failure with an A.I.

Herb Anderson/Charity Ann