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"Digital transformation." Two words that give small business owners and managers sweaty palms, mainly because of the perception that they refer to something expensive and complicated. Who has time or resources for a complete overhaul of the business? But digital transformation can and should be gradual, and it can streamline internal processes such as inventory and accounting, as well as reduce friction in the customer experience.
Digital transformation needn't be costly or overwhelming, either. As digital adoption increases, i.e., as more businesses implement multiple technologies throughout their organizations and manage them with a single tool, digital transformation becomes easier and more attainable. It also may be the best hope for smaller organizations that want to improve customer experience and engagement.
In fact, research from BCG found that nearly 9 in 10 companies had customer-facing goals, including digital marketing, personalization, and streamlining the customer journey, as their top business goals for digital transformation.
Here are three ways digital transformation can help smaller companies outperform much larger competitors.
Chatbots, particularly those programmed to answer frequently asked customer questions, are a conversational user interface (CUI), rather than a traditional graphical UI (GUI), such as a website or a mobile app. GUIs confine customer interaction to a finite set of options, while conversational UIs (CUIs) are open-ended: Human language is unique in its ability to provide infinite ways to express a single sentiment with different words.
To be most effective, you should outline all the features and tasks you expect of the bot. For example, bots can answer simple customer questions, such as location and hours of operation. Not only does this reduce the number of incoming calls asking routine questions, but it also increases customer satisfaction, because answers are provided quickly and efficiently.
Bots can also be useful in pre- and post-sales. Chatbots can educate prospects about a brand or make suggestions for complementary services and products, as well as assist in troubleshooting and resolving complaints. AI-powered bots use conversational AI and machine learning to automate consumer interactions, which is often more cost-effective than hiring phone agents. (You can learn a little more about chatbots here.)
The frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks is increasing. When cybersecurity is woven into the design of your digital transformation strategy, it provides a solid foundation for safe growth. A cybersecurity mindset spurs business process transformation, which leads to transformation in other areas of the business.
During the pandemic, technology facilitated telehealth medicine and remote working. But in that rush to ensure business continuity, cybersecurity often was overlooked. Vulnerabilities and security weaknesses provided entry for cybercriminals, and threats such as phishing and ransomware grew more insidious as they targeted hybrid offices. In order for digital transformation to gain momentum after implementation, security can't be an afterthought. Rather, data and infrastructure protection must be built into vendor activities, operations, and customer relationships. The added focus on cybersafety can translate to improved customer trust, as well. (Learn more about Dell's security solutions for small businesses here.)
Data and analytics platforms can help companies understand, and respond to, rapid shifts in demand and give them comprehensive insights on consumers. Businesses that are seasonal or have customer bases affected by popular trends can make the most use of data and analytics tools. The top organizations in every industry are using metrics and data to improve decision-making and revenue.
Despite the clear benefits to measuring progress and benchmarking best practices, many companies continue to struggle under the weight of traditional tech silos and analog business processes. In other words, they don't have any means of aggregating and normalizing all their data. Others may recognize the benefit, but they can't make the cultural shift or commit to the information management and technology investments necessary for comprehensive analytics.
Digital transformation is not an isolated activity. Change impacts every component of a small business, including sourcing processes, employees, and customers. SMBs can integrate digital technologies slowly but steadily into their routines, as they strive to improve customer experience and engagement.
Perhaps the best advice for SMBs considering digital transformation is to identify the biggest challenge and determine how adopting integrated digital solutions can help overcome it. Don't solve problems that don't exist yet, and don't try to transform the entire business at once.
Dell Technologies Small Business Advisors are available to help explore transformation strategies for your business. Learn more here.