Technology has always fascinated humans. We’re constantly looking for better ways to perform tasks in order to maximize our profitability and effectiveness, whether in sports, business, education, research and development, governance, agriculture, or arts and culture.
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is a topic that, if we are truly honest, has the potential to cause great human advancement or devastating disasters and unthinkable destruction.
When the motive is for the betterment of humanity, we can definitely use the power that new AI technology has for so much good. If the motive is the opposite, we’re in for very uncomfortable and turbulent times.
“We appreciate yesterday, but we’re looking for a better tomorrow.”
— Jack Ma (founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma Foundation)
This article aims to ignite readers’ interests, ideas, and questions. No one has all the answers; learning is a constant for both humans and AI alike. We should all be open to changing our thinking and be willing to accept new ways of approaching digital or online business.
The technical terms and jargon related to the intricacies of AI and automation can be a little overwhelming, so this article focuses more on general steps and procedures.
Humans and AI will always be around
Before we continue down the proverbial rabbit hole, we need to establish the fact that both humans and AI will always be around. We’re interdependent and, like it or not, there will always be a place for both in our businesses.
Technology is advancing at such a rate that if we don’t stay informed and up to date, we’ll be left far behind. We’ve become used to our mobile and online environment, and it’s almost impossible to go without it. Our children are living with smartphone technology like fish live with water. But before the turn of the new century, we never spent so much time in front of our screens.
How can AI technology help me and my business?
This changed reality begs each of us to ask this question. To answer it, you must first look into how much of your business can be automated.
If your entire business can be automated, then you could run the whole process with a chatbot or AI. Stop to think about that for just a second! A program will help you earn income.
“But that’s absurd, it’ll never happen,” you might be thinking. But we say that about most things. Just typing on your smartphone requires an application built through software, coding, data, time, a computer, and behind all of it, a person punching in ones and zeroes.
But automation is the key factor here. Therefore, you need to take the time to go through all of the steps and procedures that happen in the day-to-day running of your business. You cannot just randomly pull out a staff member and set up a chatbot in their place. That’s the wrong way to go about it, and your business will suffer for it.
There are multiple operations to consider, and each process must have a very clear input to get to a precise output:
- Not all businesses have been set up with automation in mind.
- An online business and a brick and mortar business can be completely different.
- Getting a chatbot to replace a human takes careful consideration.
- What will your customer experience on the receiving end?
- What processes does a human do that will be replaced?
- How will you measure those processes and results?
There is so much information around this topic that it will take a few articles to cover it, but the first important thing to consider what you can automate. I recommend looking into automating these two areas of business first:
- Customer service
- Sales funnel/pipeline
For one thing, these areas are easy to measure, change, and update. In addition, there are already a number of businesses that offer services to help you automate these areas of your business. But they cannot help you automate if you haven’t taken the time to work through what it is that you want to achieve:
- Do you need more time for other day-to-day tasks?
- Would you like to cut costs and expenses?
- Are you happy to have a chatbot (instead of you) deal with your customers?
- How much of your time is devoted to automation or to your clients?
It’s essential to understand whether chatbot technology is more likely to work really well for your customers or to be completely awkward and unpleasant for them. This leads to the next point to consider.
Integrating chatbots in customer service
Your customer is the main focus of your business, so if they’re unhappy, it’s imperative to seek ways to better serve their needs. When it comes to automation, this is probably the best place to start.
Chatbots’ purpose is to replace human-to-human interaction, and it’s quite a thing to consider that your highly valued customer will interact with a “robot” rather than a human being.
For less risk that your business and customers will experience frustration, misunderstanding, and awkwardness, consider beginning with your FAQ (frequently asked questions) section.
Here are some of the other positive and negatives to consider:
Pros for customer service chatbots
- Customers may be open to engaging with a chatbot.
- If something doesn’t work out perfectly (for example, one chatbot starts the chat, then the conversation suddenly stops, and later another chatbot greets the customer), the customer will understand.
- Chatbots can respond quickly with access to all information relevant to the customer’s question.
- Chatbots will always have the same response consistently every single time.
- Chatbots can save your business money by saving time. They operate 24/7 and and don’t take vacations or holidays.
- Chatbots don’t get bored from saying or doing the same tasks repeatedly.
- Chatbots don’t require annual increases in income.
Cons for customer service chatbots
- Customers can get frustrated when their questions are not answered correctly.
- Customers may want to engage with a human that understands their feelings.
- Chatbots run purely on the code and info you provide them; input and output only. If the code is bad, you’ll provide bad service.
- Chatbots are impersonal, and it’s not quite like speaking to a human.
- If your chatbot hasn’t been set up correctly, spammers could use it to gain attention and cause chaos.
Customer service chatbots are quickly being used in online service platforms, and it won’t be long before they become the norm.
Using automation in the sales pipeline
The next entry point for automation is your sales pipeline (or what is now called the sales funnel). If you have a very clear product offering, which is possible even in a service industry, you can give fixed pricing options to new customers. By asking the customer questions about what they are looking for and gathering the information, the chatbot can send various pricing packages tailored to fit their budget and needs, then send the details to a sales rep to make the final sale. If you have a specific payment gateway, the chatbot could even make the sale on its own by linking to your funnel.
You, as the business owner, are still very much part of your brand, and people should feel welcome to establish a connection with you. With video, you can speak directly to the customer and allow them to see you. With other details automated, you can spend your time working on other new and better systems, products, or services to better serve your customer.
Where do humans fit in all of this?
I think it’s important to remember that humans will always look for human interaction, although we often find it frustrating when we have to wait.
There’s definitely something to be said for that personal touch. The AI and chatbot technology are there to do the repetitive and remedial tasks. Humans are there to provide vision, focus, and, first and foremost, to connect with others.
I believe we all long for that connection, and one of the reasons we start businesses is to help others with their problems. Each of us has an inherent need to interact.
We have compassion, we have the ability to build meaningful business relationships, and we seek stories that touch the lives of our customers. Chatbots and AI – specifically in the online space – are there to come with us. Ultimately, we are the ones programming them.
Even so, we need to keep up with the times and know that the world is changing rapidly. Business is moving and adapting to incorporate more technology. There are many industries with workers who could soon find themselves looking for new jobs and skill sets.
We are to stay ahead of the game while being responsible for and accountable to the technology we create. In other words, as we move forward, we need to continue changing and adapting to stay ahead. We have wisdom, planning, and foresight to stay ahead of the game.
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