Sarah, a virtual service assistant at Esserman International in Miami, is so popular that customers call the dealership and ask for her by name — even though she's a software product.
"She is sort of like another team member," says Gail Gensler, business development team manager for Esserman, which sells Volkswagen and Acura vehicles.
Esserman has used Conversica's virtual service product since May 2017. The software has contacted 45,000 service customers, generating more than 1,000 executed repair orders, Gensler says.
Customers respond to Sarah's emails 11 percent of the time, Gensler adds. Responses are logged into a customer's profile on the Conversica tool. Though Sarah could continue the conversation, Gensler has programmed the software so she is copied on the email and can personally respond to the customer.
The software complements rather than competes with Esserman's human service advisers, Gensler says.
"We are not losing the relationship- building opportunity" with customers, she says. "It is an enhancement of what we are already doing."
Virtual assistants sometimes contact a service customer six or seven times before getting a response, says John Ruble, Conversica's vice president of strategic partnerships. But the assistants are "persistent and polite," he adds.
Ruble says, "People have apologized to the artificial intelligence for not responding sooner."