Artificial intelligence has finally turned to the little guy. With the AI market exceeding $2.42 billion in 2017, it was only a matter of when sophisticated solutions will become simpler in design and more affordable in price.
Today, startups and small businesses use them to increase supply chain efficiencies, to deliver more targeted marketing information, to make better hiring decisions and to improve financial forecasts. Most importantly, AI is doing wonders for their day-to-day workload.
The results are not only increasingly smarter companies, but also a more level playing field. Thanks to AI, SMBs can now compete with bigger businesses and grow much faster and easier than ever before.
These are the five key ways in which artificial intelligence is helping SMBs achieve their daily milestones.
1. Automated Data Entry
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Staying ahead of customer expectations has never been more important. Companies big and small are making good use of big data trends in order to learn more about the receiving end, grow their CRM databases, and understand what stimulates the audience’s purchasing behavior, and what doesn’t.
Raw information is circulating around at an astonishing speed, being accumulated by smartphones, wearable sports devices, and smart fridges. Collecting it is no longer a difficulty; it’s their structuring and analysis that poses a challenge to smaller business ventures. Manual entry? It’s simply impossible.
A copious amount of data that’s being gathered by smart technology on a daily basis asks for smart automation. It’s why CRM companies are incorporating machine learning features to help businesses automate the mundane task of continual data entry first, and then learn to understand and use this data.
By streamlining both of these operations, AI enables companies to transcribe and analyze sales calls, to comprehend and measure buyers’ emotional states, to engage, nurture, qualify and follow-up leads, recommend best support responses and dig through industry and social media data.
Automated decisions are the fundamental approach to AI supported decision-making.
2. Multi-Channel Customer Support
While Deloitte reports that 62% of companies perceive customer experience delivered by support centers as a competitive differentiator, a study conducted by Aberdeen showcases a 92% retention among companies with a well-crafted customer service approach. But what does that actually mean?
In 2018, a well-crafted customer service approach implies 24/7 accessibility, zero waiting time, and efficient responses. Non-stop availability is taken quite literally, meaning not only that companies must remain available at each given moment, but also that they must remain present on all channels.
Omni-channelling is no longer a competitive option, but a requirement for customer success. It includes all routes of communication, namely digital ones established via email, social media, and on-site support centers. A human customer rep cannot possibly handle them all, at least not in real time.
That’s where AI comes to the rescue, either to provide problem-solving information within seconds or to interact with customers instead of human reps. While some SMBs are using it to automate time-consuming tasks in support, others are leveraging the immense customer-facing potential of AI tools.
3. Chatbots and Their Application
This brings us to the most talkative AI solution of all, one that can assist small businesses in direct communication with customers. Although chatbots have been around for a while, they have never been as versatile and widely used. Today, their business applications are both numerous and incredibly innovative.
CRM-wise, Accenture reports that 80% of customer engagements can be handled by bots. A smart assistant can serve as the first point of contact to customers, making SMBs available 24/7. Salesbots can offer shopping guidance and manage purchases as well, thus automating one part of conversions.
Even on free chatbot platforms, they can be designed with both AI and NLP, which enables them to learn with each new interaction and improve the quality of service they provide. Chatbots are much faster than us, and can simultaneously juggle more information and tasks than we humans ever could.
Read Also: What is a Chatbot and what can it do?
4. NLP (Natural Language Processing)
Speaking of chatbots and NLP, or natural language processing, modern-day SMBs can now use artificial intelligence to gain valuable insight from unstructured data available both online and in call logs. NLP allows bots to read a human language, understand it in context, and form human-like responses.
It’s the basic principle of chatbots, though it can be used for more than customer interactions. NLP-empowered solutions can talk to any human user, including employees, and thus serve as personal digital assistants for completing day-to-day tasks, from quick email filtering to information extraction.
Think about Siri, Cortana or Amazon Alexa, only programmed to help you with business-related queries. Upon receiving a voice command, such AI assistants can comb through any database within seconds and complete simple prescheduled tasks like sending follow-up emails or arranging meetings.
Natural language processing is a truly revolutionary field of computer science; by eliminating the need for a programming language, it bridges the gap between humans and machines and allows them to communicate in real time. It’s up to SMBs to discover the best, most innovative and efficient NLP uses.
5. HR and AI
Sentiment analysis is only one in a long string of great examples. In terms of customer behaviour and relationship management, it gives companies a unique ability to extract insights from social media texts and emoticons. There’s an angry email in a queue waiting to be opened? AI will mark it as urgent.
But this potential of artificial intelligence to detect, discern and analyze certain emotions is not solely reserved for tracking customer behaviour and resolving tickets. It’s widely leveraged by companies for HR purposes as well, especially when it comes to talent acquisition or candidate review and selection.
AI takes otherwise subjective and hard-to-measure criteria, like tenacity or critical thinking, and employs sentiment analysis to form objective decisions about candidates’ soft skills and cultural fit affinities. Once interviewing and hiring are done, bots work to improve onboarding and engagement.
This is still just a part of what AI can do in terms of automation. What’s important is that bots and other similar solutions are now finally available to small businesses.
Being cost-effective but cheap (even free, in some cases), and efficient but easy to apply and maintain, they make not only a powerful addition to workload management, but also provide valuable insight, competitive advantage, and higher ROI.