CommentaryNov 21st, 2023

H.I. > A.I. - Human Interaction is GREATER than Artificial Intelligence

HIAI Article Image

Yes, a title to get attention.

We all have heard so much about how much Artificial intelligence is now being leveraged in almost every industry, every function and field, and even replacing or augmenting many traditional jobs and roles. All true. It is being promoted as “the answer” for all that has been missing from delivering the ultimate value. No doubt, there has been much value gained and cost reduced through deployment of AI. In automotive retail, it is just in its infancy in my assessment, but still shown promise for great gains.

The gains and benefits thus far have come across many areas, including customer interaction, sales, service scheduling, predictive maintenance, inventory planning and much more. According to August 2023 CDK paper and other sources, those areas of opportunity are mostly identified to be:

  • Among dealerships not currently using AI, 63% said they expect the service department to provide the best return,
  • followed by sales (61%) and marketing/advertising (46%).
  • More than half (52%) said they plan to use AI for booking regularly scheduled service appointments.
  • and 49% said it will provide parts and service updates.

“AI also assists dealership staff with identifying predictive maintenance before issues occur,” CDK’s Hernandez said, “creating easy and convenient customers experiences while strengthening trust.”

There is still lots of opportunity in my opinion to leverage technology, process automation and Artificial Intelligence to transform Auto Retail operations. Efficiency and innovation are the cornerstones of successful dealerships. AI-powered tools can automate routine tasks, optimize inventory management, and streamline processes that once demanded manual attention. Additional areas of opportunity for value gains should include:

  • Data analysis and insights (Dashboards and Next Best Actions versus traditional reports and spreadsheets)
  • Customer experience (personalized intelligence to assist owners through any channel with specific information requests and needs)
  • Shorten Sales Cycles (enable more needs-based sales cycles to move customers through information needs)
  • Workforce Productivity (automate and add intelligence to repetitive and manual tasks such as reporting, claims processing, data entry and report and information generation)

Technology (AI) is a tool not a solution.

All that said, I would argue that we cannot get so caught up in the movement to AI that we lose those human interactions that are most needed and value-added to the customer and employee experiences. As a practitioner of technology for a living, more than ever, I would instill that we all understand that technology, even Artificial Intelligence is NOT a solution. It is a tool. It is an enabler. But without clearly defined experience goals, we can lose sight of the objective and value of employing the AI technology. I also submit that we should never let it replace those human interactions that are not only critical to the customer experience.

While AI can chew through loads of data and analyze patterns and determine next best actions with likely outcomes, it cannot be understanding, caring, empathetic, concerned, passionate, and humanized. In something as critical as buying or service a $40,000+ asset, customer would like some “human insurance” in the discussion/interaction/engagement that they are doing the right thing. AI can provide information. But humans can provide context, provide confidence, and provide concern and personal relationship to the customer’s situation.

A recent paper in January 2023 by the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services summed it up well. “Markets have relied massively on artificial intelligence (AI) in recent years, with several applications developed in several sectors. Although AI applications represent an irresistible trend, consumers’ attitudes toward AI are mixed. While consumers might sometimes hold positive attitudes toward certain AI applications, such as service robots and self-driving cars, a more common case is that consumers prefer interacting with humans rather than with AI applications and thus respond more favorably to the former rather than the latter.”

Dissatisfaction that continues with some of the auto retail process, such as sales, is not something just solved by AI. There are still processes, people, training, approach and overall experience goals and measures of success and learning that all must align and support the ultimate delivery of value in the customer (or employee) interaction.

My suggestion is to be diligent and deliberate in where and how we employ technologies like AI. We must always view it as the tool and enabler, and never a replacement for where human interaction is most desired and coveted. If we are looking to improve an area of our dealership or business, I always suggest working outside-in. Start from the ultimate experience or desired delivery, and then assess the technology, the processes and the people aligned to support and work together to deliver that value. If the value is not occurring, there is likely a breakdown in one of those three areas or in the integration and alignment of those three areas. Then the problem/opportunity can be address optimally. If we start with simply employing AI (or any other solution) from the inside-out, it often meets resistance or breaks down because it has not considered the other elements of people and process.

Steve Jobs said it better and more succinct than me.

"You've got to start with the CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE and work back toward the technology."

- Steve Jobs

So, as we all look to the current shiny object of AI / ChatGPT / GenAI, let us not lose sight of the ultimate benefit we are trying to drive. The experience. AI has its place, and those should be leveraged, but we should not discount the human interaction and need for humans to deliver value in many of the auto retail processes.

    Dennis is the Head of Automotive Industry, Innovation & Transformation at Capgemini Invent. An innovative strategist and transformer, Dennis’ experience includes driving brand and customer strategy into market and profit realization. 

    Dennis is a change artist who creates tangible business value through ideation and visioning, creative marketing strategies and process implementations, strategic business transformation and customer understanding and delivery.

    View full profile
    Curated, quality insights?
    Content worth the click