In the past, most business experts believed that there were simply too many situations, variables, and possibilities for companies to manage to effectively be able to automate their front-office processes and procedures.
This was especially true for those processes and procedures that relied on human workers making decisions. Even when technology started to catch up, many still considered it the domain of large companies, which could afford both the technology and development resources. This is no longer the case.
We have now seen the introduction of intelligent automation (IA), which combines artificial intelligence, machine learning, and process automation.
Companies can use IA to create smart business processes that can think, learn, and adapt on their own. Intelligent automation, critically, can shape each journey to each specific customer, without being trapped into pre-mapped, rigid process flows. This includes adjusting the questions that the customer is asked, the responses that the IA gives, and which actions are taken, to match each customer’s context.
In the past, this job had to be done by a human expert, simply because there were so many possibilities. Only once the right solutions were identified could the automation of the resulting back-office systems begin.
Today we can use different forms of artificial intelligence to do this for us. How well this will work depends on the amount of rich data we have on our customers, the ability of the AI to learn from this data, and the rules that need to be applied.
The more rigid and complex these rules are, the harder it is to allow AI to simply self-learn. Fortunately for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that lack big data and operate in regulated environments, there is technology available that allows them to build their own digital experts.
These experts are capable of dealing directly with customers and resolving their sales or support queries, issues or complaints just like their human experts do.
Implementing this technology allows human workers to focus on creativity and innovation, the very things humans excel at and which robots cannot replicate. It’s no small wonder, then, that the overall automation market, currently valued at over $1.4-billion, is expected to grow at more than 40% a year leading up to 2027.
For SMEs, often battling constrained resources, there are clear advantages to automation. To get the most out of it, however, they have to identify how it can best serve their needs.
A formula for growth
The first step is to identify what makes that business unique. Many SMEs are run by a single founder or small group of people who are product experts in a specific field. This expertise allows them to compete against large players who can beat them on price.
When it is time for them to grow, however, that expertise can be diluted. It’s now possible, however, to bake all that knowledge into a digital expert which can engage with customers 24/7, anywhere in the world. The expert can help customers to analyse their needs, work out the right products for them and resolve queries, issues or complaints.
Used effectively, it can allow smaller businesses to scale – globally.
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Options for expansion
There are several ways in which growing businesses can use digital experts to fuel growth. These include:
- Digital customer service: Customers can be offered access to a digital expert via the business’ website or mobile app, and have their sales and service queries answered, in context, without having to speak to someone.
- Staff support: New staff can be hired to focus on the customer experience. These staff members can be chosen based on their ability to deal with people and hold conversations, not for their ability to learn the ins and outs of various products and services. For the business, this also has major benefits when it comes to onboarding staff. Instead of spending time upskilling them on products, business owners can augment new staff with a digital version of themselves. New hires simply use the company’s digital expert to help them engage with customers without fear of error. That means they can be productive from virtually the moment they’re hired.
- Technical support: On-site installation and maintenance staff can be given access to a real-time digital expert to help them resolve technical challenges without requiring a specialist every time. This could save the business huge amounts of time and money, and leaves business experts free to work on the business, not in the business.
The economy’s backbone
We are often told that SMEs are the backbone of the economy and engines for growth and job creation. That’s true, but without certain obstacles, the role they play could be even more significant. Intelligent automation can go a long way to helping them overcome those obstacles and achieve their full potential.
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