Chatbots — not robots at all, but software that you communicate with to get answers or things done — can help businesses of all sizes enhance their customer experience, but that’s not all they can do. Small and medium-sized businesses are now tapping into the power of Artificial Intelligence-enabled chatbots to improve operations and marketing, increase sales and build better relationships and internal communication.

Although a form of chatbots has been around since the 1960s, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri are ushering in a new era of possibilities for how chatbots can be used in business. Here I want to look at some ways chatbots are changing the way we do business and why it’s time for all SMEs to consider adopting chatbots.

1. Streamline office management and tasks

Today’s chatbots are powerful personal assistants. They can call an Uber, place a lunch order, make a hotel reservation, order office supplies when you get low and even help manage your calendar. Let’s face it, just scheduling a single meeting can take 15 minutes or more and when you add up how many meetings you schedule, it’s a significant time commitment for a small business.

Just ask Alexa to set up meetings and send you a reminder when you need to hit the road. She will even alert you to traffic concerns if you ask her. Chatbots can read emails out to you or send them out and help you spell better. And who couldn’t use help managing their to-do list? Chatbots can take over the tedious tasks so you can focus on what’s most important to drive your business.

2.  Enhance the customer experience

You want guests who enter your office to be comfortable. When you put Amazon’s Echo or Apple’s HomePod on the job, you can pipe music from Spotify, Pandora or Apple Music into your waiting area that will help your customers enjoy their time as they wait for you. You can also automate your office by connecting devices to smart office gadgets, which means you can control the lighting and temperature in your office space to optimize comfort through smart devices so the humans you employ don’t have to.

3. Automate customer service

One critical component to being successful in business is prompt attention and communication with customers, especially when they contact you for support. Chatbots can respond to multiple people simultaneously, so they can be your first line of communication with your customers. Most businesses get inundated with similar questions such as hours of operation, address, return policies, etc. that AI chatbots can automatically answer or learn to answer. Similarly, when a customer calls to get product or service advice, chatbots can easily handle the majority of calls or escalate them to human support when necessary. They can even help process payments.

4. Conversational commerce

The easier you make it for consumers to purchase your product, the more sales you will make. In conversational commerce, customers can purchase an item by having a conversation with a chatbot. Since the chatbot stores information and any changes to orders, it can learn over time the preferences of individual customers and will be able to follow-up to make subsequent sales.

5. Advertising via chatbot

Advertising-focused chatbots are a great way for small business owners to diversify their promotional efforts. They can share news about specials or coupons to keep their business top of mind via direct messaging.

6. It’s time to adopt chatbots for your business

Clearly, there are many ways chatbots can be used in business and since we’re only at the initial stages of adoption, it won’t be long before that list grows. As well as the practical tasks that chatbots can assist with, there are also other reasons why your business should seriously consider adopting chatbot services.

First, when you are an early adopter of new technology it sets you apart from the competition and allows your customers to see you as a leader, and customers like to associate themselves with industry leaders. Even though a direct correlation between your adoption of chatbots and increased sales might not be possible, it will definitely have impact.

Every business needs to appeal to millennial as they become more important consumers. In general, this segment of our population loves self-serve options and are very comfortable chatting and using text to get answers. Businesses who offer millennial their preferred contact methods are more likely to get their business.

Keeping customers engaged, something chatbots can do extremely well especially on social media, also leads to more business. Why not employ a chatbot to do some of the heavy lifting for your organization to keep customers engaged?

7.  Chatbots aren’t just for Fortune 500 companies

When you’re ready to expand beyond the Echo and Google Home solutions, there are companies that provide solutions for small businesses without any technical expertise to build custom bots. Solutions from Chatfuel, Converse and Zendesk are quite popular with smaller businesses because they will integrate across a variety of platforms and don’t require customized coding. These solutions are being used by businesses in all industries from healthcare to law offices to consulting firms.

Have you started using chatbots in your business? Let us know in the comments below.