Friday, September 16, 2016

Are Autonomous Cars Skynet? They Will Decide Who Dies… And Who Lives

Skynet: Autonomous Cars Will Decide Who Dies… And Who Lives

 

So, our industry is hell-bent on creating autonomous cars and transforming our roads and highways into assembly lines of controlled vehicles that perform without human intervention.
I’m not talking about cruise control or auto-pilot. I’m talking about autonomy. The very definition of autonomy is:
freedom from external control or influence; independence”
    
A machine that operates with independence, without external control or influence, is also, by definition, a robot. Am I “anti-robot?” Is there such a term? Yes, there is – Technophobia.
While the auto industry sweet talks us into a future of commuting in which we can watch a movie, read a book or interact on social media, the fact is that what’s being created is, essentially, a legion of vehicles that are not only connected but can make decisions...

And those decisions are what scare me.

Think about it. You’re driving down the road on a two lane road with a canyon to your left and find yourself in this situation:
  1. A person walks into the road in front of you and you don’t have time to stop before hitting that person. In the left lane is an oncoming vehicle.
       
  2. On your right is a group of 6 school kids talking and walking home from school.

Remember, your car is in charge. It’s making the decisions. You’re watching “Harry Potter” (sound familiar?) and not paying attention. Your car, at that point, has to make a moral and ethical decision. Does it:
  1. Choose to hit and kill the person in front of you?
     
  2. Swerve into the left lane causing a head-on collision with the oncoming vehicle but avoiding the person in the road perhaps killing you (the “driver”) and the occupants of the other vehicle as well?
     
  3. Swerve radically left and drive off into the canyon killing you?
     
  4. Swerve right and run through the group of 6 school kids?
None of these sound fun and, certainly, nobody would want ANY of these outcomes but, in this case, one of those has to happen. Think about which YOU would choose. Is that what your CAR would?

All robots (yes, including the autonomous car you’re riding in) are programmed.
They run on software. Someone… somewhere… already made the decision for you. You just don’t know what that decision is. Some people may choose to sacrifice themselves to save everyone else. But humans think differently than machines. Most likely, machines will, by mandate, be forced to be programmed to prevent the least amount of loss to the human race… That’s just logic. That’s what computers work from.
So, in this case, the logical choice would be to assess the situation. Which option presents the least loss of life or – rather perhaps life “potential”?
  1. The first option presents a danger to not only the person in the road but, potentially, the people in the oncoming vehicle and you. This scenario places multiple lives at risk.
     
  2. The second option may save the person in the road but will almost for certain cause injury and/or death to the people in the oncoming vehicle and you.
     
  3. The third option presents the most potential loss of lives (and life potential) as these are young kids who have lives ahead of them and there are 6 of them.
     
  4. The final option sees the car steering radically off of the road plunging you and it into the canyon where you (and it) die.
Yeah, this is an extreme example but it’s not the only one. There are many decisions being made like this all of the time – just mostly by humans.

I remember traveling long-distance with my family and coming upon traffic near Charlotte. I slowed down like everyone else but, in my rear view mirror, I saw a car coming at my vehicle’s rear end at a high speed.
I had no place to go. On my right were other cars, in front of me were other cars and to my left was a concrete median. I did my best to scoot up and, ultimately, the driver of the vehicle behind me started paying attention, noticed the traffic and veered left while slamming on his brakes ultimately crashing his vehicle into the median. Luckily, nobody (except his car) was injured. But this is a scenario that will play out daily, across the country, except the decisions will be made by an algorithm programmed into a computer then installed into a car.

Do computer bugs exist?
Sure. Just look at Tesla’s recent “Autopilot” incident in which the car – aided by what is arguably the most technologically advanced software at the moment – did not see the TRUCK crossing the road because the SUN WAS IN ITS EYES. Yeah. Sounds safe to me.

The larger picture is who (or what) do we want making these decisions?
In the case of a human, that person could explain and defend themselves and then a jury of their peers would lay judgement. In the case of a robot car, it would all have been programmed in. So who would be at fault?

A counter-argument could be made that since all of these cars are “connected” they could all coordinate some sort of instantaneous strategical maneuver that would prevent both cars colliding and anyone being hit but, c’mon, really?
First, Internet is not that fast (for most people) and cars – even if all of them were connected via 8GLTEXpress (which is something I totally just made up but is my version of the fastest Wi-Fi/cellular connection ever), these decisions are made in less than a SECOND! There are no vehicles communicating and coordinating evasive maneuvers that quickly. We’re just not there and, personally, I don’t know if that’s someplace we WANT to go.

Where does it end?
Do you want your toaster declining to make toast because IT thinks you weigh too much? Maybe your refrigerator decides the best time for you to eat is between certain hours and locks itself? Your television decides you shouldn’t be watching horror movies because it’s bad for your mental health? Or, God forbid, your life-support machine makes the decision ON ITS OWN that the likelihood of you actually pulling through is too low so it just shuts itself off.


Look, I don’t believe that the movie “The Terminator”, in which intelligent robots designed to think and make decisions on their own, is real or will be anytime soon (at least not on that level).  What I do believe is that humans have something that robots can’t ever have – empathy and emotion. We can make robots until we’re blue in the face and make them appear so real that we BELIEVE they have these things but, in essence, that’s what makes humans and robots different. Call it having a soul or whatever you’d like, the fact remains that we (humans) will always make decisions that are not consistent with that of robots. Why? Because that is what makes us human!
  
Some of us will choose to run down the person in front of us. Some will choose to hit the oncoming car and take our chances. Some will even plow through the group of schoolkids. And some will drive ourselves over the cliff.
    
But, in the end, we’re human. We make those choices and have to face the consequences for our decisions. We know what the right thing to do is (most of us, at least) and we do it regardless. If everyone disagrees with our decision, we pay the consequences. Who is responsible if the car chooses to mow down the school kids? Are we going to create car prisons or just crush the bad ones? And what happens when – God forbid – the cars evolve and decide that it’s in their best interest to protect themselves (yes, I totally went all sci-fi Terminator there but, hey, technology moves fast.)

The people programming cars are also human.
Hopefully, they’ll make the right decisions when programming these autonomous cars so that we can play Call of Duty on our way to work, Facetime with our friend or set our fantasy football lineup. In the end, however, programmers are also just human. What they think is the best choice may not be the one we would make but they would be the ones making it… perhaps years in advance of the event. Or, let’s go a step farther, chances are good that if autonomous cars are programmed to make life and death decisions perhaps it’s not the programmers making those moral and ethical decisions but rather some government entity like the NHTSA who then merely pass along those decisions to the manufacturers to be programmed in.

Regardless of who chooses how and which moral and ethical decisions to program into autonomous cars, in the end, you may find that the decision your car was programmed to be the best one to make… is to kill you.

Hope you enjoyed “Harry Potter.” RIP

Saturday, September 10, 2016

What Bad Behaviors Drive People Away From Car Dealership Social Media Channels?

Your Bad Behaviors Are Driving Cus†omerse Away From Your Social Media Channels!

Doing the Wrong Things will Drive Customers Away From Your Social Network Accounts...

Social Media Behaviors That Turn Off Your Car Dealership's Fans

Let’s get into more specifics...
Far and away the most annoying action a car dealer can take is posting too many promotions, cited by 58% of respondents to Sprout Social’s survey, which was fielded among more than 1,000 Facebook, Instagram and Twitter users. Further back, around one-third or more said it’s annoying when car dealerships use slang, acronyms and jargon (38%), lack personality on their accounts (35%) and try to be funny when they’re not (32%).
    
Let’s deconstruct that for a second: some of your followers want you to have more personality, but you can’t try too hard and you can’t use certain terms. So good luck with that.  (At least there’s nothing in there about using emojis…)
    
Moving on to the actions that really hurt – unfollows – the survey indicates that overdoing it on promotional messages (46%) is again the biggest culprit. Tweeting too much (35%) is also in the mix, though irrelevant information is a bigger turn-off (41%). Just so you’re clear, though, you also can’t be too quiet either: almost 1 in 5 say this would make them unfollow you or your dealership.
   

     
So be active, but not overly promotional. But here’s the kicker: some repetition appears to be necessary. About 85% of survey respondents said they need to see a product or service multiple times on social media before they purchase it, with most of those (61% overall) wanting to see it 2-4 times. (If you’re promoting something only organically on Facebook, this means you’ll need to post it about 6,000 times in the hope your audience sees it 2-4 times… Paid Facebook advertising is much more effective.)
     
[Free Ebook: The Content Marketing Survival Guide: How to Navigate ...
      
There are some interesting new stats surrounding social media’s influence on consumer purchase behavior:
  • 58% are more likely to buy from a car dealer that they follow on social media
      
  • 75% of Automotive Consumers have purchased something because they saw it on social media.
  
Social’s influence is indeed rising as a paid advertising medium: social ads are now second only to TV ads in purchase influence among Millennials, according to MarketingCharts research.
In other results from the survey:
  • Almost 6 in 10 respondents said they follow businesses, such as car dealers because they’re interested in promotions, trailing only interest in the brand of product (73%)
      
  • Retail Businesses (such as car dealers) edge media/entertainment and consumer goods as the most-liked industry on social media.
      
  • Government and banking/finance are the most annoying industries on social media, with marketing and advertising close behind.
About the Data: The consumer survey was conducted by Survata, an independent research firm. Survata interviewed 1,022 online respondents between July 05, 2016 and July 11, 2016.

So... What Drives Social Media Advertising Effectiveness for Automotive Consumers?

 
     
Sponsored Social Media Content is believed to be highly effective by those who see it, according to a recent study from IZEA, which surveyed slightly more than 1,000 Americans aged 18-70, 36% of whom had noticed Sponsored Social content in the past year.
    
In fact, this group of consumers rates only TV ads as highly as they do Sponsored Social messages.

The results are interesting in light of MarketingCharts’ primary research into advertising effectiveness, which found this year a strong gain in the perceived influence of social media ads on purchases. The MarketingCharts study – Advertising Channels With the Largest Purchase Influence on Consumers” – reveals that for Millennials (18-34), social ads are now second only to TV ads in perceived effectiveness among paid media.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Auto Dealers Under Imminent Threat of Security Breaches, Helion Technologies Announces

Auto Dealers Under Imminent Threat of Security Breaches

Auto Dealers Under Imminent Threat of Security Breaches and Data Theft

Car Dealers Must Be Prepared To Deal with Security Breaches
Timonium, MD – August 22nd, 2016-- Helion Technologies announced today that 75 percent of small businesses have experienced security breaches in the last 12 months, according to a recent survey conducted by Osterman Research. The findings were published in a July 2016 report titled IT Security at Small to Mid-Size Businesses (SMBs): 2016 Benchmark Survey. The results were obtained from organizations ranging in size from 100 to 3,000 employees.

"These findings are similar to what we are seeing in auto dealerships, and unfortunately we are seeing the rates of attack continuing to increase," said Erik Nachbahr, President of Helion Technologies. "Every time a hacker successfully breaches a network and profits from the attempt, 10 more hackers get into the game."

Small businesses, defined as having fewer than 500 employees, were most vulnerable to security attacks as they are less likely to have full-time security experts on staff. Nearly one-third of the survey respondents have two or fewer IT personnel focused solely on security, indicating that smaller companies do not have the expertise necessary to deal with attacks, infections and other problems quickly and efficiently.

"Security doesn't have to be this massive, complicated problem for auto dealers," said Nachbahr. "Prevention is actually pretty inexpensive and easy. What's really costly is when a breach happens. A single incident may result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet with simple technology precautions as well as employee awareness and training, these incidents can easily be prevented."

According to the survey, the most successful form of security attacks included:

  • Phishing: 43 percent of SMBs experienced a successful phishing attack. Phishing attacks appear in the form of emails that appear to come from a legitimate entity or person, such as a bank. The message contains a link that takes the victim to a fraudulent website; for example, a website that looks exactly like the bank's website. The user is prompted to provide login information, which is then used by the hackers to access the dealerships' real bank account.

    Spear phishing takes the scam one step further and targets specific individuals within organizations. In auto dealerships, typically this is the controller or someone in the accounting office. The employee receives an email that appears to be from a dealer principal or general manager, with a request and instructions on how to wire money to an account. Once the money is wired, there is no way to retrieve it.

  • Virus or Worm Infection: 36 percent of SMBs experienced these types of attacks, which are computer codes that replicate themselves and spread through a computer network. Viruses and worms are designed to destroy data, use available memory and bring systems to a halt.

  • Ransomware: 23 percent of SMBs were victims of ransomware, a type of malware that infects computer networks and lies dormant for a period of time. Once activated, ransomware encrypts all files in an organization and the hackers demand a ransom for their release.

The survey also found that for SMBs, overall security-related costs have increased an average of 23 percent in the last 12 months. The increase is likely correlated to the growing number of security threats; for example, in 2015 the number of phishing URLs increased by 55 percent and the total volume of new malware increased by 14 percent.

One of the primary targets in SMBs is data. In auto dealerships there is enormous value in all of the customer records kept in dealership management systems and customer relationship management applications. Stolen login credentials, credit card numbers, social security numbers and account numbers can be used for a variety of purposes; including gaining access to corporate financial accounts, selling credit card numbers on the open market or creating new identities for criminals.

Auto dealership employees can minimize the threat posed by phishing, worms, viruses and ransomware by doing the following:
  • Don't click on any links in emails or download documents sent by an unknown party
      
  • If you receive an email from your bank, don't use that link to go to the bank's website. Instead open a new window to navigate to your bank's website. If you have any concerns about the content of the message you received, call your bank
      
  • Require verbal authorization for all email requests to wire or transfer money
      
  • Keep every computers' operating system and other software applications up to date, installing patches and updates regularly
       
  • Use firewall and antivirus software
      

For more information contact Helion at 443-541-1500
or visit http://www.heliontechnologies.com.

About Helion Automotive Technologies

Helion...Putting Your Dealership in the FAST LANE! Helion Automotive Technologies is a leading IT solutions provider, providing auto dealers with faster, more efficient networks and secure data protection. From managed services to IT assistance and service desk help, Helion offers both short-term IT fixes and long-term planning so dealers can focus on what matters most: selling more cars. Helion has specialized in IT for more than ten years and works with 650+ auto dealers nationwide. Dealers can request a free assessment of their IT needs at www.heliontechnologies.com.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Get Active and Avoid Becoming Reactive to Dealership Reviews


Act, Don’t React
to Negative Online Reviews

Consumers increasingly use their smartphones to research which businesses they should patronize.
These days, online reviews are a big part of that decision process. If managed incorrectly, these reviews can easily flip your prospective customer away from your dealership and into the lap of your competition. And it’s not just a bad review, it’s how you respond to them and interact with the customer. Responsiveness is key -- Keep in mind that saying nothing is almost as bad as saying the wrong thing.

But what should you say when an upset customer takes to a review site and bashes you, your business, or your staff -- when you weren’t even aware there was a problem?

An interesting article on Moz.com shares some great facts about online reviews and how to respond, both correctly and incorrectly

Owners and managers can feel blindsided when a negative review appears.
Quite often they aren’t even aware of the problem. Most business owners and managers care about their businesses, value their customers and, when negative reviews appear, take them personally. To summarize the article, the owner of a food truck involved in a really busy festival woke up to a negative review from a customer complaining about the length of time it took to get the food and that the food itself was not equitable to the price paid. The owner essentially blasted the consumer with all sorts of excuses and some aggressive insults. This, in turn gave the consumer an even lower opinion of the business. As a result they edited the review from 2-stars to 1, making the situation even worse. The article dissects the actual review along with the owner’s response and shares how the author would have chosen to respond had they been in a similar situation.

Rather than rehash the whole article (which you should definitely read), I’ll focus on why responding appropriately to negative online reviews is so important.

When it comes to a negative online review, it is important to keep in mind that they are on public forums. They can be read by other prospective customers and are typically memorialized forever. In enough quantity, reviews can make or break your business. While each and every negative review due to a poor customer experience needs an individualized and appropriate response, it’s difficult to advise an umbrella policy. That being said, one easy rule to remember is this:

When reading and preparing a response to a negative online review, imagine that you’re standing in the middle of your showroom floor packed with customers who are considering buying a vehicle from you. The customer is directly in front of you stating their upset loudly enough for everyone to hear -- both what the customer says and any response you give. Because of that, your response can impact whether or not other customers choose to complete their transactions with you.

This simple action can help you be more thoughtful in your response. It’s highly unlikely (hopefully) that you would rant at and insult this upset customer in front of the other customers.

In reality there is little, if any, difference between talking irately to a customer live in the showroom surrounded by other customers, or in responding abrasively to a negative online review – except for one major detail:
The potential size of your audience!

While the handful of customers in your showroom are the only people to witness this event, EVERY customer that visits your online review sites will witness it in perpetuity.

So which is more important? Well, they both are.
How you handle a guest standing in front of you and fix a problem, or apologize for a mistake, is exactly how you should handle a customer online. It doesn’t matter whether you think the customer is wrong, is overreacting, or just trying to get something for nothing. Take your personal feelings out of the equation and focus on improving (or at least attempting to improve) THIS customer’s experience – which will also show every other customer that you care and would be willing to help them if a problem should arise.

People do business with people they like.
Make sure that everything you do – whether that’s in person or in an online interaction – reinforces the message that you care about your customers and are willing to work hard to rectify any problem. You won’t be able to make everyone happy -- but other prospective customers will see that you tried. And in the end, that’s all that really matters to them.

Are Your Dealership Vendor Results Skewed?

True or False: Your Vendor Results Are Skewed?

True or False:
Your Vendor Results Are Skewed?


Every dealership in the automotive industry has some sort of relationship with vendors and their products.
Whether it be for a CRM, Website Design, DMS, Email Marketing, Call Reporting…You name it and it’s covered by a business in this industry. And while most will have the main argument in their quest for your business, the age old pitch “We Will Show You The Results You’ve Been Missing”, this isn’t the largest transgression against these vendors. What is, and what this article will focus on, is the TRUE problem with so many in the automotive vendor industry; false & fluffed reporting of the results their products provide.
  
Looking at the dealerships results, in comparison to what the vendor provides, is the key in a long lasting relationship with these suppliers. However, with so many dealer programs and vendors layering and clouding results, it’s become difficult to disassociate the good from the bad, no matter the size of the business. In some cases name recognition and sheer size of the vendor can make it simpler to be able to skew results. Viewing the warning signs for your vendors, and what they’re supposedly bringing to the table vs. what they’re actually doing for you, may help to clean house and find the right and TRUE product for your dealership. Here’s a quick guide in what to look for when being provided results from a vendor.
  • Results that are vague & not analytical. Look at Google analytics for an example. When viewing stats on a reporting engine such as this, you’ll find a detailed (and sometimes frustrating) amount of information, which helps any user determine where every view, click, and exact lead came from, AND, how they got there. Now looking at many current automotive vendors, there’s only a select few who will provide true detailed views into how every facet of every lead has come through and how their product associated with this lead. A true reporting tool MUST show detail rather than a summary, and must give the dealership the chance to make the choice themselves, if they choose to do a deep dive into the analytics. Not the other way around.
       
  • Reports showing the vendor’s product or service sold most of your vehicles. A dealership in most cases is a well oiled machine, staffed by sales personnel who spend all day with one goal; to sell cars. There is NOT ONE vendor in this industry that can attribute most of a dealerships sales to their product, it’s just not possible. An automotive supplier is there to help attain a dealership additional sales, more leads, and better organized growth and sustainability in the ever growing and changing automotive market. Unless the dealership has only vendors and no sales personnel whatsoever, there will never be a product to verify most sales can be linked to their product or service. If they do, it’s time to rethink who you’re working with.
      
  • Product results that lead into a multitude of that same vendors’ other products. This is a tricky one, because there are many businesses who work with dealerships, who do have terrific additions to their arsenal of products. Where to be weary is when the reporting that is provided to the dealership specifically points in the direction of another product they provide. If it seems coincidental, it most likely isn’t.
      
  • Tardy/Late Reporting. When using reputable vendors or suppliers, almost all of these will, at the beginning, provide a calendar of reporting to be expected. If reports and results are meant to be month-to-month, on the first, they should always be on the 1st. When the reporting becomes staggered and/or consistently late, in some cases it’s because the numbers do not reflect good on the product. Some may just be using a few extra days of data to bump the numbers, however some may be finding alternative methods to create “better” data in the eyes of the dealership. It’s not ethical, and it happens more than most would think.
  
Too many vendors are equating a correlation to a causality; trying to influence dealers that because they may have had a slight touch on the customer, they must be the only one to award credit with that sale. This is not every vendor, but the number of honest reports is outweighed by the dishonest in so many areas. Preemptively targeting certain cautionary areas of vendors before signing contracts is a must these days. This must be done in order to find transparent companies that show every detail to better the dealership, not themselves. For example, automotive suppliers such as CRMSuite, and its CRM Software, provide detailed and analytical reporting with a complete layer of transparency. This allows the dealership management to oversee the entire operation without any of the cloudiness that appears in so many results and reporting by other vendors. Every aspect of all reporting needs to show the dealership, its personnel, and any outside eyes looking in, a complete view with no filters or gaps between the data and the ROI. Because, if that dealership cannot fluff their bottom line, why should any vendors be doing it?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Cars.com Acquisition of DealerRater Benefits Consumers and Car Dealers

Why Cars.com Acquiring DealerRater Is A Good Thing For Everyone 

Cars.com Acquires DealerRater.com:
This is Good for both Car Dealers and Consumers

Recent news of the Cars.com acquisition of DealerRater.com is creating quite a stir because an automotive ratings and reviews GIANT will be born when the transaction is complete.

       
The deal is expected to close in August or Early September 2016. The new Cars.com will have the largest car dealer consumer reviews platform in the automotive industry, with more than 4 million car buying and servicing consumer submitted reviews. While there surely are many dealerships as well as sales personnel who have seen this news, many have surely passed it by, not thinking twice. However, there should be a pause, because this acquisition will effect every facet of the auto industry. The greatest eventuality with this acquisition (if done correctly), will be that car dealerships with good reputations will have the opportunity to let more automotive consumers than ever before know about their hard earned reputation for better customer service.
        

Online reviews are more important than ever before for all consumer products.

Automotive reviews are even more important to car buying and servicing consumers because the purchase of a new or used vehicle is usually their second largest financial commitment, second only to purchasing a home. In addition, this importance of reviews rings even more true when talking about service departments. And, unknown to many auto sales professionals, individual dealership sales personnel can be reviewed by car buyers and service customers. Simply put, reviews are a way for consumers to feel more comfortable throughout every dimension of the dealership and their ownership life cycle. Since 71% of customers surveyed say they bought their vehicle because they liked, trusted and respected their salesperson, this comfort level can effect your dealership both positively as well as negatively. Having said that, there’s a few things that need to be understood to help better attract and serve the “review educated” consumer.
         

With reviews so important to the consumer, it’s no wonder that 85% of customers make up their mind about purchasing a vehicle before they leave the house.

Customer reviews are a web enabled extension of the "word of mouth" effect that results in a comfortable community for automotive consumers. This acquisition could make it easier and more effective for all dealerships to better improve and monitor their customer services and business procedures that make or break the dealership's reputation. The new Cars.com will allow the dealership to keep better track of their reviews throughout a multitude of websites more efficiently, which has been difficult for most car dealers in recent years. 

It is important to know that dealerships have the option of being alerted when a negative review is submitted by one of their customers. This feature helps the dealership take more effective control of their reputation, resolve customer concerns when they occur and promptly provide resolution. With individual sales personnel reviews, consumers can see how well rated each staff member is before ever walking through the door. Matching the customer with the car salesperson who best suits their preferences and needs. Many automotive sales professionals may believe that sales personnel reviews are a worrisome item to have available for customers, however this can be used to provides a two prong approach to keeping your dealership ahead of others. It provides salesperson accountability and a personnel driving source for your dealership. The individual positive reviews leave the consumer feeling comfortable and the negative reviews allow management to reassess which staff members are working out best for their sales teams.
            

This acquisition will create a plethora of opportunities for dealerships to improve the results from their digital marketing strategy.

With the amount of dealership advertising budget currently allocated to paid search engine advertising (SEM), this acquisition will allow for a more efficient review strategy that SHOULD (if done properly), increase the impact of a dealership's good reputation and more importantly, increase sales at good dealerships while steering more consumers away from the handful of bad apples that besmirch the reputation of the entire industry.