How AI Can Help Your Small Business

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Salesforce recently conducted a survey on how small businesses use technology, and we were surprised to see that 61% of small business owners believe their businesses are not ready for artificial intelligence (AI). Why is this curious? Because AI adds the type of seamless efficiency that gives small businesses a huge boost — and because you probably use it already anyway.
That’s right — We rely on intelligent offerings every time we order from Amazon, ask Siri for directions, chat with a customer service rep, or add a suggested friend on Facebook. Fraud detection, smart cars, music recommendations? AI, AI, AI. And there’s no reason smaller businesses can’t emulate these powerful, time-saving features, too. Here are three ways to add artificial intelligence to your growing business.

1.  AI for sales.

What if your sales technology were so smart, it knew the deals you were working on just by your calendar, email, and phone interactions? That’s AI in action: it automatically builds and monitors your pipeline so you can focus on closing more deals, rather than on manual data entry. Too much on your plate? Use AI as your sales assistant, finding the data you need, reminding you to follow-up with certain prospects, and ensuring nothing falls through the cracks. Predictive forecasting? Yep, it’s got that, too.

2. AI for marketing.

Marketing teams today have better, smarter ways to attract new customers. The big data trend gives companies a jaw-dropping amount of information on buyer behavior, but no real way to parse it. Just add AI, and you’ve got accurate predictions and qualified leads. Now marketers can segment and build audiences based on likely future actions and automatically adapt the journey so customers receive the right offer at the right time. AI can even automate email send times, offer customer recommendations, and predict customer sentiment.

3. AI for customer service.

How do you know when customers aren’t happy if they don’t tell you? Until now, customer service departments were half-expected to employ mind readers to understand customer needs and head off issues. Now AI can capture signals you and your team might miss, finding correlations and sentiment in customer data. If it seems like a customer may not feel so great about your company, you can take proactive steps to turn the relationship around, instead of waiting for him to tell you he’s unhappy. How’s that for retention?

Grow your business with AI — starting now.

Recent AI research from Forrester shows that 58% of businesses have considered AI technologies, but only 12% are actually using these systems, leaving a huge opportunity for early adopters to pull ahead of their competitors. This is especially true for small and midsize businesses — companies working hard to build a customer base. Adding smart software not only differentiates SMBs from their peers, but lets them compete with industry Goliaths.
But don’t think AI is just for sales, marketing, and service; extend it to other departments to magnify the benefits. Finance, for example, can immediately follow-up when sales closes an opportunity, or HR can better work with departments on peer reviews and talent acquisition. Just think: if you could increase the productivity of every department, you could grow your business that much faster. So whatever you do, don’t ignore AI. Because that wouldn’t be smart at all.
See how new Einstein features in the Salesforce Spring ‘17 release help you find customers, win their businesses, and keep them happy so you can grow your business faster than ever. Then join the conversation with #SalesforceGROW.

[Infographic] Customer-Facing AI Use Cases Abound Across Sales, Service, And Marketing

tagged in Intelligence by Jim Sinai

There’s no question that a smarter era powered by artificial intelligence (AI) is here. It seems everywhere you look, AI is in the spotlight. But there’s a general misconception that AI is limited to back office and other technical applications. While well-established and extremely valuable, back office tech is no longer the only AI opportunity, and customer-facing business units are chomping at the bit to apply it to their key functions, too.
What’s the AI opportunity for every business? See the highlights in this infographic, then scroll down to read the full post.

AI Comes Full Circle in Business Processes

A recent Harvard Business Review article states that AI will make the biggest impact internally, specifically in IT and finance/accounting. But AI (particularly in the back office sphere) isn’t new. Back office applications — like detecting credit card fraud by analyzing spending patterns — have been prevalent for years now.
The AI applications that are upending today’s customer expectations — and redefining how businesses cater to them — are more front-and-center than any entrenched back-office example. AI is in the UI of every new app, it’s active every time we open Facebook or Google, and it’s increasingly central to how ecommerce sites cultivate cross-sell opportunities. As AI-fueled experiences become more prevalent in the consumer-facing world, its value to every facet of business will be indispensable.

AI Use Cases Span Sales, Service, and Marketing

Front-office business units throughout the enterprise are investing in AI, and they’re doing so in innovative ways. Based on a survey of sales, service, and marketing leaders, the top three use cases for AI are:

  1. Sales and marketing lead scoring
  2. Sales forecasting
  3. Customer service case routing

Among these strong contenders for AI are additional customer-facing use cases like sales opportunity scoring, email marketing, and other department-specific applications:

  • Sales uses AI to give advanced warning to reps on specific actions to move a lead down the funnel.
  • Service teams are continually applying AI-powered tools to customer interactions for more predictive and helpful experiences. In fact, high performing service teams are working to integrate AI into everything they do, as they believe it will have a lasting impact on their practices by 2020.
  • Marketing seems ahead of the curve in AI adoption, perhaps due to the fact that use cases like product recommendations and lead scoring aren’t new. About half of marketers say they currently use AI and another quarter plan to pilot it in the next two years.

But businesses have only begun to uncover AI’s potential. Overall, 79% of companies say they don’t extensively use it across the organization, as seen in this infographic. There’s an enormous opportunity for other business units to take a larger piece of the AI pie — but can they keep up with its fast-paced trajectory?
Despite their ambition, only 30% of business stakeholders say they’re completely confident in their ability to execute on a business strategy for AI. While they’re continually evaluating their opportunities, most are still hesitant of their readiness. Only 16% of sales, service, and marketing execs say they’ve completely defined their processes for embedding the outcomes of AI analysis into their business practices.
We know AI is more than just hype, so it’s not enough to just explore and evaluate at this point. AI will define the next set of businesses who will succeed or fail. Businesses who truly want to realize the value of AI must develop a strategy for how the technology will fit into their business processes and implement it to realize its tremendous impact.
Find out how AI is impacting customer relationships across sales, service, and marketing in our special report, “The AI Revolution.”
 

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