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The rigid dichotomy that once separated humans and machines is beginning to vanish before our very eyes. The lines really begin to blur when it comes to the virtual assistants that we have all come to know (and either love or hate).

by Cory Wright

I imagine all of the robots and virtual assistants of today’s world, humming together in all of their digital glory one of my favorite tunes and their unofficial anthem by Daft Punk called “Human After All.”

“We are human… after all
Much in common. After all.
Human, human, human, human”

Do yourself a favor and listen to it on YouTube. You’re bound to either love it or you’ll think I have terrible taste in music.

Whatever the case, if you’re anything like me, you’ve started to wonder why robots have become more like humans and humans are becoming more like automatons. Why are they making virtual assistants more like humans? Simple answer. Because it sells! Don’t believe me? Over 100 million Amazon Alexa devices have been sold. Own an iPhone? Then you may be one of the more than 375 million who chat it up with Siri each month.

While artificial intelligence improves, why does it seem like our communication skills are regressing? Why are humans becoming less human? It doesn’t take a Harvard study to prove that we have substituted our own abilities for those of our smartphones. Search YouTube for cell phone fails and you’ll quickly see proof. Some of us check our phones over 100 times a day, some fall into ditches, fountains, or run into telephone poles while doing so.

For many of us, they’ve become our substitute internal processors. Instead of communicating and having a conversation, we use social media to find out what our friends ate for breakfast, when they check in at the gym, and every’thrilling’ highlight in their life.

We’ve substituted emotional interactions through conversation for micro-emotional transactions, like sending a quick text or hitting the “like” button (which Instagram is finally doing something about).

While car dealers retool their digital marketing machines to target the new wave of connecting with customers, their phones continue to ring at record rates. Why does this matter? In a world of bots, your customers still cling to the one way they can search for trust from a distance: through human interaction over the phone.

Here are 4 ways we can humanize the customer experience in the same theme that virtual assistants do:

1. Be Personable

Recently, I asked Alexa what the weather was supposed to be. After giving me the detailed report, she exclaimed: “Have a nice weekend!” Today, if you so much as wave hello to a random stranger in passing, don’t be surprised if they give you a dirty look and begin to walk away faster. Meanwhile, Alexa and other virtual assistants have been coded to be friendly.

While I don’t suggest trying to “program” your employees, we can coach them to look for opportunities to say nice things and pay customers a compliment when applicable. Buying and servicing a vehicle can be stressful, especially if you’re engaged in conversation with a human disguised robot from the 80’s. In contrast, a simple smile can be heard through the phone.

2. Be a Great Listener

Siri’s built-in voice recognition correctly identifies 95% of users’ speech. It is important that we always pause to listen not just for the words, but the meaning. Sentiment and tonality can sometimes give hints to how you can take the customer’s experience to the next level. Not sure what your customer is asking? Don’t hesitate to ask for clarity.

3. Be Prepared

Virtual assistants are taking a page out of the motto of the boy scouts with their “ask me anything” attitude and functionality. According to research by Stone Temple, Google leads the pack in accuracy and the number of questions it can answer versus its competitors.

That said, the fundamental foundation of their gains in accuracy stems from preparation. Just like the tech firms that produce these virtual assistants, we can log the questions we are most frequently asked and prepare a process to answer them. We want to focus our accuracy efforts on what we are asked most frequently.

In automotive sales, the number one question asked stems around availability of the customer’s desired vehicle. As new questions are asked by our customers, we must track how frequently they come up and design a process to answer them with ease, accuracy, and speed. Just like our robot friends!

4. Work as a Team

Amazon’s Alexa doesn’t provide answers based on its native knowledge base or internal processing power alone. In fact, it relies on cloud-based crowd-sourcing to accurately answer your questions. In some instances, it combines the use of multiple humans and computers to answer questions at a faster pace.

In the automotive space, we can do the same thing. Create a pool of resources you can use to help answer questions and assist your customers. Also keep in mind that Alexa never passes any voice data to their crowd-sourcing team. Instead, it transcribes words and phrases for interpretation and responses.

You’ll encounter the same need from time to time. Make sure to take notes and transfer those detailed notes into your CRM where your team can easily access them. Your digital ecosystem should be geared to help better serve your customers.

As virtual assistants compete to be more like humans, it begs that we take a step back and ask ourselves how we can provide additional value to create great customer experiences. Our customers have unique individual circumstances that require a unique and humanized experience by improving phone skills. We are all “Human After All”.

Customer Experience

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