Dealer Eddie Stivers owes a debt of gratitude to an Internet sales associate known only as "Eva." Her efforts to engage leads on behalf of Stivers Ford-Lincoln, of Montgomery, Ala., have boosted sales 36 percent on the new-vehicle side and 25 percent on the used-vehicle lot since January 2015.
Moreover, Eva never calls in sick, and she is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every single week of the year.
In reality, she is an "it" -- a sophisticated piece of technology. Eva is merely the name of the virtual persona Stivers and his team have integrated into their sales process using an artificial intelligence-based sales program known as the Conversica Automated Sales Assistant. Nearly two years ago, Stivers and his team set Eva loose to follow up on Internet leads that had often gone neglected by the store's sales associates.
"Eva makes up for human deficiencies in the sales force," said Stivers, whose dealership is on pace to sell approximately 1,700 new, 1,400 fleet and 1,400 used vehicles this year. "A few years ago, we analyzed our process and found that quality interaction with Internet leads wasn't happening. We weren't responding rapidly enough."
Stivers said his sales force tended to pursue low-hanging fruit, losing track of customers who weren't progressing as quickly through the sales funnel.
"Sales staff had a tendency to want instant gratification," Stivers noted. "When they didn't get it, they moved on. Essentially, we lost interest before the customer did."