Silvercar by Audi

How Silvercar by Audi is rethinking customer service automation with conversational AI

The U.S. luxury car rental service automated both internal and external processes with a virtual agent, saving its employees and customers valuable time

Automation is no longer optional. In today’s digital-first customer service landscape, businesses interested in maximizing the customer experience need to think, collaborate and communicate in new and different ways.

It’s a common pain point across many organizations that employees can experience difficulties getting quick and efficient access to the information they need. Whether it’s HR-, product- or service-related, easy access to information can often be a major roadblock to effectively assisting customers. Ultimately, these inefficiencies lead to employees becoming frustrated and customers ending up with a less than desirable experience.

Solving this challenge was the drive behind Silvercar by Audi’s decision to adopt a conversational AI solution to help automate both internal and external company processes. The luxury car rental company offers customers a premium service, with rentals from an all-Audi fleet at over 25 airport and metro locations across the United States.

“At Silvercar, we see our employees and customers as the same,” says Steve Sierra, the company’s director of training and implementation. “They have a similar set of challenges, including being able to get information quickly, reliably and consistently at any time of the day,”

Silvercar saw that a majority of the inquiries to its support team were common questions that, over time, became tedious to answer. This was similarly true of its HR staff who were constantly fielding questions from the company’s nearly 350 employees on topics ranging from health benefits to public holidays. “We realized that we needed to automate many of our existing processes, and found that chat was the best channel for resolving that problem.” adds Sierra.

Building critical support from within

Initially, the company deployed a black box chat solution but found that it didn’t meet its needs. Content required frequent updating, often on a daily basis, and Sierra and his team wanted to be able to modify key processes themselves - handing it off to a third-party was neither quick enough nor practical.

“Part of being an innovative company means being agile,” notes Sierra. “We tried using a black box solution for AI but quickly discovered our team was creative enough that we felt confident in taking ownership of building a virtual agent ourselves, instead of relying on external consultants.”

This led to Silvercar turning to boost.ai, who’s conversational AI platform offered a no-code alternative that allowed for greater control when building, implementing and, importantly, maintaining its automated chat strategy. The company began by rolling out an internal virtual agent named Joy to explore the possibilities of the technology and earn stakeholder buy-in. Joy can answer questions and perform automated functions on approximately 600 topics ranging from HR, purchase orders, IT support, training and more.

“What’s great about the boost.ai platform is that it is a collaborative process,” says Sierra, who equates using the software with learning a new skill. “We’re essentially being taught to fish and can explore new possibilities. The AI chat is an amazing tool, but the integration component is the secret sauce that has opened up some amazing opportunities for us.” Currently, Silvercar integrates Joy with a number of the company’s key systems, including Slack, Pingboard and Jira, as well as its security systems and employee bonus programs.

White-glove customer service during a crisis

Joy proved to be such an invaluable member of Silvercar’s internal support team that the company quickly decided it wanted to extend the same level of experience to its customers. Using the expertise gained from developing Joy, the company’s AI training team built and deployed an external virtual customer service agent that could assist with questions on over 400 different topics.

The bulk of questions that Silvercar’s customer-facing support staff deal with on a regular basis, especially with new customers, are along the lines of ‘Are your cars all Audis?’ and ‘Are they really all silver?’. “When you get thousands of these types of queries during a month, you need to find a way to answer them all quickly,” says Sierra. “Having a virtual agent help our customers with these questions bought our team time so that they could really focus on the white-glove support that they are there for.”

"We pulled together the company’s COVID-19 response in just a few days and it wouldn’t have been possible without the virtual agent."

— Steve Sierra, Director of Training & Implementation, Silvercar by Audi

The development of Silvercar’s external virtual agent coincided with the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, presenting a unique opportunity for Sierra’s team to get involved in a critical project. “Together with our marketing team, we pulled together the company’s COVID-19 response in just a few days and it wouldn’t have been possible without the virtual agent,” adds Sierra.

The pandemic directly impacted Silvercar’s business - from reservations and bookings to car delivery. Each of these challenges generated phone calls and, when the company announced its policy changes, it expected increased call volumes to its contact center.

“Building a virtual agent with processes around automating requests related to COVID-19 allowed us to respond quickly and consistently,” notes Sierra, who attributes the ease of use of boost.ai’s conversational platform, and his team’s work building Joy as key factors in deploying Silvercar’s COVID-19-related content in under a week. “It saved us countless hours in training our call center in all the new operating procedures that uniquely impact each of our locations.”

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