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Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) struggle to compete on equal footing with the enterprise behemoths that dominate their industry. In other words, how do local retailers compete with the Amazon.com and Walmarts of the world? Providing a better customer experience is fast becoming the competitive differentiator and driver of success for businesses of all sizes — and presents a huge opportunity for SMBs.

Studies show that customers will pay more for a better experience. That’s a good advantage for smaller retailers. Often, bigger stores compete on price alone rather than providing a personalized customer experience. SMBs have a unique opportunity to make their mark and build lasting customer relationships. Of course, providing a great experience isn’t an easy task, especially when it comes to meeting the sky-high expectations of today’s customers. This is where technology, like artificial intelligence (AI), can help.

Leveling the Playing Field With Technology

The definition of a great customer experience can be subjective. For some, it may mean the ability to quickly self-serve; for others, it’s getting answers to questions at 2 a.m. before they complete a purchase; and others may be impressed by a personalized experience. Here are a four ways AI is helping SMBs deliver a greater customer experience:

  1. Deliver 24/7 service. There aren’t many small companies out there that can staff an entire contact center around the clock 24 hours/7 days/52 weeks, but AI is changing that. Whether it’s through chatbots or dynamic FAQs, service and support questions can be answered whenever and however the customer needs.
  2. Meet customers where they are. Can you imagine walking into a store and not having someone offering to help you? That’s often the experience for customers shopping online. They’re searching around for hours trying to find the product that’s right for them. Conversational chatbots can help proactively guide customers through a personalized shopping experience — engaging with them at the right time with relevant information to help provide a concierge-like experience and ensure customers feel good about their purchase and don’t abandon the cart.
  3. Take the burden off customer service agents. Chances are if you’re a small business, you have a small (but dedicated) customer service team. By leveraging AI-powered chatbots on the frontlines to answer simple, repeatable questions, agents can spend more time helping those customers that need them the most. Customers get questions answered quickly and agents get to focus their time on creating impactful moments.
  4. Provide consistent experiences. Nothing is more frustrating (or confusing) for a customer than hearing different answers to the same question. Whether they’re engaging with companies through live chat, social, phone or in-person, the service experience should be consistent. AI is helping customer service teams on the backend by providing everyone with the same information, enabling each and every experience to be consistently delightful.

It’s not easy being a SMB today. There’s so much competition and it can be hard to compete with bigger brands. However, as customer experience continues to make its mark as a key value driver, technology — like AI — helps level the playing field.

Ryan Lester is senior director of customer engagement technologies at LogMeln a provider of SaaS- and cloud-based remote connectivity services for collaboration, IT management and customer engagement.

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