Artificial intelligence (AI) is probably the hottest buzzword in the field of information technology today. And why not? Until recently, AI was more the stuff of doomsday movies (don’t get me wrong, a huge Terminator fan myself) than reality. However, backed by industry majors such as Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google, AI research has accelerated at a break-neck speed for the last couple of years. Innovative IT providers, including these market leaders, have already done an amazing job of developing AI-powered solutions that are affordable for even small and mid-size businesses, and not just the high and mighty. As a result, today, almost every internet user has already interacted with some form of AI at least once.
Don’t believe me? Ever got product recommendations while shopping on Amazon? Ever asked a question to Siri or Cortana and got answers? Ever dictated a to-do list to Alexa? If yes, then congratulations, you have an AI acquaintance already!
While these are just a few examples of common AI interfaces, the true power of AI is revealed when paired with one of the most used enterprise technologies, CRM. Major CRM players such as Salesforce, Microsoft, Zoho, SAP etc are betting that when integrated with CRM, the analytics and predictive powers of AI can go a long way in offering more value to the customers across marketing, sales, service and more. In fact, according to the IDC White Paper, AI-powered CRM activities can increase global business revenues by $1.1 trillion and create 800,000 new jobs by 2021.
But, before we elaborate on AI-powered CRM can impact your business, let us answer a fundamental question.
Artificial Intelligence or AI is nothing but a piece of software that can perform intelligent tasks such as reasoning, planning, understanding language and learning new things with each interaction. In short, it is a software that can ‘think like humans’. While the scope of these tasks is limited and there is no parity with human intelligence (now or in the near future), AI is already making powerful impacts on how businesses are interacting with customers.
AI is powered by three basic technologies; Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP).
Machine Learning: Machine learning is the backbone of AI. The core concept of the technology is to have a software learn from data with minimal programming. Here, the more data you feed into the system, the better it gets in identifying patterns and providing insights. For example, when you are using Netflix, you can usually see the list of recommendations for movies and shows that you might like. But, how could Netflix know your preference for the next movie? Well, the machine learning algorithm of Netflix is being constantly fed with data based on your watchlist, browsing history, geographical location, gender, age and more. The software uses this data to detect the pattern in your viewing preference and offers insight on what you may like next. In short, the machine ‘learns’ what are the movies that you may like to watch based on the data it receives.
Deep Learning: Deep learning uses complex algorithms to complete tasks in domains where the software actually learns about the domain with no human supervision. Simply put, deep learning technology enables a software to learn how to learn. For example, suppose you are teaching a software to recognize dog pictures. Now, there are trillions of possibilities of how a dog may look, what colors it has, how many legs it may have, how big or small it is etc etc. A programmer simply cannot feed data such as height, weight, color etc to the machine and let it recognize dogs based on that. Deep learning is the super-power here. Using deep learning technology, the machine learns to identify the right features by itself, with little help from the programmer. One simply has to feed the software with a huge number of as versatile dog pictures as possible and it’ll learn to identify the features of a dog by itself. The process is quite similar to that of little kids learning to recognize dogs.
Natural Language Processing (NLP): NLP is the technology that recognizes the use of languages and grammatical rules in it. The software simply has to analyze a sufficient enough dataset and learn the rules and uses of languages by discerning patterns. For example, you can feed a software with the meaning of words and it can translate the words for you. However, without NLP, it won’t be able to put those words in context. Skype Translator is a great example of NLP AI. The program translates a number of languages Live during a spoken conversation, making it possible for people with diverse lingual groups to communicate smoothly.
So, Artificial Intelligence or AI is basically the sum total of these three powerful technologies that lets a machine learn how to learn (Deep Learning), decipher patterns and provide insights (Machine Learning) and understand the use of languages in natural human interacts (NLP).
“Well, all this is very impressive. But, how exactly does it help my business?”, if you a business owner, most probably you are asking this question right now! The most valued outcome of an AI-powered CRM are following:
Predictive Scoring: All leads are not equal, nor are all opportunities. In fact, the 80/20 rule of sales says, 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers. So, won’t it be great if you can identify this top 20% right from the lead stage and devote most of your attention towards them? This is where predictive scoring comes into play. An AI enabled CRM can analyze data such as traffic source, duration of website visit, activities on website, level of interest during Live Chat etc and score the leads (on a scale of 100 generally) accordingly. The leads with higher scores have a better chance of converting into a sale.
So, if you receive 20 leads in a particular day, where 10 have below 50 lead score, 7 have lead scores between 50-70 and rest 3 have above 70 lead score; you know which are the leads you need to attend first and give more attention to.
It is the same with opportunity scoring too. Once the initial interaction is over and a lead is qualified, AI gathers additional data such as response time for e-mails, discussion out-comes with sales reps, specifics of the requirement etc and again scores the opportunity to predict the likelihood of sales conversion.
Thus, Predictive Scoring enables you to focus your efforts on leads and opportunities that are most likely to result in sales. This way, you can not only save time and effort but also close more sales with focused efforts.
Forecasting: Forecasting is another feature that is enabled by powerful predictive capabilities of AI. For doing this AI takes into account recent and past events, patterns and more to give you a tentative figure about what to expect in future. This feature not only helps you set expectations but also help you avoid pitfalls and crisis before they occur.
For example, AI can predict the future value of investment products such as real-estate properties or stock portfolios. For anyone working in the financial industry, this is one feature that can directly contribute to growth. This is not all. For sales managers, an AI-enabled CRM can project the expected sales figures a particular period of time. This way you have a fact-based way of knowing whether your team will be able to meet the sales target for a quarter or not. If not, you can take measures now to avoid a sales deficit in future.
Recommendations: This is a feature that most people are familiar with. If you have ever shopped online, you have seen how AI keeps recommending products based on your previous purchases and browsing data. This feature essentially makes the entire shopping experience intuitive. For example, if you are purchasing a dress on an eCommerce website, the site will automatically recommend a pair of shoes and a handbag to go with it. On one hand, the customer gets a great shopping experience, on the other hand, the store gets the opportunity to cross-sale and up-sale.
Smart recommendations by AI is not something that only eCommerce stores can leverage. Recommendations are equally helpful for sales executives as well. Want to send a white paper to your prospect to optimize sales? AI can learn from all existing data about the prospect and can recommend the one that’ll best serve the purpose.
The answer to this question is simple: almost everyone! The power of AI helps your business across departments by analyzing data, predicting outcomes, recommending solutions, automating repetitive tasks and more. The three areas that AI can truly revolutionize are:
Marketing: Today, marketing is all about personalizing and AI can make this happen right from the first interaction with a customer. By creating predictive journey for each prospect, AI customizes marketing messages to optimize conversion.
Sales: With lead scoring and opportunity scoring features, sales reps can focus on leads which matter most. Moreover, using the recommendation feature, your sales department can anticipate next opportunities and essentially know what the customer needs before he himself does. The result is more sales, larger deal size, and customer retention.
Customer Service: This is one area where AI in truly indispensable today. Using AI, CRMs today can predict cases and deliver proactive service, even before customer requests it. This way organizations can resolve issues before they become a customer service crisis.
AI in CRM is built to enhance productivity and offer maximum support to the customers. And, today AI technology is not at all out of reach for mid-size or even small businesses. So, if you are still not leveraging these amazing benefits of an AI-enabled CRM, it is time to go for it.