If you follow news coverage of the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, the mainstream media will have you believe that most of the innovation in this burgeoning field is restricted within the walls of the big tech players, but that’s not the case.
Plenty of examples exist of start-ups delivering AI and ML breakthroughs to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the backbone of advanced, free-market economies.
One such case is software start-up Bowtie, an AI receptionist that interacts with customers by SMS and over webchat. We recently acquired the Brooklyn-based company for the specific need it filled to the tens of thousands of wellness businesses on our software platform.
Bowtie by MINDBODY is ideal for appointment-based businesses in the beauty and grooming verticals, specifically salons and spas.
One of the biggest challenges facing these SMBs is that they are constantly missing customers. Front desk staff often wear multiple hats, which causes them to drift away from the phone. According to our data, roughly 25% of all calls are missed, and half of those are in the middle of the day. In addition, the preferred scheduling method to book appointments or treatments is through the phone.
In order to capture these clients (and lost revenue), we are using Artificial Intelligence to assist the front desk. At its core, Bowtie is an automated text-based system that reaches out to missed callers, answers their questions, books their appointments and even collects billing information. It is a powerful conversation management tool that generates recurring revenue opportunities and provides business owners freedom and peace of mind knowing that missed calls will be automatically returned via text.
It’s a game-changer in the sense that it can potentially allow specific SMBs to scale out of their front desk and direct resources to other areas of the business, such as Marketing, Operations or Business Development. One of the main selling points in integrating AI or ML technology is the ability to redirect human capital to business units where the technology is unable to function.
Bowtie’s AI technology, which falls under the umbrella of Natural Language Processing, is complex and requires a significant degree of skill to build and manage, but that doesn’t mean cutting edge tools should be out of reach of SMBs. We’re very cognizant of this and have made every effort to make this valuable piece of technology affordable.
Bowtie, which became an acquisition target after integrating through our open API partner portal, constitutes a case study of sorts, showing that AI and ML can indeed be incorporated into the business plans of small and medium-sized businesses.