Wheely can help any of the over 230k car repair shops open in the U.S. today to support their customers 24/7, both for booking a car servicing and for asking for help with a more or less urgent problem their vehicle is experiencing.
Catering to car savvy and car novices alike, Wheely fulfills the needs of mechanics’ customers, while reducing labor costs to repair shop owners.
These two cases - booking a car servicing and finding support to troubleshoot vehicles’ issues - are reported as two of the most common reasons for calling up a repair shop, creating a high volume of traffic that distracts car repair workers from more valuable tasks.
This chatbot automates these high-frequency low-value interactions, to free up mechanics from the continuous incoming calls, while improving customer experience. The project was created and developed on the Kore.ai platform, as part of the Kore.ai Botathon ending in December 2022.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- the frictions that car repair shop owners and drivers face in their interactions
- how Vocalime’s AI assistant Wheely is smoothing these issues out
- Wheely’s currently supported use cases: booking a car servicing & finding support for vehicle issues
- what makes Wheely stand out
Car repair shops’ problem with high-frequency low-value calls
The initial inspiration for Wheely comes from the direct experience of the father of one of our team members. As a car mechanic and repair shop business owner, he reported his frustrations with the amount of calls his shop gets everyday.
Although there is someone at the shop helping him deal with calls and booking appointments, they found that a high percentage of the call traffic referred to customers who are experiencing usual, traditional problems, which may or may not require any mechanic intervention. People call to start getting information about their problem and not necessarily because they want to immediately book an appointment.
These problems can sometimes be solved directly speaking through the phone and, even when the customer is invited to bring their vehicle in for a check, a few times the mechanics don't really end up getting their hands dirty. In both these hypotheses, the time put in for solving the issue would not result in any (at least immediate) economic return.
Another popular reason for calling in is booking a car service. These are often longer calls, they require customers to be aware of different information about their vehicle that they don't always have at the ready, and expect the repair shop representative on the phone to always ask the same questions.
As we familiarized ourselves with the father of our colleague's story, we realized these cases would benefit greatly from being automated. This seemed to benefit the repair shop, as the phone lines would be left open for more urgent and unique situations. Equally, customers would be left satisfied by the 24/7 availability and the opportunity of taking their time to get their info for a car maintenance check-up, without jumping off a call and having to pick up the conversation at a later date.
From our conversations with car repair shop owners and scouring their online communities, it became clear that the experience we described above was widely shared amongst mechanics. Smaller shops that don't have an assistant to answer the phone during working hours reported higher levels of frustration, as incoming calls also prevent them to focus entirely on the part of their job they like the most, i.e. working on the vehicle itself. On the other hand, even large car repair shops that have an assistant devoted to answering phone calls, seem to struggle to keep up with the incoming traffic.
Some of them also reported receiving complaints from their customers, who struggled to get in touch with them via phone, as the line was always busy and/or the personnel wouldn't be able to pick up even during working hours when focused on other activities.
Finally, our market research opened our eyes to the incredible potential in terms of scalability of the solution. According to Statista, there are over 230k car repair shops today in the U.S. alone, and the number is expected to grow in the coming years. The size of the market proved that there would be a huge potential for the automated solution we were thinking of building.
Wheely, the AI that books servicing and troubleshoots vehicle issues
Our solution is Wheely, a bot built for a specific, fictional, car repair shop (Jackson's Service Center), that can easily be adapted to fit the needs of any other of the over 230k car repair shops in the U.S.
Its 2 main features reflect the main reasons for contact that the shop owners were reporting to us:
- Booking a car service
- Asking for information about a specific car problem
Let’s see how these work.
Booking a car servicing
The first use case that Wheely supports is booking a car service and it does so asking for the smallest possible amount of info from the user.
Whereas the calls for this type of activity can get pretty lengthy, Wheely allows users to book a service by simply providing their license plate and state of registration, as it automatically fetches all the info on the car via API. While new users are guided through the process of customizing their servicing, returning users can also ask to replicate their previous servicing's preferences for the one they are presently booking, further reducing the time of the booking experience.
Still, users who aren't as familiar with the offering of a car repair shop are guided by Wheely, who can answer questions about things like the difference between genuine OEM replacement parts and generic ones.
Asking for information about a specific vehicle problem
The second scenario for interacting with Wheely is a situation where the user is facing an issue with their vehicle and needs immediate support. Car repair shops’ customers are able to ask for information about their specific car problem, to know more about its possible causes through the answers provided by Wheely.
This feature can function as support in moments when the mechanic is unavailable, or outside of working hours, as it collects contact info from the user so that they can be contacted about their more complex problem by a human mechanic expert. Currently, Wheely is knowledgeable about over 65 frequent car issues (covering over 90% of typical car problems), ranging from a stuck gas pedal to a shaking steering wheel.
What makes the AI assistant Wheely stand out
Overall, Wheely has been a great project to work on that has given us many reasons to be proud of.
One of the ones that stands out to us is the fact that we have been able to make it easy for car savvy and novices alike to find a response to a car problem, at a time when they might really be panicking and looking for help, but the mechanic isn't available to talk. After all, cars don't only break down during working hours and being in that situation can be particularly stressful for someone, especially if there is no one to support them through that.
Equally, we are very proud to have developed a solution that would truly make a difference in the daily operations of a car repair shop. Wheely is able to support mechanics in their job, allowing them to focus on their hands-on work on the vehicles, while not missing out on any opportunity of serving their recurring customers and welcoming new ones.
Another reason to be proud is the adaptable levels of guidance that Wheely offers to its users. Booking a car service can be very easy for someone and Wheely will allow these car savvy users to go through the process as quickly as possible, while still customizing their service as much as they want. On the other hand, other users might need some guidance and Wheely truly supports these users in making informed decisions.
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And if you’re still hungry for knowledge, follow us on LinkedIn for weekly updates on the world of conversational AI, or check out:
- the success stories of other bots, like DoNotPay, Cleo, and Lark, that are proving what chat can do when you allow it to shine
- a Vocalime case study about the Lavazza Gaming Partner Skill, combining Fnatic gaming expertise and Lavazza’s passion for coffee
- our 101 guides to large language models and GPT-3.