Large companies have had access to artificial intelligence (AI) for quite some time and have been using it to enhance their customer relationships and automate aspects of the business. The democratization of AI means that this technology is also becoming accessible to smaller enterprises. But they have catching up to do. Some have yet to truly realize AI’s value for building meaningful communications through democratizing AI with their target audiences.
The current challenge is getting small businesses to thoroughly learn just how powerful AI is and how adopting it can help improve productivity, automate processes, predict customers’ behaviors, and track their needs. A system in place to ensure optimal customer relationship management (CRM) is especially important now amid recession fears; when layoffs are most prevalent, there is a boom in startups; those future small businesses will need to retain customers.
AI can also save small businesses money because a machine assesses data at scale to generate insights, cutting down on the number of hires for an organization. Of course, machines are not perfect, and humans should always be kept in the loop to ensure that all insights generated by AI are accurate. Still, technology can significantly help by analyzing information at a speed that greatly exceeds human capacity, making AI a tremendous asset to organizations wishing to improve CRM.
The need for inventory management
Inventory management is another area that AI helps with, and this is something I learned firsthand. My first business was at the Cayuga Mall in Ithaca, New York. As a Cornell student, I sold incense and oils to avoid going broke. I tended to over-buy something I couldn’t sell, and then I would have my garage full of this clutter. Walmart mastered the whole science of inventory management, just in time for delivery, but my little shop needed access to this technology, and it was not something we had. What would have been incredible back then was if I could have taken all my points of sale and sales data to accurately predict what sells more and what sells less. AI technology has that power today. Had I had a system that told me, “buy more of this next time when you restock,” I would have made a lot more money and saved myself significant headaches.
What the dental industry taught me about AI
Later on, I saw the value of democratizing AI for small businesses by working with dental practices that were initially hesitant to adopt the technology. We showed them it was impactful for their business when we could record all the inbound calls of a dental practice and indicate to dentists which AdWords drove which patient to their business. We helped make them an extra $400,000 a year through this tiny application of AI.
One of the things I noticed by working with dentists is that they need a way to track the calls coming into their practices, flag and prioritize emergencies and keep track of conversations with their patients. Having the right AI software makes that all possible and more. Patients appreciate a doctor who is up to speed on everything when they get on the phone. Other small businesses, such as logistics companies, can benefit from this “bedside manner;” establishing more meaningful communications with a target audience is essential to the growth and productivity of a company. This is how we are building meaningful communications democratizing AI.
Automation for digital transformation
AI also helps businesses – or doctor practices – automate processes (in the case of dentists: billing, alerting doctors to missed appointments and when to schedule new appointments, identifying when a patient is due for a specific treatment and more). It allows those in charge of a business to focus on their jobs without spending time on record keeping.
Using AI that tracks how a customer came to a business is also especially powerful. In the case of dentists, for example, technology that can determine that the person calling was on the dentist’s website for 20 minutes looking at dental implants – and is probably a high-paying customer – flags an alert to the doctor to call that person back, prioritizing their needs. These are small ways that you can use artificial intelligence to boost your bottom or top-line revenue significantly.
One thing that excites me about AI is its ability to capture customers’ thoughts and emotions about a brand by combining neural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) in what’s known as “sentiment AI.” NLP turns human language into something a machine can understand, and ML identifies data patterns and makes predictions. This combination helps to generate insights so that the next time a customer service representative or a doctor gets on the phone with the customer or patient, they know how that person views the company and can tailor their conversations accordingly with an individualized approach. Customers will appreciate the extra sensitivity and how well the person on the other end of the line knows them. And customers are more likely to stay with a company or practice that shows this incredible customized level of care.
I’ll give you a personal example of “sentiment AI.” A few years ago, my car got hit by an Amazon delivery truck. It almost killed me. I tweeted about it because the guy driving the delivery truck was as overworked as I was. Neither of us knew who had run the red light, but it had been one of us. Within five minutes, Amazon’s executive team – without me mentioning Amazon besides saying what happened – reached out to me and made sure they took care of me. And I thought it was incredible at the time because I was working with dentists and the biggest complaint from patients was, “how can I get them to respond?” Amazon had the answer to how to respond; the NLP in the company’s AI scans all social media platforms at once to understand human sentiment. It uses keywords like “accident” and “hit by a delivery truck.” The company has specific teams that are activated automatically in response to those keywords.
So many communication channels, so little time
In my example above, besides keywords, it’s clear that Amazon connected Twitter to multiple channels where customers could express feedback. A large number of customer service requests – and complaints! – come in through various messaging apps and websites. Facebook Messenger has become a popular way of contacting a company about its services or products. Then there are review sites. When a small business uses AI to integrate these multiple communications and feedback channels, connecting them to a customer, the company can respond faster, most efficiently and in a personalized manner.
And not only can democratizing AI help to develop a psychometric profile of an individual customer, but it can also match them with a customer service agent whose approach resonates with them. I learned from my experience with Amazon that customers develop a greater affinity for organizations that provide better customer service and sales and generally know you better!
So, I’ll leave you with this question as we head into 2023, a time of economic uncertainty with fears about a recession looming and more startups on the horizon:
Shouldn’t small businesses get Amazon-level care when their growth is so essential?