Small businesses are often dubbed the “engine room” of Australia’s economy and it’s more important now than ever before to fuel their growth. A recent survey found one of the greatest challenges facing businesses in post-COVID recovery was the decrease in consumer confidence and reduced market demand, particularly in areas such as traditional retail and hospitality services. While this is a very real threat to the livelihood of organisations, it also offers a window of opportunity for smart businesses to get ahead of the competition.
One form of technology that can unlock the true potential of small businesses is artificial intelligence (AI). Although this might sound like an intimidating endeavour for business leaders who are unfamiliar with AI, the latest advancements in this technology has made AI capabilities much more accessible and affordable. When implemented correctly, AI can assist in driving efficiencies and enhance the customer experience to rebuild the confidence and trust lost over the recent months.
Here are a few ways small businesses can leverage AI to compete with market leaders.
Always-on service and AI-powered chatbots
Delivering consistent, reliable and around-the-clock customer support has proven to be a significant challenge for organisations with complex infrastructures and large contact centres. Small businesses must master this aspect of customer experience to truly communicate their value and support customers when they need it the most. AI is being used in many industries to alleviate the pressure of customer service teams and can significantly benefit smaller business with limited resources.
Utilising AI-powered chatbots are an excellent way of engaging with customers in real-time for answering common questions and directing them to the relevant resource. Innovative chatbots such as Bold360, with Natural Language Processing, are able to understand customer enquiries no matter how they are asked. Additionally, the knowledge base offers useful insights into the trending topics at the given time to allow for reliable customer support.
Extending the reach of your sales team
Quality customer service is now measured against the ability to “bring the in-person experience online”. Even before a customer engages with customer service teams, proactive AI can help companies predict their need based on purchase history and behaviour for a personalised experience. By reducing friction and providing hands-on support, companies can offer customised support for customers, around the clock, no matter where they are.
This approach aligns with human interaction typically required to acquire a new customer, making efficient and effective use of their time. As such, AI can extend the sales functionality of your team and scale the assistance as needed if your team is experiencing resource constraints.
Drive automation to help human agents
Of course, not all tasks can be replaced by AI and chatbots. Human customer service agents are critical to dealing with empathetic or escalated enquiries. Chatbots help eliminate the repetitive questions the customer team receives on a regular basis so that agents can focus on work that really needs human input.
Having chatbots and agents work together also allows for an integrated customer experience. For small businesses, this gives them the chance to make the best use out of their employees’ time and deliver this hybrid, concierge-style service that larger companies may not be able to afford to standardise across the board.
As we enter the phase of economic recovery, small businesses must prioritise communicating their value and commitment to their customers. The pandemic has shown just how fragile customer loyalty can be, highlighting the need to apply AI technology – like chatbots, virtual assistants, live agents – to adapt to market challenges and remain competitive. Today, AI is essential to the survival of small businesses.
Lindsay Brown, Vice President – Asia Pacific and Japan, LogMeIn