AI + A Human Touch For Stronger Customer Relationships


Like many of you working in customer relations, I am confident that I can turn the vast majority of negative customer experiences into positive ones. This comes from years of experience handling a wide range of issues – many of which are similar in nature – and having a genuine interest in helping people.

How does artificial intelligence come into play in such a delicate field, where human emotions and human flaws are major factors?

AI might not be able to help directly with compassion and empathy, but it certainly gives those traits a chance to shine. Specifically, it helps me and my team address issues sooner. If a customer has a bad experience and goes home to vent to their partner, and I call later that day, instead of in a week — or never — that makes a big difference.

Timing is also important because Customer Service Index surveys from Ford and other OEMs go out pretty quickly, and addressing negative experiences prior to the survey’s arrival in the customer’s hands is crucial.

Negative Reviews Are a Reality

No matter how well trained your team, how tuned into and caring about the customer, they’re going to make mistakes.

And even if they don’t – even if they do it right 100 percent of the time – you’ll occasionally receive less-than-great reviews. Some people just like to complain, or have a hard time calling anything “excellent,” especially after a day in the service drive where waiting and spending money are par for the course.

Combining AI with a human touch can turn that around. AI allows me to reach out to my service customers within 24 hours following their appointment. I find that this quick show of concern catches them off guard in a good way and helps show that I care about their experience.

This is how it works: The customer comes in, an RO is opened in the DMS, the customer gets service, and within 24 hours of the RO closing, a very basic survey goes out to the customer via email from AutoAlert.

The customer has the chance to rank their experience as “excellent,” “satisfactory,” or “poor.” When satisfactory or poor are selected, the customer is sent to a (nonpublic) website to leave the details of their complaint. Only I and my team have access to the site. Now we have the chance to address grievances privately and turn bad experiences into good ones.

Keep the Good Going

Once you have the intelligence on your customers – that they didn’t have an excellent experience – it’s important to act right away. I call that very same day.

I’ve learned that people tend to vent more in email or on social media. But when I call, they’ll be straight up with me, and usually less harsh. In fact, they usually soften up quite a bit when I have them on the phone. This is when I get to find out what really happened!

Dealerships that don’t have a real person making calls like this will struggle. Customers need to know you care. Once they do, I find they come around pretty quickly.

This makes Ford happy, because like all OEMs, they put quite a bit of weight into CSI and question anything-but-excellent customer reviews.

Of course, not all experiences are bad and need to be turned around. The beauty of our service lane surveys is that they go out to all customers. If excellent reviews are given, the customer is directed to the review site that matches their email address (e.g., Gmail users are taken to Google reviews) to leave a public review.

So the good just keeps growing for our customers, and for us. If you would have told me even five years ago that AI would help us build better customer relationships, I would have been skeptical. But through ensuring that our happy customers have the opportunity to share their experiences easily, and that we have the chance to address every unhappy customer immediately, AI has become a crucial part of our relationship-building team.

Let Us Know What You Think