While it can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of changing technology, business owners should pay attention to the technological trends that are taking root and promise to change the way businesses operate. If you pay attention to buzzwords, you’ll be hearing more in the coming year about automation, artificial intelligence and customer relationship management tools.
The biggest growth in technology will likely come in automation, whether that comes in the form of bots, self-service check-out stations, robots or autonomous vehicles.
If you’ve eaten out lately, you might place your order and pay for it without 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 also are experimenting with scanners that shoppers can carry throughout the store. The scanner tallies the purchases as the shoppers go through the store, and then the customer just visits a kiosk to pay for the purchases at the end.
AI is helping boost efficiency in some industries. Augmedix, for example, has invested in Google Glasses. During patient appointments, via live streaming through the Google Glasses, the doctor interacts with a human transcriber who takes notes and updates 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 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 — discussed the importance of bots in reaching customers. Has your pharmacy called you to alert you that it was time to reorder a prescription? That bot is merely a software program 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 CRM tool, another technology Marks says business owners should fully embrace.
A good CRM can do three things for a business:
- Ensure that no prospects fall through the cracks.
- Make you look smart, because it provides detailed, unique information about your customers.
- 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 — can raise the price someone is willing to pay for your business.
What’s important for business owners to remember, though, 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, not robots.
Kelly Borth is the CEO and chief strategy officer of GREENCREST, a 27-year-old brand development, strategic and online marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into industry leaders™. Kelly is one of 35 certified brand strategists in North America and works with companies to establish brands and build brand value for their businesses.