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AI and the New Age of Customer Advocacy – ReadWrite

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Puneet Mehta


A few weeks ago, I called my broadband provider about intermittent outages. The helpful customer support rep looked at my account and cheerfully told me that I could save money by switching to a different plan. A few minutes later, I had changed my plan to one that cost half as much and delivered comparable speeds. At first, I was happy. Then I was annoyed. Because I realized, in reality, no customer service team is proactively looking out for my well-being before I raise a problem. 

AI and the New Age of Customer Advocacy

AI and the new age of customer advocacy are when AI can treat every customer like royalty just as they expected. But, unfortunately, proactively advocating on behalf of customers until now has been expensive and not easy to scale due to the reliance on humans.

In addition, it was easier to triage problems because, frankly, in the short turn companies earned higher revenues from ignorant customers. Now the customers know everything, and they expect to be treated like royalty. Therefore, companies must change their core approach to customer experience and support. Modern artificial intelligence will drive that change. 

Customers already have AI-powered options with adversarial bill challenging solutions.

Arguing with your customers is bad business — let alone arguing with their external AI advocates.

Delighting customers by demonstrating you really put them first with proactive actions and personalized care is the best way to build long-term customer value. The only way to do this effectively and at scale is to leverage AI to make customer advocacy a core internal value and competency. In the past, businesses made the excuse that proactively communicating business policies with customers was not scalable. 

AI removes that fig leaf by making personalized customer advocacy economical, inevitable and desirable at zero marginal cost. This tectonic shift will open up many new business models and put many older business models in the graveyard. Here’s what this new reality might look like. 

AI Makes Cognitive Tasks Free — That Changes Everything.

The radical change that AI brings to business transactions is making a previously expensive resource – cognitive function – nearly free.

As outlined in the book “Prediction Machines” by three brilliant economists from the University of Toronto, the superpower of AI is making predictions free.

An AI today can do a fine job selecting clothing to suit your tastes, based on past purchases and anonymized purchases of others who share your likes and dislikes. In addition, there are a growing number of AI-driven personal shopping assistants such as “The Yes” and Beyond, which pairs stylists with customer opinions and applies AI to create ever-better recommendations.

Conversational AI powers retail chatbots that guide customers to more intelligent choices. In addition, the cost of serving one customer or 1 million customers is nearly identical, so the marginal cost of each new interaction is zero. 

When what was formerly expensive becomes free, this forces major economic disruptions and realigns market power in surprising ways.

Think of what happened when the smartphone absorbed the GPS, the camera and the radio — or when detailed maps and traffic data became freely available at zero cost with Google Maps. These shifts to free or near-free disrupted legacy businesses and created new opportunities, like ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft and crowdsource traffic mapping company Waze.

Smart AI Will Perform Sophisticated Advocacy

A smart AI today could easily book a flight based on your ranked preferences of stops, airport choice, distance from destination, price and time of departure or arrival.

Your AI travel agent knows.

In the very near future, an AI travel agent would know that you like to go to Hawaii and preferred Maui departing on Thursday and returning Sunday evening. Your AI travel agent would alert you when flights meet your financial criteria of dropping below $500 RT and pre-book a room at a hotel near your favorite beach. (If this sounds like your old human travel agent, that’s because it basically is.)

Your AI personal concierge

An AI could serve as a personal concierge, alerting you to concerts you might like in your area or to books due to be published that suit your tastes. 

Think about this:

Taking the scenario one step further, an AI might save you from a bad decision. For example, after checking past prices of flights to Hawaii and booking trends at nearby hotels, then negotiating with a hotel AI on a special room rate, the AI might say, “Wait, don’t book that flight. There is likely to be another flight sale this month, and your favorite hotel is booked for the weekend you are thinking about, so why not wait for the next sale? I already have a triple-upgrade to your favorite room.” 

Foundations of AI as Consumer Advocate and Partner are Already Taking Shape

In the case of my Internet provider, an AI can be tasked with periodically reviewing what you are paying, what you are consuming, and going out to seek the best offers, negotiating on your behalf.

Human-powered analogies of this are already taking shape. Trim, BillShark, and TrueBill all offer bill negotiation services for cable, phone, and many other types of bills that rely on a smarter data backend to assist human experts. These negotiation services are starting to build a repository of data for training AI systems.

The data will be not just on pricing but on how to negotiate. Trim, for example, also uses smart AI and crowdsourcing to proactively request a bill credit for when a subscriber’s Internet goes down, even if they don’t notice it or request a refund themselves.

Entrepreneurs are applying basic AI to allow people to tackle more complicated tasks quickly and easily.

Several startups can advocate for consumers by disputing parking tickets or filing small court claims across many states. These, however, are adversarial relationships that can do real damage to the relation.

Why Customer Advocacy AI is Inevitable 

Because the consumer’s AI will be talking to the merchant’s AI, then there is no need for standardized products or pricing.

In this era, we finally realize mass personalization of retail and consumer services, powered preferences illuminated through the smart use of AI. At the same time, this consumer advocate AI could supplant many of the more cumbersome, adversarial unpleasant interactions between customers and brands they use.

At the highest level, like my friendly cable company customer service rep, the AI will act internally as the advocate and voice of the customer at the individualized level.

By making customer-centricity truly programmatic and creating algorithms specifically for this task, companies will elevate customer advocacy from a second-tier program to one that informs business strategy. As a result, the business strategy will drive product development and design with constantly updated feedback based on real behaviors and interactions.

At the same time, the companies must optimize their products and support to allow customers to choose the external AI (should they so desire). Companies can empower that form of interaction via APIs and other ways of conversations between customer AI and internal support AI.

How to Survive and Thrive in the Era of AI Customer Advocacy

Envisioning a future where AI talks to AI allows our personal advocates to constantly scan the horizon to look out for our well-being. This type of AI customer advocacy will be negotiating on our behalf with superior knowledge and lead to some wholesale changes in business models and customer engagement mechanisms. 

The first part of the old world to go will be tedious, time-intensive and unpleasant tasks.

Some of the tasks we will not miss will be running through lengthy sign-up processes or haggling on prices or promotional plans. Next, we will offload cognitively intensive but narrowly focused tasks that are heavily dependent on past tastes or indicated preferences. These tasks include such things as shopping for clothes, planning a trip, or finding the best doctor or dentist in our area. This AI capability can either come as a service paid for by the customer or as one provided for the customer by the company. 

For businesses, dealing with this fully empowered consumer AI will be challenging.

For the first time, the consumer may have significantly better information than the business selling the service or product. Adding AI to this mix, as well, gives the consumer cognitive superpowers.

An AI can easily check across millions of travel permutations on any number of parameters. The AI travel helps will include flights, hotels, ticket availability for sporting events, special restaurant dinners, camping permits to national parks.

Your personal, desired conditions found and coordinated by AI

Your AI will be able to find the right mixture of desirable conditions that fits with stated or implicit preferences while fitting into work and family schedules. This has not been possible yet because the AIs were not advanced enough and could not readily talk to each other, let alone negotiate complex transactions.

All situations can change as the cost of AI drops further and the capabilities improve — just as our smartphones consumed multiple industry categories, including cameras, recorders, radios, newspapers and GPS systems. 

Tremendous business advantages wait in AI for those who dare to dream

Just as Amazon and Netflix saw over the horizon to futures that were not yet real, businesses that can imagine a world where their inventory systems, CRM, and pricing systems can collaborate with customers’ AI will enjoy a tremendous advantage.

Monetize your future with AI

How to monetize that future remains unclear, but we can make some educated guesses based on the directions we see AI systems heading in retail, travel and media.

Delivering customer-centric goods and services that are truly personalized will command a premium. This is already true today in the bespoke world. In the future, it will be true for every consumer that has an AI on their side.  

Image Credit: kampus production; pexels; thank you!

Puneet Mehta

Puneet Mehta is Founder / CEO of Netomi, a YC-backed customer experience AI platform that automatically resolves customer service issues at the highest rate in the industry. He spent much of his career as a tech entrepreneur as well as on Wall Street building trading AI. He has been recognized as a member of Advertising Age’s Creativity 50 list, and Business Insider’s Silicon Alley 100 and 35 Up-And-Coming Entrepreneurs You Need To Meet.

Politics

Low-Cost Business Ideas for 2022

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Low-Cost Business Ideas for 2022


Successfully running your business in 2022 is not easy due to the new norms of people’s lives. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the consumption of goods and services. If opening an offline store or restaurant just a few years ago was a profitable idea, now their owners can incur heavy losses.

Since most startups in 2022 are going online, you need to think about starting your business on the Internet. If you decide to become an entrepreneur and have the opportunity to invest, but there is no modern idea, you can take advantage of the options that someone is already successfully developing.

What Business is Popular in 2022

Thanks to the Internet, anyone can become a business owner. A startup on online platforms is an excellent idea for those who like flexible working hours and complete control over their income. This option of earning money is more resistant to crises and outbreaks of pandemics.

According to Statista, in 2021, online shopping exceeded $4.2 trillion globally, and social media has become the backbone of many businesses looking to build brand awareness.

Before preparing to launch for a startup, consider the following factors:

  1. Expertise. An entrepreneur needs to learn new skills and knowledge about a niche for any successful startup.
  2. Investments.If you don’t have enough money to invest a significant amount in a project immediately, think about how to raise capital for your business (investors, crowdfunding, business angels, grants, etc.).
  3. Scaling. To attract new customers and profit, the company needs to grow and develop constantly. Consider a long-term scaling plan and remember the hassles that can happen while you work.
  4. Personal interests. Consider whether you will still be passionate about the business in the long run.

The cost of starting a business decreases every year, which is especially important for an online business; to start, it is enough to have a computer with an Internet connection. The most challenging part when developing ideas is the problem of choice. To be successful, you need to deal with products in strong demand. A business should be run by a person who enjoys doing it.

Dropshipping

Dropshipping is one of the profitable business ideas if you want to make money remotely online. Unlike a regular online store, you don’t need products to run an e-commerce site specializing in dropshipping. Conforming with Torchbankz, the dropshipping industry is expected to reach a market valuation of $557.9 billion before 2025.

This business is considered very affordable because to work, you only need to launch your website and access the directories of wholesale suppliers such as AliDropship or SaleHoo.

All you have to do is partner with wholesalers and manufacturers to sell their products under your brand name. The buyer purchases on your website, informs the supplier company about it and sends the order to the client. The dropshipping scheme for an online store is straightforward:

  1. The seller selects products from the supplier’s catalog and uploads them to the trading platform (online store, landing page, marketplace).
  2. Adds a markup to the supplier’s price.
  3. Promotes products and finds a client.
  4. When a client places an order, the seller communicates this information to the supplier.
  5. The supplier packs the product and sends it to the customer.

To quickly become a leader in this industry, you need to stand out from the competition. Instead of a thousand different products, you can narrow your niche and specialize exclusively in one category: clothes for children, home decorations, or more.

Food Delivery to Offices

Food delivery is not a new but trendy business idea. Fundera says that the online food delivery industry has generated more than $26.5 billion in 2021. While large companies set high prices for dishes, newcomers have a chance to gain customer loyalty at affordable prices.

Since there are a lot of office workers and not everyone can afford to go to a cafe for lunch, you will quickly gain a loyal audience and strengthen your position in the market.

An aspiring entrepreneur does not need a lot of investment. You can cook the food right at home and use your car to deliver orders. An important thing to invest in is a website or an application to tell about your services and present all the menus.

To minimize your costs, before launching a full-fledged software, you can use an MVP, with which you will test the main functions of the app and attract the first customers. Thus, potential buyers can see the available dishes and order them online without calls. They can choose a specific time for which you need to deliver food and even leave a particular comment on the order.

Also, your customers will pay for services using the app, saving you from cash. By allowing feedback on the service in the software, the delivery owner also receives feedback from the person and builds a loyal audience. Your own application will help you tell the world about yourself and take a leading position among those who do not use digital technologies yet.

Online Trading

Opening your own online store is the most obvious idea for an online business. The following online stores can be called relevant in 2022:

  • children’s goods;
  • ecological and natural versions of everyday products;
  • superfoods;
  • sporting goods;
  • clothing and footwear;
  • home textiles;
  • boxes with surprises.

This startup idea is not as simple as it seems at first glance, but it will not require significant investments at the initial stage with a competent approach.

First, you need to decide on your niche. Purchase several copies of each item to understand what will be more in demand and what is better to remove from the catalog altogether.

Next, you need to study your target audience. For example, selling home furnishings to teenagers is useless. The older generation is unlikely to be interested in fashionable gadgets, and residents of the city will not appreciate goods for the garden. The main characteristics of potential buyers are gender, age, place of residence, and financial situation.

The critical step is the selection of suppliers. To avoid getting caught by scammers, try to find out more information about them and look at the goods live.

Implement enterprise resource planning software to customize and automate the process straight away. ERP will integrate and manage finance, order supply chains, user operations, reporting, manufacturing, and human resources. With this software, you and your employees will be able to plan deliveries and improve the quality of customer service. The use of digital technologies in business will help increase productivity and store all data in secure cloud storage.

Why Digitize Your Business in 2022

Without developing a digital transformation strategy, no modern business in 2022 can exist in the long term. Due to the pandemic, everyone observes a rapid acceleration of trends that previously gained popularity very slowly. Such resources allow you to save money, increase profits, and attract new customers.

The required minimum for any company now is a website and accounts in social networks. Brands looking to take one step closer to their customers can also develop a mobile app/chatbot and use other promotion channels.

A more thorough digital transformation involves working with clients and deep business processes: production, personnel management, and internal communications. To implement such a transformation, you need to carry out serious work, which can be based on Big data analysis, cloud and mobile services, and agile development.

Before embedding digital technology in your business, think about what exactly you and your customers need. You should not chase trends and use that software that cannot help optimize processes and establish communication with customers.

Image Credit: Karolina Grabowska; Pexels; Thank you!

Elina Nazarova

Chief Marketing Officer of Powercode

Elina is accountable for digital strategy development and implementation. She is certified in business and startups development and has more than 5 years of experience in content writing and management. Her core belief is that well-designed digital transformation is able to lead any business to success.

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5 Ways To Grow Your Business With Technology

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Brad Anderson


“I’d like my business to remain stagnant.” No entrepreneur, owner, or CEO ever uttered those words. You can be sure none ever will, either. That’s because corporate growth is always an overarching goal for any organization. Growing your business comes with its challenges, of course, like figuring out which steps will make it easiest for you to scale and expand.

One thing’s clear: You need to develop a clear-cut growth strategy. And technology needs to play a huge part in that strategy. After all, we’re living in a primarily technological world. If you’re not making the most of the tech at your fingertips, you regularly miss opportunities to strengthen your brand’s position.

Where can you start? Below are a handful of ways that you can leverage technology to grow your business’s footprint. Try these recommendations, whether you’re a micro startup or a mid-size corporation headed toward a Fortune 500 future.

1. Automate repetitive manual processes.

Is it worth automating all the mindless to-dos in your business in order to grow? Yes, especially if you do the numbers.

McKinsey research studied the ordinary tasks of several occupations. They concluded that around 33% of the tasks of six out of 10 jobs could be automated. For example, let’s say your company is modestly sized at 50 workers. If your staffers work a traditional 40-hour week, 30 of them are frittering away 13 hours. In other words, you’re losing nearly 400 hours weekly to pay employees to handle repetitive duties.

To be sure, not all tasks can be automated. However, you owe it to yourself to find ones that can. For example, is your finance department team processing payroll or inputting invoices by hand? Then, invest in software to remove the tedium—and reduce the chance of human error.

Check out your sales and services processes next. Do your salespeople or support agents have to cut and paste information? Are they forced to switch between two or more programs that don’t communicate? Look for ways to integrate those systems to free up everyone’s valuable time so they can concentrate on growth-based responsibilities.

2. Strive to make customer first impressions stickier with tech tools

Tons of articles highlight the importance of growing your business by retaining customers. It’s true that retention tends to be less expensive than acquisition. Nevertheless, you can’t hold onto your customers until you get them in the door. So put a premium on delivering impeccable first impressions that urge people to stick around.

The right type of technology can assist you in wowing your best leads via an unforgettable customer experience. Take first-time logins, for instance. Okta reports that asking a visitor to set up an account turns off 37% of prospects. So what can you do to overcome this friction point? First, you can rely on social logins to streamline the process. From the customer’s viewpoint, being able to login via already-existing Facebook, Google, or credentials is effortless. From your company’s viewpoint, you can begin marketing to yet another buyer or potential buyer.

A strong CRM can be equally beneficial to moving leads into and down your sales funnel. Once you’ve captured prospects’ data through a social sign-in, personalize future communications like emails, texts, and DMs. Only two years ago, McKinsey found that 80% of retail buyers valued the personal touch. So whether you’re in retail or not, strive for individualization to keep new buyers coming back.

3. Bring a virtual assistant to your team.

You may not have the funds to hire live customer service representatives 24/7. That’s okay. Chatbots can give your organization the ability to offer visitors self-service, even during non-business hours. And they can do it for a fraction of what you’d pay a live agent.

Not sure you’re ready to put your faith in a chatbot? A New York Times article explains that today’s AI-fueled chatbots are only getting smarter. They’re also gaining widespread acceptance, with chatbot growth poised to hit around 15% in 2022. One Gartner executive even predicts that a genuinely conversational AI chatbot program is just around the corner.

Already, some chatbots are inching toward humanlike responses. A University of Florida experiment found that about a third of people could not tell a chatbot from a real person. Consequently, there’s little harm in exploring the wide world of chatbots for your company. Your chatbot doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated by customers with questions who want fast answers.

4. Investigate tech solutions to tap into your data.

Tremendous amounts of data flow into your company. Yet it would be impossible for you and your team to make sense of it all. Does that mean you have to give up on finding a way to unearth your data’s insights? Not at all. You just need a tech-based data mining solution.

You have plenty of choices regarding software that can analyze data and find trends. First, though, determine where your data exists. Is it in your CRM? Or a legacy piece of software? Once you know where to find your data, you can search for highly-rated data mining systems.

Be aware that some data mining programs have been developed with specific industries in mind. These can include healthcare, finance, e-commerce, or manufacturing. It never hurts to see if something’s already been created for your sector.

5. Invest in a branded mobile app.

Mobile app use continues to rise. By 2025, one Forbes writer notes that the app market will approach $1 trillion. So why, then, doesn’t your brand have an app of its own?

This is the question a lot of business leaders are asking themselves. Offering customers the chance to interact with your company through an app makes sense. Not only does it give them an immediate connection to your organization, but it simplifies the purchasing process. At the same time, it helps buyers feel that they’re getting special treatment as you deploy push notifications and exclusive offers.

How can you make the most of your app once it’s been developed? First, make sure your customers know it exists. Lots of brands have apps that get very few downloads. The issue isn’t necessarily the app itself. It’s that they don’t know the app is available. Therefore, be diligent and consistent about talking up your app to drive higher usage and conversions.

You’re not alone if you feel that growing your business isn’t happening as fast as you like. Most leaders wish that they could get to the next plateau faster. One method to add a little speed to the process is to lean into the technologies you’re not using yet. Then, with the right combination of tech tools, you should begin to see a positive difference in your numbers.

Image Credit: Artem Podrez; Pexels; Thank you!

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.

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The Developer’s Guide to Mobile Authentication

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Deepak Gupta


Mobile app developers must ensure that the mobile app is effortless while keeping internal information protected and secure. Complex or repeated authentications can be frustrating for your mobile app users.

This article discusses various means of simple and secure mobile authentication, ensuring frictionless UI and UX of mobile authentication screens and data security.

What is Mobile Authentication?

Mobile authentication is a security method to verify a user’s identity through mobile devices and mobile apps. It caters to one or more authentication methods to provide secure access to any particular app, resource, or service.

Let’s look at the various mobile authentication methods developers can utilize depending on their business use case.

Mobile Authentication Methods

Password-based Authentication

Email-Password and Username-Password are common types of password-based authentication. While utilizing these methods, developers should consider setting secure and robust password policies in their authentication mechanism, such as:

  • Mandatory use of symbols and numbers
  • Restricting the use of common passwords
  • Blocking the use of profile information in passwords

These measures ensure better quality passwords and prevent user accounts from brute force and dictionary password attacks.

Limitation: Passwords are hard to remember, and typing in passwords on a small mobile screen degrades the user experience. Hence, developers must use authentication that does not compromise the security postures yet provide an appropriate user experience.

Patterns and Digit-based Authentication

The user must set a pattern or a digit-based PIN (typically 4 or 6 digits). Developers can utilize this as an authentication factor for their mobile application, as this authentication method is faster and more comfortable than entering passwords on a mobile screen.

Limitation: Both patterns and 4 or 6 digits PINs are limited. Also, users tend to use simple patterns and PINs like L or S patterns and 1234, 987654, date of birth as their password.

OTP-based Login

Users use an OTP received via SMS or email to authenticate themself. Thus, users do not have to remember a password, pattern, or PIN to access their account. At the same time, developers don’t have to implement password-based security mechanisms.

Biometric Authentication

Biometric authentication uses unique biological traits of users for mobile authentication. Some common examples of biometric authentication are fingerprint scanning, face unlocks, retina scans, and vocal cadence.

Developers can implement pre-coded libraries and modules to enable authentication through mobile components like the finger scanner, camera (for facial recognition), and microphone (for voice-based identification).

Social Login

It acts as a single sign-on authentication mechanism. Developers can implement this in mobile apps to use users’ login tokens from other social networking sites to allow access to the app.

Also, with social login, developers don’t need to worry about storing passwords securely and managing the password recovery option. It helps the user sign in to the mobile app without creating a separate account from within the app, hence increasing the user experience (UX).

User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) in Mobile Authentication

Login and registration screens are a gateway to your mobile applications; if they are a hassle, the user might not bother using the application. Thus, developers should pay a lot of attention to these screens regarding user experience and usage.

Here are some quick tips for mobile authentication screens:

  • Simple Registration Process: Lengthy registration forms are a big no-no. Brainstorm essential information for creating an account via mobile application and only include those fields.
  • External or Social Login: Allow users to log in via external or social accounts. This way, users don’t have to remember another password or credentials for your app.
  • Facilitate Resetting: Include forget password on the login screen for good visibility and reach if the app provides password-based login. Also, setting the new password should be seamless and fast.
  • Keep Users Logged In: Not logging out users on app close is helpful in a good experience. However, this depends on the type of app you offer. Developers should include MFA for better security if the app stores sensitive information or skip the stay logged-in feature altogether.
  • Meaningful Error Messages: Errors and how they are handled directly impact user experience. Thus, developers should keep error messages meaningful and clearly state what went wrong and how to fix it.

Tip: Customize the mobile app keyboard for the type of input field. For example – display a numeric keyboard when asking for a PIN and include @ button when asking for an email address.

Conclusion

Considering the above points would result in a great and secure user experience for your mobile app users. However, if you feel executing these guidelines would take ample time, be informed that CIAM solutions are available in the market to handle all these requirements for you.

Deepak Gupta

Co-founder and CTO @LoginRadius

Founder and CTO @LoginRadius, Software Entrepreneur. I love to write about Cyber Security, AI, Blockchain, Infrastructure Architecture, Software Development, Cyberspace Vulnerabilities, Product Management, Consumer IAM, and Digital Identities.

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