For small and mid-size businesses (SMBs), managing growth is one of the biggest challenges. Unlike larger enterprises, they don’t have deep pockets to hire in multiple departments, not to mention having a team in research and development to explore new technologies.

SMBs must regularly decide between hiring a new salesperson or product engineer, contact center agent or administrative assistant, and so on. What’s more, they must rely on technology partners to do that. They have no tolerance for trusting unproven technologies. Take chatbots, for example, which started on a rocky road with many stories of failure as companies went too far, too fast with their chatbot strategies.

Fortunately, chatbots have come a long way and are showing incredible promise.

In fact, chatbots address both aforementioned issues for SMBs. Once trained and implemented, chatbots cost roughly 10% to 20% of a human agent. And, they have been tried and tested by R&D teams of AI platform vendors (Google, IBM, Amazon, Oracle, etc.) as well as contact center providers that partner with those platform vendors.

Although the benefits of using chatbots are extensive for customers, SMBs deploying chatbots also experience benefits, including:

Time to deploy: Companies used to spend six to 12 months developing and training chatbots to handle about 100 customer intents—and, even then, customers were frustrated because the chatbots couldn’t address every intent. But with new AI platforms such as Google Contact Center AI, companies can develop and pilot a chatbot within about one month because of the work already invested in the platform’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU). They must finetune as it gets launched, but the resources required to fully launch a chatbot are drastically reduced.

Cost of chatbots: Hiring a new agent is expensive and, as stated, often competes with other new hire requests for an SMB. But chatbots typically cost about $300 per month per chatbot—about 10% of an entry-level agent.

Better technology: In the past, speech recognition technologies were only about 70% effective. Now, NLP success rates are 80% to 90% effective, with some companies reporting up to 95% effectiveness as the chatbots learn over time. This means the chatbots continue to improve and grow, just as any company would want from its employees.

Agent training: Internally, SMBs can use agent assist bots to help accelerate agent training and coaching. Agent assist bots let companies place agents on the floor quicker because the bot teaches them, makes recommendations, and points out when they forget to read a script or ask for a sale. Human supervisors can review this information and provide additional coaching, ultimately making supervisors more effective as well.

Now is a good time for companies – and especially SMBs – to evaluate how chatbots can transform their customer experience strategy in a way that’s affordable and helpful, both internally and externally.

SMBs report compelling success metrics with AI-enabled digital cx strategies. Discover more in a new Nemertes report. >

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