In 1966 at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum developed ELIZA, one of the first rudimentary chatbots. Created to simulate a conversation through basic pattern matching and substitution, ELIZA was able to follow scripts and directions in order to contextualize events. Eliza’s most famous script, DOCTOR, was able to interact with users through chat as if it were a psychiatrist.
ELIZA’s responses were so convincing that Weizenbaum reported that several users became emotionally attached to the program, occasionally forgetting that they were conversing with a computer.
Fifty Years After the ELIZA Chatbot
Over 50 years later, chatbots have become an integral part of everyday life. Chatbots can not only provide 24-hour-a-day customer service, but they can also facilitate purchases and even help brands with marketing and lead generation.
Yet even in 2022, we continue to see complaints that chatbots aren’t smart enough.
To say that a Chatbot is not intelligent enough is a wholly unfair assessment rooted in a misconception about what chatbots should be able to do.
Humans Expect Instant Bot Adults – but we Start With Bot Babies
The main problem is that consumers expect interacting with chatbots to be like pressing a magic button.
I like to think of chatbots as babies. But, of course, you wouldn’t expect a baby to be born and to then become a successful adult 18 years later without any input. So instead, a hands-on learning process is required to teach that child everything they need to know as an adult.
The Call Center Human
The same is even true in call centers — which are arguably the closest human parallel to chatbots — or at least the customer service version. Brands can’t simply hire new employees and expect them to be 100% effective customer service agents from day one.
Once again, a constant learning process comes as these reps field more questions from consumers and learn more about how the brand operates.
This same learning process is accurate for chatbots.
Growing Intelligence — Chatbots are Not One and Done
Just like children and new employees, you can’t expect bots to simply be intelligent and to be able to handle every task they confront. Yet many brands hit this roadblock after launching a bot: “It’s not smart enough! It’s not improving!”
Thankfully, the solution is simple: Data optimization or AI optimization for your bot.
No matter what they use bots for, brands with chatbots need to invest in conversational data tools so they can quickly analyze the data generated by customer interactions. A plan must be made about how to understand the bot and to help the bot improve. The gradual improvement will help the bot be able to eventually respond to and field a broader range of queries.
Nothing is Easy in Tech — and the Same Goes With Bots
Preparing and educating your bots is something that is perhaps easier said than done. Take, for example, a customer who wants to buy movie tickets through a bot. There are many different ways a customer can ask questions and approach the subject of buying movie tickets. Here are just a few options:
Tell me the movies this week.
What are the movies for this week?
What movies are playing this week?
What movies can I see this week?
What Other Questions Have You Asked When Searching for Tickets?
There are hundreds of ways users could ask questions for movie tickets or any other service that customers and clients contact a business for. However, in order to optimize the experience for clients and customers and make it an optimal customer experience — the bot will need some instructional “intellectual growth.”
And for this fictional movie bot to be “happy,” the brand would need examples of all the different ways (or at least additional ways) customers might ask this query — along with the appropriate response(s).
Manual vs. Automated
If your bot is updated manually, this process requires dozens of employees to pore through transcripts in Excel sheets and map responses. Again, this is potentially a huge waste of internal resources and a colossal waste of time for everyone.
Automated tools, however, can easily simplify this process and link training phrases, like, “What movies are playing this week?” with customer intent and will phrase an appropriate and pleasing response for your bot.
Don’t Miss the Boat With Bots
Brands that don’t optimize their chatbots miss out on a prime opportunity to increase ROI by reducing live agent costs while creating a channel that better serves their customers.
Nurturing your bot means that you’ll want to understand the importance of investing in tools that will continue to make your bot better. If you want a “smart kid” — you teach them. If you want a “smart bot” you teach them.
It’s that simple. Nurture your bot.
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The Important Benefits of Outsourcing Your E-Commerce Business
Nowadays, the impact of e-commerce is being felt in nearly everybody’s life. E-commerce is changing how we do business around the world. Additionally, despite its relatively recent ascension, e-commerce has changed significantly with the passage of time.
Approximately $3 trillion USD was spent online globally in 2018. That demonstrates that an astounding 15% of all retail sales are now online. Consequently, just about anyone can now launch an e-commerce business. The sector is expanding significantly in today’s technology-driven environment. As a result, one of the best ways for small e-commerce companies to reduce expenses and increase efficiency is through e-commerce outsourcing.
When should you outsource?
The key indicator here is your rate of business growth. Of course, the initial stages of an e-commerce startup company’s operations will be simpler to manage. However, if the company grows, the work will necessarily get more complex. Therefore, outsourcing often aids in managing your business to greater success.
When you outsource, you appoint a third-party e-commerce outsourcing company to handle a certain business function on your behalf. In other words, outsourcing is the process of creating items and providing services through a third-party firm, product, or service instead of performing the task internally.
More trust is necessary for the outsourcing process. Therefore, you must pick a dependable service provider to meet your company’s needs. Additionally, there are other advantages to outsourcing your e-commerce firm. Listed below are some of the most significant benefits.
1. You can focus on your core business.
The e-commerce fulfillment responsibilities are essential, but they also get more time-consuming as your firm expands. When you transition your e-commerce outsourcing to e-commerce outsourcing services, you will gain enough time for branding, product design, customer support, and other core business activities.
Spending more time on e-commerce fulfillment will diminish your focus on scaling your e-commerce business. The outsourcing firm you select should be able to handle other duties, including your inventory, packing, and shipping requirements. You can concentrate on your core business operations to grow your firm to the next level.
2. Reduce operational costs.
Reducing operational and infrastructural costs is one of the significant advantages of outsourcing your e-commerce business. You can reduce the cost of recruiting new staff and leasing extra space for new infrastructure with e-commerce management services.
Further, you can save much money on your current team as they can better concentrate on their assigned tasks. You might use these funds to expand your business opportunities instead.
3. Increase efficiency.
E-commerce support services are typically highly specialized and knowledgeable about the e-commerce sector. They are therefore well-versed in the existing operating procedures and rules, which will facilitate good client relations. Additionally, their knowledge will make your e-commerce firm more effective.
4. Reduce risks.
When your e-commerce activities are outsourced, it will help lessen liability and related risks. The savvy e-commerce service provider will typically have success managing significant projects and brands. This can help you to identify concerns like traffic spikes, credit card theft, and more. And you can avoid and eliminate business hazards by utilizing their best practices.
5. Increase your resource flexibility.
E-commerce outsourcing will support financial stability and flexibility based on demand fluctuations, such as during the off-season or extended holidays.Your service providers might offer you further assistance even if you have pressing needs for human resources.
6. Develop a competitive advantage.
Your brand will increase its competitive advantage in the market due to outsourcing your e-commerce operation. This is obviously another significant benefit.
You can concentrate on your primary business, enhance efficiency, and effectively manage internal resources with specialist e-commerce outsourced services. With this, you can expand your company more quickly than your rivals.
Highlighted above are the main advantages of outsourcing your e-commerce business, but of course there will be others. When you outsource your business, your provider ought to offer you several benefits to help you grow. Additionally, they’ll give you access to the newest technology and innovative opportunities to boost your productivity.
Featured Image: Alena Darmel; Pexels.com. Thank you!
12 Habits of Highly Effective Teams
It’s never easy leading a team, regardless of how many members you have. When different types of people are grouped together with different temperaments, miscommunication can occur, which inhibits workplace productivity. As a result, it can drive you to climb the walls. With a bit of tact, however, you can get your team to reach great professional heights.
According to legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
Even though leading a team can be challenging, working in a team can motivate, inspire, and drive employees. It is important to remember, though, that putting together a team at work does not guarantee its success right away. To be truly effective, a team must adopt a variety of positive habits and behaviors. And here are 12 such habits.
1. Quality 1:1s are scheduled every week or biweekly.
In terms of 1:1s, it’s difficult to put a value on them. Or, so we thought. But, we now have plenty of data to measure this essential soft skill.
Studies show regular 1:1s can boost productivity, reduce stress, solve bottled-up frustrations, and more.
As reported by Gallup: “On average, only 15% of employees who work for a manager who does not meet with them regularly are engaged; managers who regularly meet with their employees almost tripled that level of engagement.”
Similarly, a report from MHA in 2021 showed that talking to a manager about stressful things at work was strongly tied to the most healthy workplaces.
Moreover, due to regular 1:1s, GE managed to “drive a fivefold productivity increase in just one year.”
Undoubtedly, 1:1s play a fundamental role in high-performing teams, regardless of industry. Most leaders, however, do not prepare adequately for or do not have these opportunities.
2. The main goal of all parties is the same.
Each of us has some goal when we start a new job or project. But do those goals align with the rest of your team?
The entire team’s goal must be the same, even if some team members have different objectives. To be truly successful, a team must have the same principal goals and strive to achieve them all. In an environment where everyone is heading in the same direction, delays and project deviations are less likely to occur.
I would suggest setting new team goals every quarter. Ideally, this should be an active objective to keep everyone engaged. This could be a significant milestone within the next three months, like increasing overall productivity or completing a project.
When setting these intentions, make sure they’re SMART. In other words, every goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Remember, many goals can cause employees stress or anxiety if this standard isn’t met. You can alleviate this by setting them up for success from the get-go.
Also, I strongly recommend that everyone track new goals using their calendars.
3. Encourage time blocking.
“As the name implies, blocking your time is a way to plan your day into manageable chunks,” explains Calendar Co-Founder John Rampton. “More specifically, each block of time is devoted to one particular task or a group of similar activities.”
“In contrast to a to-do list, time blocking tells you when and what to do at any given time,” Rampton adds. At first, the concept might seem counterintuitive. However, dividing your calendar into blocks keeps you focused. Also, it keeps other people from stealing your time.
“Furthermore, time blocking lets you begin each day with specific tasks to complete rather than following an ever-expanding to-do list,” he adds.
As a leader, promote and encourage time blocking. How? Tell your team things like, “I’ve got 30 minutes to review your proposal on Tuesday, so I’ll let you know.”
It’s easy for them to follow your example if you show them how you do it.
4. Maintain a distraction-free working environment.
Get in the habit of “Play Hard to Get” from Not Today: 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity by Erica and Mike Schultz. It sounds obvious. But you can’t be productive when you’re distracted.
According to a survey by Mopria Alliance on workplace distractions, today’s workers experience 77 distractions a week, or one distraction every 31 minutes. Mopria Alliance’s survey found that most in-office and work-from-home employees were distracted by:
- Answering personal communications (such as online chats, texts, and phone calls)
- Checking their email
- Internet browsing
- Having unplanned conversations with colleagues
Not only does this interfere with their productivity, but it also can contribute to a decline in their mental health. With that said, you might ask your team to pause Slack notifications, close out of email, and keep their phones out of reach while they’re engaged in deep work.
5. Give your team members ownership.
In a team environment, everyone shares equal responsibility and accountability for their responsibilities and quality of work. Additionally, “team ownership” does not mean someone owns the team. It means that everyone has equal ownership.
As part of team ownership, employees ask each other for feedback, such as:
- “What is going well for you today?”
- “If you need assistance with this assignment, what can I do?”
- “Are you going to finish your assignment by the deadline?”
Overall, it emphasizes collaboration, communication, and collective leadership.
To implement ownership among your team, here are some ways to get started:
- First, make sure that they feel like they belong, like celebrating wins.
- Then, give your team a sense of ownership. For example, let them choose how and when to work.
- Align work, goals, and purpose. Developing a solid sense of purpose at work is strongly correlated with making intentional efforts to improve performance, according to a Northwestern University study.
- Avoid micromanaging. Rather than focusing on the small details, think about the big picture.
- Get input from your team. Encourage everyone to provide constructive, kind peer feedback to each other.
- Eliminate the culture of blame. Every team will inevitably miss a deadline, make an error, or underestimate a risk at some point. Use these mistakes as learning moments instead of pointing fingers or feeling angry.
- Reward your team for success, as well as being transparent.
6. Allow free dialogue to take place.
Communicating openly within the workplace should be a habit all leaders adopt. The key to having an accessible dialog is to avoid being rude. Instead, the idea is to allow your team to express ideas, proposals, and suggestions for improvement without worry.
Honesty is also part of open communication. As such, encourage your team to give feedback and share opinions. By doing this, you’ll always know how your team feels and what you can do to make improvements.
If you want the conversation to flow freely, try the following:
- During work hours, you can have informal meetings. The occasional half-hour coffee break will not significantly affect the total productivity score. But it will strengthen the personal relationship between your team.
- Make an online hub where everyone can communicate and collaborate. This could be an online blog or a Slack channel where team members can exchange ideas or offer advice.
- Get the team together after work for some team activities. For example, you can organize a weekend team-building event or a monthly dinner. Regardless, let everyone gather in an environment that isn’t an office. And, leave the work talk back at the office.
Keep in mind that open communication involves both parties, so make sure you’re involved as well.
7. Embrace healthy debate.
“An absence of any conflict or debate on a team may be a sign of a dysfunctional team,” writes business speaker, author, and workplace trainer Michael Kerr. “The absence of heated debate might indicate apathy, complacency with the status quo, a lack of passion, or an inability to share uncomfortable truths or differing opinions – which can lead to dangerous group thinks.”
“The best teams encourage healthy debates that focus on ideas, not personalities,” Kerr adds.
8. Avoid positional thinking.
“Your position or title shouldn’t define your leadership,” says John Maxwell. “That’s positional thinking, and it will cause you to disconnect as a leader.”
Influence is the essence of leadership. “Nothing more, nothing less,” he adds. “I make it my goal to see the people I lead as teammates, not employees. We work together toward a common goal.”
In other words, if a team “wins,” it isn’t because the one-star player did well. It’s because everyone played well. Get your employees to adopt this attitude, then build a team that helps each other shine. As Ralph Nader perfectly put it, “The role of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”
9. Assume the best intent.
In my opinion, this is probably the easiest habit to break but the hardest to remember. People tend to assume someone purposefully fails you when tensions are high, and frustrations are peaking. But, at the same time, making a choice to be happy and assuming nobody meant to frustrate and irritate you is much more complicated.
Even on high-performing teams, there may be instances where your assumption is incorrect. But this tends to be the exception, not the norm. When we take a moment to pause and assume positive intent, we’re able to reframe circumstances to reflect a more positive outlook.
10. Work at an optimal pace.
“It’s not about speed but finding the right pace,” says executive leadership coach Lolly Daskal. “If your team moves too quickly, burnout will soon begin to set in; too slowly, and things become stagnant.”
To continue to grow and succeed, productive teams must find the right balance, Daskal adds. As a result, it is now more important than ever to create an environment in which teams can work effectively. “Every team member wants to know: Do I have to work around the clock to look productive, or can I pace myself to bring out my best work?”
11. Embrace failure using the Waterline Principle.
What’s the Waterline Principle? W.L. Gore popularized this idea:
“The waterline principle means that it’s ok to make a decision that might punch a hole in the boat as long as the hole is above the waterline so that it won’t potentially sink the ship.
But, if the decision might create a hole below the waterline which might cause the ship to sink, then associates are encouraged to consult with their team so that a collaborative decision can be made.”
Giving your team the freedom to fail is what the Waterline Principle is all about. Let your team be independent and take risks where mistakes won’t hurt them or the business too badly.
Taking this approach can contribute to an open team environment and take a balanced approach to failure. Additionally, it can accelerate everyone’s development by giving them more opportunities to learn from experience.
12. Have fun.
In the end, you want your team members to enjoy working together and enjoying their work. When a team works well together, they have fun, leading to more productive and efficient results.
In the opinion of author Dave Hemsath, fun is the single most important characteristic of a highly effective and successful organization. Why? Because companies with a fun-oriented culture offer lower absenteeism, higher job satisfaction, less downtime, and greater employee loyalty.
Published First on Calendar. Read Here.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Alena Darmel; Pexels; Thank you!
7 Tips for Small Business Marketing
If you want to get your small business off the ground, you know how important it is to attract new customers. Without any new customers, your business would have no way of expanding and growing. And one of the quickest ways you can broaden your customer base is by harnessing the power of marketing.
But small business marketing isn’t something that just happens overnight. A successful strategy needs lots of planning, research, and effort — none of which can be done without the right information. To help you get started on your small business marketing plan, we’ve put together this handy starter guide of 7 tips for marketing a small business.
1. Email Marketing
Email is a great way to market your small business. It’s quick, easy, and inexpensive to set up a newsletter or email campaign. Plus, you can use it to showcase your products and services and bring people back to your website. Email marketing also allows you to target specific groups of customers based on your analytics data, which can help to improve your ROI.
Moreover, email marketing is a great way to get customers’ attention and keep them engaged with your brand. Here are some things to consider when using email marketing as part of your small business strategy:
- Use a newsletter to build relationships with customers.
- Send coupons and discounts using email marketing.
- Use email marketing to promote special events.
- Make people feel like a part of your brand by sending them exclusive content.
- Offer freebies or discounts in exchange for an email address.
- Give people more than one way to opt-out of receiving your emails.
- Always follow up with buyers.
No matter what, make sure your email marketing efforts align closely with your business goals. If you don’t have a way to measure how effective your campaign is, then there’s no point in sending out emails.
2. Increase Brand Awareness
Increasing brand awareness is one of the most essential steps in building a successful small business. You can do this by creating an effective social media strategy and establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry. Building relationships with influencers will help to spread the word about your brand online and offline through word-of-mouth marketing campaigns.
Having a strong brand can also be appealing to potential customers. Customers are more likely to buy from a brand they trust, so developing a strong reputation is crucial for building your business.
Customer service is another important aspect of building a great brand. You need to provide customers with the best customer experience possible to win them over. This can mean offering quick responses on social media, answering questions and inquiries quickly via email support, or even providing phone support for customers who prefer it.
3. Develop a Detailed Marketing Plan
If you want to be successful at marketing your business, you should have a detailed plan in place to help you track and reach your goals. This plan should include the steps you need to take to achieve your business goals as well as a timeline for when each step will be completed.
A good marketing strategy would include things like:
- Identifying your target audience.
- Creating a persona for each persona in your target audience.
- Determining what types of content will resonate with your audience.
- Creating an online presence on social media platforms and other websites.
- Creating a marketing calendar to keep track of when you will post content, send out emails, and run paid advertisements using tools like Facebook ads.
These are all important components of a marketing strategy, and you must take the time to create one if you want your business to succeed.
4. Focus on Content Marketing
Content marketing does not have to be expensive or time-consuming. You can write articles for your website or blog, create videos and share them on social media, or shoot photos of your products that you can post on Instagram or Pinterest. The more content you create, the better your chances of attracting new customers through search engines like Google and Bing.
As part of any good inbound marketing campaign, you should focus on creating high-quality content that is relevant to your audience. It’s one of the most effective ways to build trust with potential customers and establish yourself as an expert in your industry.
Always be on the lookout for new and innovative ways to incorporate content marketing into your business marketing strategy. For example, you could try:
- SMS marketing to reach people on their mobile phones.
- Podcasts and webinars to reach a wider audience and boost your brand awareness.
- Twitter chats, Facebook Live, Instagram Stories or Snapchat to connect with customers in real-time.
The sky is the limit when it comes to content marketing. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is an incredibly important part of any marketing strategy, but it can be overwhelming for a small business owner who doesn’t have much experience in this area. Consider working with an SEO expert who can help you create an effective plan for improving your search engine ranking over time.
You can use SEO to:
- Increase your website traffic.
- Improve your organic search rankings.
- Drive more leads to your business.
In addition, local SEO can help attract more foot traffic into your store or office by targeting people who are close by. You can also leverage your existing customers to generate more business by providing them with the tools they need to share your content with their friends. Use tools like Google My Business to quickly and easily create an online presence in your local area.
6. Video Marketing
Video marketing can be done in many ways, from a simple explainer video that describes what your company does to a full-blown production with actors and special effects. It depends on how much you want to spend and where you’re hoping to get traffic from.
When you’re creating videos for your business, they should be high quality so that they look professional and attract viewers. You should also have a consistent tone throughout each video so that viewers know what to expect from each one. You can upload videos on multiple social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, making it easy for people around the world to view them.
A few of the best practices for video marketing that you should follow include:
- Create a script for your video and make sure it’s short, sweet, and to the point.
- Keep a consistent tone throughout each video so that viewers know what to expect from each one.
- Don’t cram too much information into one video as it will be difficult for viewers to follow along.
- Make sure that each video has a call-to-action so that viewers know what you want them to do after watching it.
Video marketing is an effective way to reach a large audience and build your brand. It’s also an important part of any digital marketing strategy, especially if you want to reach people who live outside of your area. As long as you follow the best practices for video marketing, it should be easy to create videos that people love watching.
7. Website Design
Website design is important because it determines how your business is represented online. Your website should be easy to navigate, and the information on it should be easy to find. You should also make sure that your site is mobile-friendly so that people can see it on a phone or tablet without having to zoom in or scroll around.
You can improve your website by ensuring all the links work and adding content like blog posts and videos. You should also add a contact form so that people can get in touch with you if they want more information about your services or products.
It will also be necessary to incorporate SEO into your website so that it appears higher in search engine results. You can do this by including keywords in your content and using them in the titles of your blog posts. It would also be helpful to add social media buttons to your site so that people who like what they see can share it with their friends and followers online.
A strong website is essential for any business, but it’s especially important for sellers of services and products. Even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend on your website, there are plenty of ways to ensure it looks professional and attractive.
Tracking Website Visitors
Using analytics tools like Google Analytics can help you understand who is visiting your site and what they want to see. It can also help you identify areas where you can improve, such as making your site more mobile-friendly or improving the quality of your content.
You can also incorporate tracking into your advertising campaigns. For example, if you use Google Ads or Google Adwords to promote your website, you can use Google Analytics to track how many people click on your ad. That can help you determine if the campaign is working and how much money it’s costing you.
Marketing a small business is a full-time job, and it’s up to you to define your strategy. You won’t get it right on the first try; it takes time to get to know your customers and figure out where they spend their time.
But by following these guidelines and incorporating them into your company’s mission statement, you can begin defining your own small business marketing strategy from the start and get ahead of your competition. And if you’re having a hard time, consider reaching out to a small business marketing agency like Scorpion for some help.
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