Bridgestone Case Study

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Virtual Sales Assistant Independently Answers 85% of User Queries

Small to medium businesses face quite the customer service challenge in today’s retail environment. A study by HubSpot determined that 82 percent of those surveyed expected an immediate response to sales questions, regardless of channel. Considering this, it’s more important than ever to offer 24/7 support to customers. With limited labor and resources, meeting those expectations can be daunting.

TireConnect, a business unit of Bridgestone that supports thousands of auto and tire shops throughout North America, found a solution in AI-powered chatbots that can answer queries and provide quotes for tires and services that are tailored to each store or chain. Backed by the latest advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP), these bots — which TireConnect calls Virtual Sales Assistants — provide an invaluable link in the customer service chain for over 150 store locations across over 70 TireConnect clients, supplying much of the information potential customers seek and escalating seamlessly to store employees when necessary.

Discovering the Difference

TireConnect first became familiar with Passage AI’s conversational AI platform when the company saw it in use by a leading online education provider. What stood out immediately was how Passage AI chatbots were able to provide more in-depth answers to user questions vs. other chatbots in the market.

“We were impressed by how conversations with Passage AI’s chatbots felt more human-like than the typical chatbot in the market,” said Nigel Figueiredo, Technical Product Manager for TireConnect. “The intuitive interface was also a big draw, providing buttons to the user to clearly guide users to their next steps.”

Even though TireConnect had made it to the prototype stage with two other companies while seeking a chatbot solution for its network of dealers, the company changed its plans and chose to partner with Passage AI. They felt Passage AI had the capability to solve its specific need: provide one product that could be tailored to the needs of hundreds of individual stores.

A Smooth Rollout

From concept to implementation, TireConnect found that working with Passage AI to develop a custom conversational AI interface took only a matter of months. Despite the unique challenges provided by the varying sizes of TireConnect’s customers, the two companies were able to have the Virtual Sales Assistant up and running in less than a year.

“We created a pilot program and did about four to five months of testing with clients,” Figueiredo said. “Thanks to the hassle-free experience we had working with Passage AI, we were able to begin selling the Virtual Sales Assistant to our clients in the fall of 2018 and have it live on their sites in the first quarter of 2019.”

A Sales Associate That Works 24/7, 365

The Virtual Sales Assistant removes the need for employees to answer the most common questions, which can strain the limited resources of smaller, often family-owned stores. Its understanding of natural language allows customers to ask exactly what they want to know and have an excellent chance of receiving an answer at any time of day without the involvement of an employee.

TireConnect has found that the bots can easily and instantly provide tire quotes, store hours, store directions, and information on special pricing deals and services like tire and oil changes. And even though the interface is similar throughout the TireConnect family, each Virtual Sales Assistant is linked to the inventory and logistics information for its specific store, creating an experience that is both laser-focused and extremely flexible.

“TireConnect is a unique part of Bridgestone, and the Virtual Sales Assistant is an equally unique service we’re happy to be able to offer to our network of dealers,” said George Silagadze, Vice President, TireConnect at Bridgestone. “It is one product that powers the conversation on hundreds of sites, a single solution that is being sold to hundreds of retailers but is still custom to each business.”

Delivering Feedback and Results

Any chatbot is only as good as the results it delivers, and the Virtual Sales Assistants have been excellent in that respect. Based on the detailed feedback they provide, TireConnect has found the bots are able to answer 85 percent of customer questions, an outstanding success rate.

TireConnect clients also receive detailed chat logs, anecdotal interactions, and data on specific customer intent groups (breaking down queries by category like price quotes, store hours, etc.) and the accuracy rate within each intent group. This crucial feedback will help TireConnect and Passage AI work together to make the Virtual Sales Assistant even better in the future, something both companies are looking forward to doing.

“We’ve been extremely satisfied partnering with Passage AI to create the Virtual Sales Assistant for TireConnect, and the metrics we provide to clients reinforce that feeling,” Silagadze said. “By providing outstanding front line customer service and a convenient escalation mechanism when necessary, the bot has proven it can be the backbone of the customer experience for our dealers regardless of size, freeing them up to focus on other areas of their business.”

About Passage AI

Founded in 2016 by Walmart Labs alumni Madhu Mathihalli and Ravi N. Raj and LinkedIn alumnus Mitul Tiwari, Passage AI enables businesses to harness the power of AI-enabled conversational interfaces to bring bottom-line benefits, to better utilize service agents saddled by mundane tasks, and to deliver exceptional customer experience. Passage AI counts Kohl’s, Bridgestone, Shell, Wynn, Ford and TransUnion among the business and services that use its solution. A 2018 TiE50, Golden Bridge and Global Achievement for AI award winner, the company has secured $10.3 million in total funding and is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. More information can be found at https://www.passage.ai or by emailing sales@passage.ai.