Ford enlists online agent to help dealers

InfoWorld |  Software

FORD MOTOR ANNOUNCED Friday that it has hired "Ernie," a virtual online assistant created by NativeMinds, to offer its North America dealers targeted online technical and support assistance.

The automaker plans to incorporate the Virtual Representative, or "vRep," from the maker of automated, natural language sales and customer service solutions into its Worldwide Diagnostic System (WDS). Some 5,400 Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealerships in the United States and Canada use the WDS, according to Ford.

Ford's Technical Support Operations will use NativeMinds' NeuroServer natural language technology to build and deploy vReps that answer questions and provide targeted Web content to dealer technicians. Ernie will be able to automatically deliver Web pages that address each particular query, and forward questions it cannot answer to a customer support representative.

NativeMinds will integrate its vRep technology with Ford's existing Vantive CRM (customer relationship management) and Oasis support database systems, according to representatives from the San Francisco-based e-CRM company.

"Since the beginning of the Internet revolution, everyone has talked about using their Web sites to build relationships and communities," said NativeMinds CEO Walter Tackett. "By offering vReps to personalize information and make accessing that information easier, we're helping Ford to really deliver on this promise."

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