Are you chatting with your auto-maker about the COVID-19 crisis? Well, maybe not, but in our research here at CarLabs, we have found that thousands of consumers are.
Conversation trends in an automaker’s chatbot typically include questions about vehicle features, scheduling a test drive, financing, account balance, etc. But in the uncertain times of the coronavirus crisis, consumers are flocking to their automaker’s websites, phone, email, and, yes, their chatbot, to find out what can or will be done in response to the pandemic.
Spike In COVD-19 Related Questions on AutoMaker OEM Chatbots
In our research, conducted on a finance OEM chatbot, incoming COVID-19 related questions from chatbot users were seen beginning on March 12, 2020, with a trending spike on March 15, 2020. This trending spike continued throughout our data set pulled through March 25, 2020.
Here are a few of the questions that automakers are seeing from consumers in their chatbot conversations:
- Are you offering any assistance for customers in light of the COVID-19 crisis?
- Can I defer my payments? I was laid off because of the coronavirus.
- I am in quarantine and cannot work. Can I delay my payments?
How the Coronavirus Crisis is Affecting the Automotive Industry
Hundreds of thousands of new unemployment claims came in at record numbers during the first 2 weeks of Stay-at-Home orders, and they are expected to continue to rise. As the U.S. and other countries around the world make announcements to offer economic and financial relief during the COVID-19 global pandemic, U.S. consumers are turning to their automakers for help with auto loan and lease payments.
Many financial institutions are offering consumers a hiatus from their auto loan payments for up to 3 months, and just tacking on an additional 3 months to the term of the loan. Some carmakers are even offering special coronavirus car deals, delaying the start of payments for up to 120 days, and offering touchless delivery of the vehicle, all to entice new buyers to still consider making a purchase during the pandemic.
Leveraging Chatbots to Increase Value during Times of Crisis
Here are just a few ways that chatbots are helping companies respond to COVID-19 queries:
- Providing a rapid response to consumers in a great time of need
- Offering a non-intrusive communication line for tech-minded generations
- Offering a higher level of engagement via a non-intrusion chat
- Ability to provide 24/7 response to consumers and save on call center cost
- Access to real-time chat data, offering actionable insights
- Precise human-handoff handled in real-time as appropriate
As the auto industry navigates this unprecedented time, chatbots certainly can offer a solution to help point consumers in the right direction. Personalized messaging, and precise human handoff as needed, can streamline online inquiries during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also gives consumers peace of mind knowing that the auto industry is prepared and ready to respond in the event of a crisis.
As leaders in the automotive industry make decisions on how to respond and what messaging to send to their consumers, a critical component to this response will be the various channels of communication that are available to consumers. And as automakers experience an influx of calls, with demand higher than the capacity to respond with an immediate human interface, chatbot technology becomes an increasingly valuable tool to speed up response time and present critical information to consumer questions. Our current clients at CarLabs are already benefiting from real-time data provided to them through their consumer chatbot dashboards. With the ability to see real questions and reports, our OEMs have had the ability to rapidly present a response.
Automakers Crafting Customized Messaging in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis
As the auto industry pulls together ways to communicate and respond to their consumers, here are some of the ways the automotive industry is responding to the COVID-19 crisis:
GMC is running with the heartwarming tagline ‘We're here to help”, with an entire page dedicated to answering questions during these uncertain times, and offering COVID-19 resources to consumers. The page kicks off with a statement from the Global Vice President Buick and GMC, Duncan Aldred:
COVID-19 has made this a challenging time for some of our family and customers to get clear information. That's why we created this page–to give you a one-stop spot for information when it comes to your GMC vehicle questions. Whether you have questions about your vehicle or you need to discuss financial issues or other resources, we've compiled answers to as many questions as we can. These are unprecedented times. And we're taking unprecedented steps to help you and your family get through them.
The GMC COVID-19 page continues on with Helpful Resources and links to communication channels, including chat. GMC shares information on their work with Ventec where they are assisting with the rapid production of critically important ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Honda Motor Co. is telling consumers “We’ll get through this together’. Honda’s message to consumers is:
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the lives of our customers, communities, and neighbors. Beyond the most important need to stay healthy, we know that many are also experiencing financial stresses. Honda is here to help.
Honda is offering hardship help, including payment extensions and deferrals, and late fee waivers. They are also offering special arrangements for the purchase of a new vehicle.
Mazda North America is ‘Committed to you and your community.’ With a message from Jeff Guyton, President of Mazda North America:
The past few weeks have been difficult, and we hope you and your loved ones are safe. Our hearts go out to all those impacted by COVID-19. We are closely monitoring guidance from public health officials and will continue implementing measures to help deter the spread of the virus.
Mazda is also offering financial assistance to owners and special new vehicle finance options, including no payments for 90 days. They are also offering home delivery on new purchases, a part of a growing trend in the auto industry during these times, to provide a touchless and safe delivery of new vehicle purchases.
Toyota says ‘We’re all in this together.’ With a message to consumers:
The Toyota family stretches far and wide. Now more than ever, you can keep depending on us. Toyota is taking action locally and across North America to support the safety of our customers, our employees and our community.
Toyota has also donated $500,000 to the United Way, to directly help with emergency relief during the CODIV-19 pandemic. The company is also responding with similar financial relief programs as other automakers, with support for their current Toyota owners, and payment deferment programs for new buyers.
Kia Motors America launched the Accelerate the Good Program. Their message to consumers:
Every day brings us new concerns. We could all use a little help getting through. That’s why we’re introducing Kia’s Accelerate the Good Program to help current and future Kia owners.
Along with offering financial relief for current owners, Kia is offering new buyers a 120-day payment deferral, with no payments until July 2020, and 0% APR on new financed vehicles.
Hyundai Motor America says ‘We’ve got your back.’ They are telling consumers:
We want to help you worry less in these uncertain times.
Hyundai’s current owner’s financial assistance program is offering up to 6 months of deferred payments. And for buyers currently in the market, they are offering 4 months deferred payments, along with 0% APR for a term of up to 84 months.