Is your revenue team ready for what's next?
It’s that time of year again when we look forward to the future. Here are a few thoughts I had about 2023 related to the economy, Conversation Automation, revenue teams, and more.
My prediction is not based on my own crystal ball. It’s based on various economists who have a lot more expertise in this area than I do; 94.7% forecast accuracy on global economic cycles, believe it or not.
We should expect a slowing down of GDP growth throughout most of the year. But luckily, we should see a rebound by the end of Q3 of 2023—with enough of an upturn that people start preparing for growth again in Q4. This means that we might see 2024 budgets get more healthy in anticipation of a recovery. That’s the perspective I’ve used to develop our 2023 plan at Conversica.
But, even with an economic bull market “light at the end of the tunnel”, we are still seeing and feeling panic from our customers. There’s been lots of news about layoffs or minimally reduced 2023 budgets. I believe that most companies will complete their major expense adjustments by no later than Q1 2023. This is a strategy many businesses take, hoping to maintain stock prices by adjusting costs in anticipation of lower revenues. For my peer CEOs, this means preparing for a cold winter in 2023.
While that’s not the most chipper note, Conversica is in a slightly different position. Our company was founded in 2007 and our product launched in 2009. Do you recall that this was during the 2008 Great Recession? Yes, we launched our first Sales AI Assistant during the most significant economic downturn in US history and, yet, we grew at a rate of 300 percent year over year in spite of it. Why? Because we demonstrated how our Conversation Automation could help our customers better connect with their customers to drive revenue, especially during downtimes. I think companies should be even more aggressive in their deployment of automation in 2023.
Our product actually helps companies protect revenue during economic slowdowns. Conversation Automation is the perfect solution to these challenging times because it scales at a much lower cost than human capital. If you can’t hire because of budget constraints—or are even cutting headcount—you can offset this by adding our Revenue Digital Assistants™ (RDAs) to maintain and even grow your revenue during this time.
Also, a very typical playbook is to focus on your base. When it gets hard to acquire new customers (who are protecting their wallets), businesses should focus on retaining and growing existing customers instead. If you don’t prioritize your existing customers by providing them with real value, you risk churn—which is almost inevitable in times like this.
Cloud-based deep learning technologies like GPT will result in amazing applications (like ChatGPT). Benefits of this technology include leveraging a deep knowledge base (GPT-3 training data involving 175B parameters, over 500B tokens, or 45TB of text), advanced analytics (deep learning-based Generative Pre-Trained Transformer Models are highly effective and scalable), and cloud scalability (OpenAI runs on Microsoft Azure).
Most businesses recognize that when customers are educating themselves about your offerings, they usually start by browsing your website. Outside of a simple automated chatbot or live-agent chat, there’s little to no touch with your company—especially at scale. That’s bad news because these bots offer very low sophistication, crummy experiences, and take too much effort to get rolling. Live agents are incentivized to minimize call or chat time, and can’t be expected to know everything just because they are human.
But now, take your entire corpus of product and service information and provide it to your end-customers, using a Revenue Digital Assistant. This will always far exceed both a typical chatbot and even live agents. RDAs can answer questions, provide resources, carry on two-way conversations, and identify/elevate contacts who are ready to buy.
A lot of end-user consumers haven’t experienced this level of sophistication yet. But once they do—especially now as GTP-3 and OpenAI hit the mainstream—they won’t go back to dealing with clunky bots, or even waiting for content center exchanges. Conversica’s AI has incorporated GPT along with several other advanced language models, starting with chat as the interface. However, we recognize that end-users need an advanced experience (like ChatGPT) across all touch points including email, SMS, messaging, live on the phone, and even with in-event avatar-based digital signage! So, that is what we’re doing.
End-users can begin their journey with our RDAs via website chat as an interface, and then move to email and SMS today. This pulls together previously fragmented communication channels together, which means better coverage for your leads and customers. This also helps tie together Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success teams by better handling incoming leads to identify sales-ready leads to manage relationships post-purchase.
Chat 1.0 is dead, for sure. Today’s chatbots do not provide good customer experiences because they either don’t care, or simply haven’t been programmed to be so. Most Marketers only really achieve lead capture and lead routing. But with today’s chatbots, the number of leads that come from chat is roughly 2% to 3% maximum. Chatbots are obsolete now that ChatGPT is showing the path to Chat 2.0 or actually Chat 3.0.
So no, they aren’t extinct—but chatbots must evolve to survive. I’m sure some businesses will continue to use second-rate website chat solutions for a while simply because they are unwilling to invest in the next generation. That’s not wise, but it will happen.
Traditional chatbots will officially die (meaning there will be a massive upgrade) when end-users demand it from businesses. Once users experience true AI-powered website chat they will refuse to go back to the old way of doing things. That’ll be the final nail in the coffin for scripted chatbots, and the beginning of deep-learning-based chatbots (using technologies like GPT).
More than anything, you want happier and more productive workforces working on high-value tasks. We believe that equipping teams with the right tools, such as AI automation, is a far better way to help teams scale and do what they do best. Would you rather have an existing team do twice as much, or hire twice as many people? Companies today are simply scaling activities with brute-force increases in headcount.
When I say teams need AI automation, I’m not talking about augmenting your CRMs or other technologies that collect data on your customers with AI insights. That’s table stakes at this point. What your revenue teams really need is something that helps them take necessary actions that drive revenue and offload these tasks that are best handled by technology. This empowers employees to perform the high-value work that people are best at. So we’re not talking about enhancing systems of records or improving systems of insights, but rather systems of action.
Rather than prioritizing inbound or outbound demand gen duties—since you can only handle so many of these daily tasks—you can let a Revenue Digital Assistant handle the repetitive work. This allows your Marketing and Sales teams to focus on finding value in the pipeline you already have, rather than solely focusing on building the pipeline. Not to mention that these team members are best equipped to think creatively and build relationships with prospects versus crafting and sending emails to a list of targets. You need to let an RDA handle the repetitive, mundane, non-scalable tasks.
Then there are Customer Success teams, who are hyper-focused on the retention and expansion of existing customers. During these slow economic times when fewer new customers are coming in, businesses must focus on pulling revenue from their base. This is a tough order when Customer Success Managers operate under an unreasonable one-to-many model. In some cases, CSMs are juggling 50, 100, or even 500 customers each. Clearly, CSMs need a way to automate important conversations throughout the customer lifecycle to better address issues in adoption or usage; as well as ways to take advantage of expansion opportunities. It’s all about scaling what works.
We’re watching clients focus on consolidation and survival. There’s not a lot of “glass half full” thinking right now as businesses brace for further economic slowdowns and longer buying cycles.
There’s still room for optimism though; especially from early adopters among CMOs, CROs, and CCOs who want to be viewed as thought leaders and innovators in their industries. Anyone who is a visionary in their field is seeking out Conversation Automation to better touch customers, drive workplace efficiency, and ultimately boost revenue.
There isn’t an industry that wouldn’t benefit from leveraging Conversation Automation in the new year. Conversica’s Revenue Digital Assistants augment revenue teams, mainly focusing on B2B use cases (e.g. large software enterprises selling to other businesses). But we know that B2C expects a seamless digital experience too, that will benefit from RDAs as well.
We create a Growth Workforce™ that empowers businesses to scale important conversations and drive revenue opportunities anywhere in the customer lifecycle for B2B and B2C businesses. But let’s talk about industries that have small if not non-existent Sales forces supporting the buyer—namely B2C.
Digital concierges will be vital (and a norm) in a year or two, just based on customer expectations. And multichannel Revenue Digital Assistants are the perfect way of meeting the digital native’s expectations for white-glove experiences when they want it and where they want it. B2C customers typically don’t like to engage a human Salesperson but rather would like to educate themselves about your business’ offerings on their own terms, digitally.
While everyone could benefit from Conversation Automation, there are a couple of industries I’m willing to give special attention to. Namely, the horizontal segment of eCommerce and the Sports & Entertainment vertical.
All in all, I am really looking forward to the new year. I recognize the challenges coming down the line with the slowing economy, but I think that our customers might have an opportunity to offset budget and revenue impacts by leveraging AI and Conversation Automation for their revenue teams.
Wishing you a happy New Year!
P.S. No, I didn’t use an AI to write this article.
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