Dysfunctional robot answering conversation with confusing messages

The Problems With Chatbots & Car Dealerships

Written By Ted Rubin

Back in 2017, chatbots for car dealerships were the "next big thing"; they promised to provide more qualified sales opportunities at a lower cost. However, once bots started handling conversations for car dealers, it was clear to see where the communication gaps existed. From impersonal interactions to unhelpful responses, it was clear that chatbots could not stand in for dealerships online. 

Fast-forward to today, and we’re seeing a lot of the same issues with chatbots. While today’s bots can handle basic questions online, they still lack the emotional intelligence to handle the nuances of buying a car. So why are dealerships resorting to them again?

The reality of chatbots for car dealerships

59% of all consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience. (Source: PwC, 2018. Customer experience is everything.)

Studies show consumers are unhappy with the current customer experience—and they think it's missing the human touch. Now more than ever, it’s critical to establish a personal connection with customers during the car buying process. Bots simply cannot offer dynamic engagement. If you don't believe me, try asking a chatbot "how they are doing," and you may get a response something like this: 

bad conversation handled by a robot

Bot Conversation Example

It's evident that a bot is responding, not a real person. At a time when consumers experience longer periods of isolation, empathy becomes the secret ingredient to customer service. Our in-house team has experienced a surge of auto shoppers asking our reps how they’re doing — because it’s a very human thing to do. Here’s a short clip of that conversation:

ActivEngage engaging conversation human to human


ActivEngage Conversation Example

Now imagine that live support during the digital retailing process. Featuring our unique Guide By Side™ feature, ActivEngage’s Revolve solution can provide the human touch to make the entire car buying process personalized for your customers. 

Can you tell the difference?

One word, many meanings: What chatbots get wrong

Bots have a hard time interpreting words differently, depending on the context. They’re programmed to have specific answers for certain keywords. So, while a customer may mention the word "trade," they may not necessarily be referring to a vehicle trade-in. With this in mind, relying solely on a bot for online customer service could lead you to neglect people who:

  • Tend to use idioms or regional phrases
  • Speak another language or English is not their first language
  • Have a disability that affects the way they communicate

Chatbots can't read between the lines. They aren’t able to detect if a shopper is unsure about taking the next step and therefore can’t help customers feel comfortable about the process. Another missing capability of chatbots for car dealerships is UPSELLING; bots cannot recognize opportunities to sell more Service. ActivEngage’s live Customer Engagement Experts can have dynamic conversations that increase repair order revenue by up to 30%.

How much additional growth could your dealership's chatbot be leaving on the table? 

You only get one chance at a first impression

Many customers on your website are in the research stage of the buying process. First impressions are vital. According to 1st Financial Training services data, 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, however 91% of those will simply leave and never come back.

Make the most of that initial experience by ensuring that your customers receive the kind of customer service they want and expect. And what is it they want exactly? According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study, nearly 80% of American consumers say that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer experience.

Make a good first impression with: A friendly and welcoming experience, a convenient experience, and a speedy experience

With a live human on the other side of the screen answering questions about trade valuations and aftermarket products, your dealership can provide every element of the best customer experience. With the experience going well, a human rep can even ask for reviews in a personal way. Take a look at how you can use one of our products, AcceleRater to get reviews from customers during the shopping stage of the process.

Humans + Digital Tools = Great Business

When deployed thoughtfully and strategically, messaging (chat, text, etc.) does more than just help customers get answers to questions. It builds bridges and gives businesses the opportunity to engage consumers in real and meaningful interactions. Bots won’t help your business right now, and your customers don’t want them.

PWC interaction preference infographic

On average, 75% of consumers say they'll want to interact with a real person more as technology improves.

Let car buyers reach real people, so when they ask “how are you doing?” they’ll get the enthusiasm and excitement that makes buying a car a lot less stressful and a lot more pleasant. It's great to have bots and human reps, but don't rely on a Bot to do the work of a human, or your relationships with customers will suffer.


Ready to discover how ActivEngage helps your dealership succeed?