Blessing or Burden: Is Conversational AI the Right Choice for Your Business?
From small mom-and-pop shops to multi-million-dollar corporations, all businesses face similar challenges when it comes to building a brand, increasing consumer engagement and gaining a competitive edge. Technological advancement has historically aided in this effort. For example, thanks to computers and the Web, online shopping has become a convenient way for many brands to reach new customers, expand geographical reach and broaden their product line. However, one could argue it has led to the death of brick and mortar stores, yielding thousands of employee cuts and profit losses from customers who prefer traditional “try and buy” methods of shopping.
Today, the latest technology designed to help businesses tackle challenges faster and more accurately is a branch of artificial intelligence known as conversational artificial intelligence (AI), but before you incorporate it as strategy, consider the adoption life cycle of your user base and if it is the right approach for your business.
How Can Conversational AI Benefit Your Business?
Conversational AI goes beyond the smart speaker in your home that plays music or doles out weather forecasts on command. Intelligent voice assistants and chatbots are just two halves of the greater whole. As business owners, conversational AI presents a way to gain deeper insight into internal operations and customer analytics in order to secure a competitive advantage. According to a report from Forrester, 57% of companies are already using enterprise chatbots or at least plan to in the near future; however, that doesn’t make them right for every business.
1. Budget and Cost Analysis
An intelligent system can alert you when overhead costs like telephone bills or heating and cooling begin to run high. It can identify patterns of spending, perform explicit analysis and make recommendations based on a predetermined goal. Using conversational AI via enterprise chatbots, employees can converse with their computers to find answers quickly, making changes accordingly.
2. Human Resources and Recruitment
Hiring can be an arduous task for any size company. Machine learning-based software can help weed out unsuitable resumes and analyze employee calendars to recognize meeting conflicts. By adding conversational capabilities, this software can call candidates to set up interviews, or handle post-hire actions such as activating equipment passwords, company purchase accounts, explaining employee benefits and more.
3. Customer Acquisition, Recommendations and Conversions
It’s often said that a business that isn’t growing is a business that is slowing. Conversational AI can make significant improvements to several areas of the sales process if done correctly.
- Generating quality leads: Intelligent software can filter out unqualified leads, while conversational capabilities can help pre-screen buyers or suggest potential products, allowing salespeople to focus on leads that show potential for conversion.
- Awareness and follow-up: Smart software can set reminder alerts or offer content recommendations to keep your business in the mind of the consumer. Adding conversational AI can generate automated follow up with users who showed interest in a product or service but failed to make a purchase, switching to a real person when needed.
- Streamline conversion: Bots make every minute count toward converting a sale offering users 24/7 access to information and complementary products matched to different customer profiles and personas. They can even help target marketing and advertising efforts by analyzing conversations and purchase history to provide more direction about what customers actually want.
4. Customer Service and Retention
Conversational AI assistants can help provide service continuity to loyal customers through web portals or automated phone lines by integrating with smart speaker devices to provide skills that enable customers to make repeat purchases and utilize value-added content such as recommendations and do-it-yourself advice.
5. Employee Training
To consistently provide excellent service, employees must perpetually hone their knowledge and skills. Intelligent assistants can track employee productivity to assist with evaluations and potential career advancement within the ranks. Adding conversational AI can assist with situational role-play exercises, keep the team abreast of changes to company policy or provide corporate news updates.
Pitfalls To Watch Out For
In a perfect world, technological advancement guarantees happy customers. In reality, human nature doesn’t always respond well to change — and if it does, it often takes time. Before you jump on the conversational AI bandwagon because it’s the next big thing, consider the implications for your business and review the following questions before you make a move:
- Do you have the budget for conversational AI? Quality equipment, software and training can end up costing a pretty penny well before it starts to turn a profit. Don’t put yourself in a hole before you know for sure what is needed to climb out of it.
- Will adding conversational AI force you to downsize? One of the biggest drawbacks of any type of AI is its ability to outpace human performance. Machine learning software and conversational AI could end up replacing customer service reps and data analysts. It may save money in the long run, but it could damage your reputation.
- Will your customers embrace or reject the change? In his book, Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies, author Calestous Juma asserts that society tends to reject new technologies when they replace, rather than add to, our humanity. Your customer may prefer to engage with an actual human during limited business hours instead of a chatbot at any time of day, especially if the bot fails to adequately recognize or answer a question.
Conversational AI has the capacity to add value to any business, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best move for yours, even if you are already using intelligent automation. At a time when customers have more than enough options to choose from, it’s important to make it possible for them to connect to their brand of choice, quickly and conveniently, but until the demand can be clearly accounted for, be careful not to risk solid ground by alienating loyal customers not quite ready for change.
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com on May 15, 2019.