Automotive Blog

Big brother is watching - but should he?

Big Brother

In today’s Financial Times (14/11/17) there is a report that the US bank Citigroup has invested in a UK artificial intelligence (AI) company, Behavox.  Their interest is that the Behavix software allows calls between bank employees and customers to be analysed using AI.  Calls are converted automatically into text, and the AI system then searches for particular phrases and also detects emotions such as anger or laughter.  The original business objective was to ensure compliance with the many regulations affecting banks, but this is now being extended to look at sales performance of individuals, by looking for positive buying signals from the customer that do not result in trades.  It can also pick up market trends by identifying whether sentiment is generally positive or negative, and what the most popular stocks are in customer interactions.

As automotive sales increasingly moves online with interactions by live chat and phone, there is clearly the opportunity to apply the same technology to exchanges with potential customers looking to buy a new or used car.  You would be able to understand which cars or deals were generating the greatest interest, which sales people were best at converting prospects who demonstrated different levels of buying interest, which sales people lost sales from prospects whose attitude and questions indicated strong buying interest, which employees had a track record of upsetting customers in some way, and so on.  This could then feed into pricing actions, active buying decidions, inventory planning, staff development and rewards.  The financial return could be substantial.

But is this actually where the industry should go?  It is clearly an example of where scale and big data can improve processes – in the way that we have referenced many times in our discussions about future retail and the dealer of tomorrow.  But will customers still be willing to phone in, or to take a call, if they know that their every word and nuance is being analysed by an AI system?  Will employees ever dare to depart from the script and have a “normal” conversation with a customer if they know this will be analysed and fed back to their boss – possibly influencing their salary or even their continuing employment?  AI applications are already used in some live chat systems – could this be extended to handle a natural voice exchange?

1984 in one sense was a long time ago, but in another sense, George Orwell’s Big Brother is coming up fast.  We should be thinking about how to respond to the opportunities.

On 5th December, ICDP will hold a workshop for members only in Frankfurt - the theme is 'Connected car/customer data and regulation'.  Please follow this LINK to see the full agenda and book your place. 

Written by Steve Young

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