What do consumers want? Quality, convenience, price, and variety – nothing has changed.
And at the heart is customer service.
The way service is delivered, however, has drastically evolved in recent years. We’ve grown accustomed to talking to machines – whether we realize it or not.
Advances in language processing, voice recognition, computer vision, and machine learning have made it so systems can talk, listen, see and understand similar to the way humans do. Such technology is already becoming an expected convenience for the average consumer.
How AI is being deployed
According to Deloitte research, 68 percent of smartphone users are utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, often without realizing it.
Many companies have begun to incorporate artificial intelligence-based customer service into their business models.
The bulk of those businesses are doing so by building chatbots into their online or mobile platforms. These are computer programs designed to simulate conversations with human users.
- Starbucks has a chatbot that easily allows its customers to place an order via voice commands or text messages. The bot then tells the customer when the order will be ready and the total cost.
- The Wall Street Journal chatbot uses Facebook Messenger to help its customers stay on top of breaking news and stock quotes. Users can also customize alerts to teach their chatbots how to improve suggestions.
- American Eagle Outfitters unveiled a bot two years ago that customers can converse with to figure out an ideal gift for someone. The chatbot prompts users to take a short quiz and then presents them with gift options based on the answers.
Once coded, these bots can assist millions of customers simultaneously — with minimal cost to human resources.
For small and mid-sized businesses, chatbots can be the most cost-effective way to bootstrap. Allowing these bots to manage menial tasks or provide 24/7 call center support improves customer service, reduces labor costs, all the while creating an impression of industry leadership.
How your business can deploy AI
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are not only for large enterprise.
Yes, building your own AI would be complex and expensive, but fortunately, you don’t need to do that. You can borrow the work of geniuses — for free.
Existing AI platforms, such as Google Tensorflow and Facebook fastText are open-source, meaning the code is free and open for public use. This significantly reduces the cost to the price point of small and medium-sized businesses.
Still, adapting the technology for your business context requires some work.
First, ask when your customers could benefit from AI
Do your customers need the most help in choosing to purchase from you, or in service after they make the decision to work with you? Where do employees spend the most time?
Once a specific context has been chosen, you need to then understand the repetitive tasks needed to engage with you; then look for the biggest-win opportunities where an AI-driven bot could help reduce the workload.
Rely on your sales and service staff to help you map questions and answers.
Ultimately, deploying AI will require professional help, whether this be outsourced through a Managed Service Provider (MSP), internally sourced, or managed by a mixture of both parties.
But the fact is: AI is achievable within an SMB budget. But by the time everyone knows that, the opportunity will have passed.
We want our customers to benefit from adopting this trend ahead of the curve, so that they will outgrow their competitors.