In this series of SME Tech Trends, we explore some disruptive technologies that can impact businesses and how you can use them to improve the customer experience for your company. Read on to find out how you can make use of the different disruptive technologies as an SME.
1) Security Technology
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are probably the most deficient when it comes to cyber security. They act as easy targets for hackers as SMEs tend to have less sophisticated security infrastructure and fewer trained cyber security staff to manage and respond to threats.
Customer privacy is an important part of business strategy. It is important for SMEs to do more to protect their customers’ privacy and satisfy their concerns. The cloud is not a safe haven from security flaws. Many SMEs depend on cloud technology to share documents, collaborate on projects, and communicate potentially sensitive information. Although cloud technology is getting more secure, there would still be a need for proper security measures in place.
What can SMEs do?
One of the best ways to prevent data breaches is to upgrade your tech every year and schedule regular scans for malware on all technology. Make it a priority to also educate your employees on the basics of cybersecurity and train them on what to do if they misplace information or suspect malware on their machine. Last but not least, create a company-wide password to further protect sensitive information.
Since security technology is changing every year, it is important to make these upgrades frequently so as not to miss any security patches. It is also essential to have a basic level of cybersecurity knowledge to protect our data.
Chatbots are the biggest technology disruptor in the customer service scene. They offer a fast and engaging customer experience by providing troubleshooting services, an on-demand help desk and full-time support – without the expense associated with maintaining a full-time staff.
In the modern era of technology, it is now expected to have chatbots as a form of customer service. Research shows that most people enjoy using chatbots to solve their problems – instantly. Services like Zendesk and LiveChat can help you deliver automated responses to customers’ queries across multiple channels and gather information from your customers to create better experiences for them.
What can SMEs do?
There are many ways in which business owners are using chatbots to enhance customer experience. One of the ways is to use chatbots to automate simple tasks such as sending automated responses to commonly asked questions. For more complex tasks, you can train your existing customer service representatives (live agents) to pick up conversations from chatbots. Lastly, you can collect, segment, and qualify leads from chatbots, and learn from the data your customers give you.
As with introducing any new technology, it is important that your business’s support team are following live chat best practices to maximise the positive impact of live chat.
3) Big Data
Big data is everywhere – it is used to better understand your customers and their behaviours and preferences. In the past, businesses could only access a small amount of the information available to them due to limited data sets, poor analytics processes and a lack of the right skill. Now, as technology advances, machine learning and big data processing tools make it easier to access business insights almost instantly. With the right data management and analytics systems in place, businesses can gather unstructured information and translate it into actionable insights.
What can SMEs do?
Fortunately, there are big data tools and solutions on the market that small businesses with tighter budgets and a smaller workforce can comfortably afford and manage. For example, Google Analytics, Google’s free digital analytics platform allows you to track and analyse the behaviour of your website users. There is also IBM’s Watson Analytics which makes advanced and predictive business analytics easily accessible to businesses. The platform does not require any skills of using complex data mining and analysis systems, but instead automate the process.
To thrive in today’s competitive market, it is important for SMEs to have these big data tools to gather, analyse, and make sense of the data you already have, as well as to gain additional insights.
4) Smart Payments
Smart payments are your digital wallets like Google Wallet, Coin, and Apple Pay. In recent years, consumers are all starting to go digital with mobile or “smart” payments, and consumer use of this tech is only expected to keep growing. According to The Guardian, “The total value in the U.S. of mobile payments…in 2013 was expected to be $37bn, up 50% from $24.7bn in 2012.” Starbucks seem to have figured this out faster than other retailers, says analyst Bryan Yeager. “More than 20% of their in-store transactions in the U.S. are from their mobile app, and that’s a great success story,” Yeager told Fortune.
What can SMEs do?
It is important for SMEs to stay competitive with bigger businesses in the industry by being more flexible with mobile payments. Having a smart payment system that is universal can also help to expand your consumer base. Although the technology may not be affordable for SMEs to adopt, there are many incentives developed by Apple and Android for customers to use their tech to make payments.
Once SMEs start integrating these payments technologies, you will also need to pay special attention to the security of your customers’ financial information and prepare your staff to integrate payments into existing accounting processes.
5) AI / ML
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is the usage of machines to imitate human cognition. AI/ML has become widely prevalent in today’s age and has long affected how we interact with the tools on our computers. For example, Gmail’s spam filter uses a robust algorithm that identifies and sorts messages based on their content. Over time, the algorithm “learns” how to identify messages that use odd syntax, or messages that come from strange email addresses, and marks them as spam.
Research firm Gartner predicts that investments in machine learning will only grow. Over the next year, businesses are expected to spend 3.5 trillion dollars on IT services globally – and a big portion of that is expected to fund machine learning tech.
What can SMEs do?
As a small business, you may not have access to build your own AI/ML algorithms, but this technology is evolving quickly and you can make strategic investments in software with machine learning capabilities for marketing, customer management or inventory management. It is important to keep an eye on what startups do with machine learning tech and watch for improvements to software packages and analytics tools. You should implement the latest technology as soon as possible to stay ahead of the competition.
Blockchain is a network that is able to publicly record real-time cryptocurrency transactions between people or companies. This technology is completely disrupting the financial industry as it is spread over such a vast network and provides transactions that are much faster than bank transactions.
With this technology, the record of a transaction is made available to everyone in the network, making it harder to commit fraud. This also removes the need for middlemen – the banks that move money around and verify transactions. With blockchain, networks of other people and computers provide the checks and balances – not individual institutions.
What can SMEs do?
Small businesses would have some financial advantages if they have the ability to start taking payments in Bitcoin. Bitcoin will not have the transaction fees of credit cards and since cryptocurrency does not recognize a country, there will be no exchange rate losses as well. According to the U.S. News & World Report, more than 100,000 businesses around the world already use Bitcoin transactions in their day-to-day for exactly these reasons.
In the future, SMEs could start implementing blockchain technology into other areas of business once it becomes more prevalent. With this central network of records, businesses will no longer have to print, scan and sign contracts. Tech experts predict that in the medical industry, networks of hospitals will start to use blockchain to update, verify, and patient records and diagnoses instantaneously. This trend is likely to extend to insurance companies, education, and retail too.