Robots and AI underpin gold standard aftersales service at Marshall

As part of a digital transformation plan, KCS Automotive is helping Marshall Motor Group enrich the quality of its CRM data and further enhance customer experience thanks to an innovative combination of robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Data is the lifeblood of every dealership. With accurate data you can contact customers at the appropriate time with perfectly tailored messages that resonate and prove to customers that you are proactive, supportive and professional.

However, maintaining accurate records is no mean feat.

Typically, data will be cleansed in bulk every couple of years but data that’s accurate one day can be out of date the next and, over time, the quality of records can degrade significantly. Right up to the point where it’s all cleansed in bulk again and the process starts all over.

Finding a better way

This was a cycle that Neil Tonks, Group Aftersales Director at Marshall Motor Group, was determined to break: “With a focus on delivering digital transformation across the organisation, I wanted to find a way to ensure our customer data was always in tip top condition. When I spoke with the KCS team they suggested using robots to cleanse our records in bulk and then work away in the background 24/7 to maintain the quality and accuracy of the database.

“It was new technology and relatively untried in the automotive industry, but we could see the potential immediately.”

With a valid business case approved by senior management, the green light was given to invest in and commence the RPA project. For Marshall Motor Group this involved setting up a team of robots to work across seven different environments - checking and updating more than 600,000 records.

The robots involved in RPA solutions are software robots that run on computers and mimic the actions a human would take to complete the same task.

With the data safely and securely extracted from the system, KCS worked closely with the Marshall team to create the step-by-step processes for the robots to follow.

Neil continues: “As a result of several acquisitions, we had a number of different datasets that each needed to be cleansed. This added a level of complexity to the project but was a challenge we worked through together with KCS. In fact, a great by-product of this activity is that all of our environments are now unified in terms of the fields we include and the type of data we hold for each record.”

A structured and effective approach

Given the scale of the task and the added complications, the project team worked through a methodical step-by-step process – testing data in batches of increasing sizes, verifying the success of the initial cleansing and then setting the robot off to work on entire environments.

“We worked through all of the records in just under a month and updated around 80% of the data.” Neil confirms. “The great thing is that all of these corrections were made without any human input and we now have our robots working away in the background every day to ensure our new quality levels are maintained.”

An immediate impact

Teams at Marshall’s Business Development Centres are already feeling the positive impact of using highly accurate data.

Neil continues: “Previously our Business Development Teams might be calling customers to book in services or MOTs only to find that customers no longer owned the vehicle or that the MOT had already been completed. It was frustrating for our team when this happened but also undermined the perception of our business with the people we were calling.

“Now, our teams are telling us the data is so much better – it means they can be proactive, ahead of the competition and take real satisfaction from calling customers at exactly the right time. It’s highly motivating, boosts customer retention and is a genuine win win.”

An automated future

So, what’s next for Neil and his team?

“After the success of the data cleanse project, and given our continued focus on digital transformation, we’re keen to identify other areas of the business where robots can help boost efficiency and quality. We feel there’s a real opportunity within our BMW franchises to combine RPA with artificial intelligence so that customers are automatically contacted whenever their connected vehicle reports an error to the manufacturer system.

“The robots will be able to extract the error messages and then hand over to our AI-powered email accounts. To the customer it will look like they are receiving a timely communication from a real service advisor when, in actual fact, the whole process will be automated – powered by intelligent robots.

“Alongside the connected vehicle opportunity, we’re also looking at using AI-powered email conversations for all of our service reminders in the business – moving away from traditional HTML marketing to take a more conversational approach with customers that feels more human and genuine even though, ironically, it’s underpinned by intelligent software.”

So, real focus on embracing new technologies and a trusted partner in KCS Automotive to help them realise their ambitions.

Neil concludes: “The KCS team is at the forefront of applying these new technologies and understands the challenges we face as a large automotive retail organisation. We’ve built up a good relationship with them and look forward to exploring new digital transformation opportunities together in the future.”

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