A man and a woman stand at a wood-topped counter in a cafe and look at the screen of an open laptop. The woman stands on the right and has her mouth open as if she's saying something. Her hands are on the keyboard and she wears a pale green button-up shirt and glasses. The man leans forward slightly to look at the laptop; he is bald with a graying beard and he wears a blue-and-white polka dot shirt and a light gray jacket. Behind the couple are a coffee machine, shelves holding mugs and glasses, and a large blackboard with a menu listing teas of the day and various milk additions.
When combined with CRM platforms, AI tools can aid sales teams and business owners with tasks like data entry, segmenting customer groups, and drafting marketing copy. — Getty Images/Lock Stock

Many small businesses use a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to document every interaction with every customer in one central location. This data helps sales, marketing, and customer service teams improve the customer experience. By seeing the entire relationship history in one record, your business can identify sales opportunities, record service issues, manage marketing campaigns, and more.

However, tracking all this information is often repetitive and time-consuming — making it the perfect activity for artificial intelligence to handle. As AI becomes more mainstream, businesses of all sizes are able to use this technology to automate and improve CRM tasks.

Here’s how some small businesses are integrating AI and their CRM systems to save time, access data faster, and improve their customer relationship management practice.

How does AI in CRM work?

The combination of artificial intelligence and CRM software is still relatively new, but the integrations have proven to be extremely valuable to growing businesses. Platforms that integrate AI and traditional CRM tools are able to optimize every customer interaction without the need for additional resources and hiring.

“It leverages advanced algorithms, machine learning, and natural language processing to analyze vast amounts of customer data, extract valuable insights, and automate various tasks, thereby streamlining customer relationship management processes,” explained ActiveCampaign.

“At its core, AI CRM software is designed to help businesses build stronger, more personalized relationships with their customers.”

A recent survey by HubSpot found that 81% of participants believe that AI could help them spend less time on manual tasks. In the case of CRM, that could mean data entry, reporting, customer segmentation, and routine outreach could all be handled by AI.

[Read more: 4 Effective Ways Small Businesses Can Leverage AI]

AI can help identify prospects with a high chance of converting, freeing your sales team to focus on the leads that truly matter.

What can AI do in CRMs?

Though AI/CRM integrations are still developing, there are some early use cases that prove artificial intelligence can help businesses improve the overall customer experience.

First, AI can help personalize marketing outreach. AI tools like ChatGPT and Bard can help provide written content that is customized to your CRM audience segments. “Within CRM systems, AI can improve email content, help you develop ideas for your blog, and more. AI’s data analysis can help you discover the type of content your audience wants to receive so you can create it in a way that lands,” wrote HubSpot.

AI also helps sales segment customer groups more accurately. CRM systems offer a way to report on customer segments, spending patterns, and spending history. However, these reports can be tedious to produce. “Rather than running often complex report requests, users from across the marketing and sales team can use natural language to identify prospects instantly,” wrote Dr. Martin De Saulles in CIO.

[Read more: How to Choose CRM Software: 5 Factors to Consider]

Likewise, AI can help identify prospects with a high chance of converting, freeing your sales team to focus on the leads that truly matter.

AI can also help your customer service team improve their targets. “AI CRM software enables businesses to provide proactive customer support by analyzing customer interactions, sentiment, and behavior. It can identify potential issues, detect patterns of dissatisfaction, and trigger timely interventions to resolve problems before they escalate,” reported ActiveCampaign.

How to get started with AI CRM tools

Currently, there are a handful of CRM systems that have added AI to their functionality. HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, Salesforce, and Zoho are among the brands that offer artificial intelligence tools in their CRM platforms. Microsoft is also working on an AI CRM product.

If you’re looking for a new CRM, consider a platform that already has AI or has plans to develop AI on its development roadmap. If you have an existing CRM with AI functionality, but haven’t started using it, start small. Choose a few key tasks and explore how AI can improve your efficiency. Over time and as the tool learns your workflows and customer preferences, it can help your business grow.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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