Once a feature suited only to high-level processes like computing and research, or consumer applications like Siri, artificial intelligence (AI) is showing up in more business functions. It’s an appealing technology because it can automate tedious tasks: in customer support, for example, it can respond to simple, common texts like “what’s your return policy?” or “where’s the closest store?” In the car dealership, it can replace humans for basic tasks in the sales process.

At the NADA show last week, CBT News spoke with David Marod, senior VP of sales at Conversica, a company that sells AI software for marketing. Marod noted that in the day-to-day operations of a dealership, it takes a lot of contact points to finally reach a prospect or customer. By delegating these attempts to a virtual assistant, dealerships are able to focus on more high-value tasks.

“What we found is, it really, really allows the dealership to have a higher contact rate, and…engagement rate,” said Marod. “Able to engage a customer through multiple attempts and bring him into the dealership.”

Virtual assistants based on AI can determine the right people to call at the right time to boost not only the chances of connection, but the chances of a sale. Marod notes that it’s often the human element that loses or delays a sale, because human salespeople may not be applying the same urgency to different types of leads.

“What we’re after is consistency,” he said. “One of the bad parts about any sales team is [that] you’ve got leads that you get from certain aspects that engage at a higher rate, and some that engage at a lower rate. But you’ve got to use the same intensity when we want to get ahold of somebody. And what happens is you don’t use the same intensity. You want to get a hold of the web site lead early, and if it comes from the OEM, maybe not as much.”

As customers become more accustomed to dealing with “virtual people” – particularly younger customers – they’re coming to realize that for routine questions, AI-driven assistants can provide baseline information very well, and they’re the gateway to a human for more complex questions and queries.

“The bottom line, though, is the customer gets taken care of,” said Marod. “The dealership ends up getting a better customer and a better experience. Everyone wins.”