Intelligent Agents: Setting up Guardrails to Aid Dealership Decision Making
I’m not a big fan of industry buzzwords like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Machine Learning. I think these terms are used too frequently in ways that confuse the reader.
Having said that, I do give a lot of thought to ways we can help dealership employees make better decisions and harness data to enhance their "gut feel" towards better outcomes.
One of the artificial intelligence concepts I really like is that of the “Intelligent Agent” that works on behalf of the user to aid in better decision making. Wikipedia defines an Intelligent Agent as an autonomous entity that observes and acts upon an environment and directs its activity towards achieving goals. The term Intelligent Agent also reminds me of the old Spy vs. Spy cartoons in Mad Magazine.
I get to see firsthand evidence of humans harnessing Intelligent Agents every day — as I work side by side with software developers that find clever ways to make their lives easier by automating processes and controlling the computer to lead to better outcomes.
Translated to the dealership employee, we can think of a future where agents act as intelligent entities that work on their behalf to either achieve something for them and/or prevent them harming themselves (or the dealership).
I’ve argued recently that we’ve already proven that machines can consistently beat human decision making. The examples used included IBM’s Deep Blue super computer beating world chess champion Gary Kasparov, IBM’s Watson beating Jeopardy champions, and Google’s Deep Mind beating the world Go champion.
In comparison to the complexities of Chess and Go, I wonder if we aren’t on the cusp of letting loose Intelligent Agents to help with the decision making tasks of many employee roles at dealerships.
The Future of Dealer Decision-Making: With Intelligent Agents
While some in the press have recently warned of the threat of employees losing their jobs to computers and automation, I would encourage us to focus more on the positive impact of harnessing the decision making ability of computers to augment and enhance employees’ jobs -- allowing them to work more efficiently.
For the dealer, this augmentation will have an impact on the bottom line: enhancing decision making of the employee naturally improves the competitive standing of their businesses.
With increasing data comes an overwhelming amount for the average human to consume and process. We’ve grown beyond the average human’s ability to sift through this amount of data in order to make it usable for business. On one hand this abundance of data should be able to be harnessed to make superior decisions. But the flip side is that we have so much data that we may actually harm our employees’ ability to make decisions.
Guardrails are designed to keep people from unintentionally straying into dangerous territory. They are usually placed in the trickiest areas, where it is easy to take a wrong turn. Just as guardrails along the roadway keep drivers safer, decision making guardrails can protect businesses from taking unnecessary risks.
Where to Go From Here?
The challenge is how do we deploy Intelligent Agents to aid dealership employees with the independence they need to make business decisions, while ensuring that their efforts are aligned with our business needs.
Employees need to retain the freedom to decide how to solve each business problem themselves, while aided with a decision-support network in place to augment and enhance their decision making ability.
Establishing Boundaries for Better Decision Making
Guardrails help smart people make high–quality decisions faster and with less risk. Companies see greater alignment across the organization when they provide employees with context for understanding business needs, guardrails for decision making support and responsibility for the decisions they freely make.
Guardrails can help all employees identify and avoid danger zones.
A practical approach to embracing artificial intelligence at the dealership will be to embrace Intelligent Agents to implement guardrails to help prevent dealership employees from making bad mistakes, while enhancing their decision making ability by augmenting and enhancing their decision making IQ.
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