While it can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of changing technology, business owners should pay attention to the certain technological trends that are quickly taking root and promise to change the way businesses operate.
If you pay attention to the buzzwords, you’ll be hearing a lot more in the coming year about automation, Artificial Intelligence and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools.
The biggest growth in technology will likely come in the areas of automation, whether that automation comes in the form of bots, self-service check-out stations, robots or autonomous vehicles.
If you’ve eaten out lately, you might find that you can place your order and pay for it without ever talking to a waiter. Many fast-food outlets are investing in automated kiosks allowing customers to place an order, pay for it and then pick it up at the counter when their number is called. Big-box retailers are experimenting with scanners that shoppers can carry with them throughout the store. The scanner tallies up the purchases as the shoppers go through the store, and then the customer just has to visit a kiosk to pay for the purchases at the end.
Artificial Intelligence is helping boost efficiency in some industries. Augmedix, for example, has invested in Google Glasses for its doctors to wear during a patient’s employment. During the appointment, via live streaming through the Google Glasses, the doctor is interacting with a human transcriber who is taking notes and updating the patient’s chart in real time. This advancement, according to Augmedix, has freed up the doctors to spend more time with the patients and less time updating the electronic health care charts.
When he recently spoke to a group of Columbus business owners at a First Merchants Bank event, Gene Marks — a public speaker and frequent contributor to The Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine — talked about the importance of bots in reaching customers. Have you ever had your pharmacy call you to alert you that it was time to reorder a prescription? That bot is merely a software program that is using messaging to carry out a task that will ultimately lead the customer to a human who can help them. The bot is connected to the business’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, another technology that Marks says business owners should fully embrace.
A good CRM can do three things for a business:
- It will ensure that no prospects fall through the cracks.
- It will make you look smart, because it can provide lots of detailed, unique information about your customers.
- It will increase the value of your business. In the Big Data world in which we live, the information in your CRM — names, detailed information, phone numbers email addresses — is worth money and can raise the price that someone is willing to pay for your business.
What’s important for businesses owners to remember as you embrace all of this technology is that there is no substitute for the human touch in customer relations. Automation, AI and CRMs can take care of many tasks. But when it’s time to have a conversation with a customer — whether it’s a retailer taking care of a 70-year-old customer who doesn’t know how to use the self-check-out counter or a manufacturing plant trying to sell a $500,000 part to another business — that is a conversation best left to humans and not robots.