Today, the rapid advances of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are making more types of business process automation possible than ever before. For reasons that should be obvious, big businesses have been the first to jump on that trend, and have already started to reap the productivity rewards that come with it. That doesn’t mean that small businesses should ignore automation as a game-changing tool for growth, however.
In fact, any business – no matter the industry – can benefit from some level of automation. For small businesses, the biggest benefit comes from using automation to provide better customer service and a top-of-the-line customer experience. The trick is to know where to deploy the technology to get the biggest bang for your buck. To help, here’s an overview of what parts of the customer journey that small businesses should be working to automate right now.
Answering Common Questions
One of the biggest drains on a small business’s resources comes from having to devote precious customer service time to answering repetitive questions. That’s one of the reasons that just about every business website now contains a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page that contains everything a customer might need to know. The problem is the average customer doesn’t want to have to go hunting through multiple lines of text to find the answers they need – and they’d rather have someone answer their question straight away. It’s a process that’s ripe for automation.
Small businesses should take steps to deploy an FAQ chatbot with high-level conversational ability to field common questions from customers. It can free up live customer service representatives to handle more complex customer needs and to spend more time working with each customer. That will, in turn, increase the quality of those interactions, fostering better customer relationships that will pay dividends over the long haul.
Following up with Customers
In every industry, customer follow-up is one of the keys to both sales and high-performing customer service. That’s because every interaction offers a chance to update the customer on the latest business news and special offers they might be interested in – and that kind of thing can potentially help convert old leads into paying customers. The problem that most small businesses have, however, is that it’s very labor-intensive and time consuming to conduct follow-up after every customer interaction, so they struggle to do it as consistently as they should. By automating things like survey emails, special offers, and periodic updates, the process becomes much more reliable and easier to sustain. It’s a perfect use case for small business automation.
Highlighting Customer Trends
One of the most useful customer service tasks that can and should be automated by every small business is the job of combing through customer databases, support requests, and chat logs to find emerging customer patterns. ML algorithms are now quite adept at doing this, and they can often identify ongoing customer service issues or point to future problems by analyzing the wealth of customer data small businesses now have access to. The results allow a small business to be ready for incoming customer service requests before they happen, or to take steps to intervene to prevent a customer from having a service issue in the first place.
Controlling the Route to a Human Agent
Today’s small businesses have to manage customer service operations with more contact points than ever before. Customers now interact with businesses using social media channels, websites, email, phone calls, and countless other means. Some level of automation is possible for each of those contact points, but the most valuable thing to automate is the path a customer takes to reach a human customer service agent. For example, an AI system may be used to monitor social media accounts and email support requests to detect when a particular problem should be escalated straight to a live agent for further help.
This kind of automation eliminates some of the common pain points in the typical customer service experience and prevents customers from having to explain their problem multiple times before getting a resolution. With an automated problem scoring process, issues unlikely to be resolved by automated systems get routed straight to representatives that can provide the needed help – and customers have a faster, more satisfactory interaction.
A Small Business Advantage
The best news for small businesses is that the technology to automate the processes mentioned here is both available and cost-effective. As improvements continue, the initial investments required should also continue to decline. That means the time is now to begin deploying automation in these critical customer service and customer experience functions to gain maximum advantage in whatever market the business competes in. With so much to gain, and competitors likely already moving towards automation, there’s no time to lose.