In every industry, there are enterprises that dominate the market: Microsoft and Apple in the technology space; Google for email and online search and Amazon leads the online retail market. This dominance leaves smaller businesses (and even not so small businesses) struggling to keep up. While the big box stores and behemoth online retailers can offer inventory and even prices that most smaller companies can’t compete with, there is one area that they haven’t focused on — customer experience.
Today’s consumers are looking for seamless, 24/7 customer experience, and in many cases, are willing to pay more for it. In fact, a survey by PriceWaterhouseCooper found that customers are willing to pay up to a 16 percent premium for better service. So how can companies create a customer experience that will keep them competitive without breaking the bank?
Deliver Always-on Service
A big part of the customer experience is customer support, but it can be hard to compete with companies that can staff large contact centers. Artificial intelligence (AI) is helping companies in virtually every industry – from travel and hospitality to retail and financial services industries – to have that always-on customer service without having to build out a larger organization or overburden the current team. Chatbots are becoming a much more popular engagement channel designed to assist with answering frequent, repetitive questions or to guide the customer to the right resource.
Extend Your Sales Team
While AI-powered chatbots are great for reacting, and answering common questions, they can also help extend the reach of a sales team as well. This is where AI is headed. To help companies offer more of an in-person experience online. Instead of simply waiting for customers to ask questions, proactive AI can predict customer needs based on previous history and current behavior to offer a more tailored approach to customer acquisition. Think of it as the retail clerk you would interact with if you were shopping in a store. These individuals help notice you searching in a store and proactively offer assistance to help you find exactly what you are looking for.
Eliminate Monotony for Human Agents
Is AI the answer to all problems? Definitely not. While emerging technologies can certainly help small companies scale quickly and offer the 24/7 service so many customers demand – AI is not a replacement for human agents. Chatbots eliminate those repetitive questions so the customer team can focus on the situations that really require a human touch. Bots are great at a lot of things, but they cannot replace the flexibility and empathy of a person. Smaller companies can stand out in the crowd by teaming bots and humans together to deliver that concierge-style service that most companies can’t afford (or don’t care) to offer.
Smaller businesses tend to more understand the need for a personalized touch – many built their business on creating an experience that kept their customers coming back for more year in and year out. AI is helping these businesses adapt to current trends and be more agile in a very competitive market. By providing personalized customer service – whether through an AI chatbot, virtual assistant, live agent or – better yet — a seamless combination of all of these – smaller businesses can have a fighting chance against the large market players – building their customer base and creating long term loyalty.