SalesTech Star

How Conversational AI Can Recession-Proof Your Business by Unlocking Revenue

By David Greenberg

451 Research identifies two kinds of businesses: the Digitally Driven, which are constantly innovating with technology to retain their competitive edge, and the Digitally Delayed, who more often regard technology as an afterthought. The digital driven, among other things, are using AI-powered Conversation Automation to maximize the effectiveness of sales, marketing, and customer success for recession-preparedness.

It takes more effort to attract, convert, and retain customers in a downturn, at a time when resources are scarce. Revenue-focused teams need a scalable strategy to deliver the kind of outstanding experience required to close more deals and maintain—or better yet, grow—existing accounts.

Conversational AI, when based on sufficiently advanced language models and implemented right, is the ideal tool to deliver that level of customer experience, unlocking revenue while saving time and money. It’s not too surprising, then, that a recent report by 451 Research showed that digitally-driven companies are twice as likely to invest in Conversational AI-based technology than those categorized as their digitally-delayed counterparts.

But truly investing in Conversation Automation involves more than simply deploying any tool that claims to be AI-based and calling it a day. To set themselves up for success, businesses need to be strategic in the type of technology they choose, the use cases they apply it to, and how they integrate it into their teams. The solution needs to be able to not only replicate the feel of human dialog, it needs to be able to steer conversations to achieve the ultimate goal—unlocking revenue. And it needs to be able to do it without employee intervention to truly be scalable.

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Traditional Chatbots Are Dying

With 78 percent of all respondents to the 451 Research survey indicating that they’re exploring conversational technologies to augment their workforce, Conversational AI is showing strong signs of adoption. In fact, even 30 percent of companies identified as ‘digitally delayed’ currently use some form of digital assistant.

But it’s important to note that the technologies which digitally-delayed companies are using tend to be more rudimentary bots focused on service rather than revenue. The chatbots you currently encounter on most websites are well behind the technology curve, and are functioning based on pre-programmed rules and rigid scripted workflows—like a glorified call forwarding system—rather than advanced machine learning and Natural Language Processing. They come across as robotic to customers, and as a study from the University of Göttingen found, such encounters tend to produce negative reactions.

That gap between what customers expect from AI-powered conversations and what basic bots can deliver is only going to widen with the recent attention on Open AI’s ChatGPT tool. As more and more of the public interacts with the most advanced Natural Language Generation available, chatbots that can’t understand basic questions, force users to select from a list of messages, or simply pass them off to a human employee as quickly as possible feel as antiquated as a pager next to the latest iPhone.

Such short-sighted tech strategies may have bottom-line implications. According to 451 Research, 80 percent of business buyers say they’re likely to end a relationship with a company due to a poor experience, and 73 percent of survey respondents told Publicis Groupe that a bad first experience would be enough to make them never use that chatbot again. Companies whose Conversational AI lacks the humanlike touch, or is implemented in a way that doesn’t address the issues revenue generating teams face daily, won’t deliver the customer experience people now expect. Consequently, they won’t offer value for recession-proofing your business, and may erode brand loyalty.

So what is the right way to use Conversational AI to recession-proof your business?

Implementing a Customer-Centered Strategy for Conversational AI

In addition to using up-to-date technology that offers the most human experience possible, it must be implemented in a way that helps your revenue generating team members do their jobs better, gives customers a superior experience, and allows the company to better mine existing opportunities while uncovering new ones that may have gone overlooked. Here are some important things to consider as you plan out your Conversational AI strategy:

Free your revenue teams to focus on closing deals.

Digitally-driven companies use conversational AI to deal with things that are problematic for revenue-generating teams, such as scalability and repetition. We can only be in one place at one time, and as psychologist Dr. Nancy K. Napier noted, ‘multi-tasking’ just means that you’re doing two things less efficiently. Likewise, research shows that our performance declines when engaged in overly repetitive tasks. And it gets worse if the repeated tasks involve something unpleasant, like rejection. As a result, much of what we expect of our sales people—following up with a spreadsheet full of leads after a trade show, for example—is inefficient and generally not possible at scale.

Furthermore, humans are prone to bias, and this can be magnified under the kind of stress caused by excessive workloads and too much exposure to unpleasant encounters. Conversational AI, on the other hand, can be tuned to avoid the biases that form from repeated exposure to negative experiences.

On the other hand, when revenue generating employees spend their time on things that are exclusively the domain of human beings—like building and nurturing relationships with promising prospects—they can dedicate their full energy and creativity to winning new business and retaining current clients.

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Maximize every revenue opportunity.

Having more ways than ever to connect with customers and prospects also means there are more ways for them to slip through the cracks. Recession-proofing your business means mining every revenue-generating opportunity. Of course, it doesn’t make sense to dedicate the same amount of expensive human resources to every lead and customer; with limited capacity, marketers, salespeople, and customer success managers have to prioritize which opportunities get their focus. But AI-powered assistants—if they’re capable of meaningful, goal-oriented conversation—can easily scale to engage with all such prospects with the same level of personalization and care. Successful conversational AI strategies will ensure that you’re communicating through every channel (not just when a lead has your website open) and that the experience is consistent through all stages of the buyer journey, so that no revenue source is neglected.

Focus on the customer experience.

The 451 Research survey found that leaders at digitally-driven companies—who were twice as likely to invest in Conversational AI—identified customer experience as a top driver of digital transformation.

These companies are asking, at every step of their technology implementation, whether it makes life easier for their customers and helps them through their customer journey while building brand trust and loyalty. Likewise, they’re asking whether it helps their employees provide a better customer experience by allowing them to spend more time engaging meaningfully with customers, rather than on tasks that could be handled through Conversational AI.

In conclusion, when AI-powered digital assistants autonomously engage, nurture, and qualify customer opportunities to free their human coworkers to focus on closing deals and strengthening relationships with existing accounts, companies will be positioned for revenue generation across the entire customer lifecycle, across all channels. Consequently, they’ll be in a much better position to weather economic storms that might be on the horizon.