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New World of Work

Is there a place for AI in small business?

By 3 August 2018No Comments

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of those topics that small business owners like to stay away from. The new(ish) technology is seen as something scary to so many people – it’s big, it’s expensive, it’s complicated and – if the movies are to be believed – it’s a little dystopian. Aside from all that, small business owners are always reluctant to take on new technologies in the early stages – naturally, there will be glitches with new technologies and as with adapting to anything new, it might just … not work. There is always that risk.


The reality is, however, that all of us are already using AI in our everyday lives. Whether it’s Autocorrect, Siri, automated playlists on Spotify or even parking assist – it’s here and it’s not leaving any time soon. So how exactly can smaller businesses start to use AI to help their daily operations to flourish in this new world of work?


Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools


Most businesses will be familiar with some kind of CRM – even without the more advanced side of things, it’s a useful tool for keeping all your customer data in the same place. The good news is that many of these existing CRMs have the potential to become powerhouses of productivity with the help of Artificial Intelligence. When it comes to analysing the activity of customers, algorithms take over and can learn from past decisions, analyse behaviour and work out the hot leads. All without you needing to lift a finger.


Customer service tools


It’s an unfortunate truth that the simplest tasks are the ones that often fill up our day and keep us distracted from the bigger tasks. One of those simple tasks is simply responding to customer queries and feedback. Just because it’s a smaller task, however, doesn’t make it any less important. Providing that service is one of the most important parts of the relationship between you and your customer and now, chatbots are taking on that task.


There are complex and sophisticated chatbots are out there, the kind that seem so natural in their interactions that you would think there was a human behind them. Of course, those are a little out of reach (and unnecessary) for most small businesses but there are plenty of simple options available through services such as Facebook Messenger or Whats App.  They can handle answering large volumes of FAQ’s and provide fast and accurate responses.


Competitive Intelligence tools


Naturally, small business owners are always keeping an eye on their competition, it’s good to know what the competition are doing, what their customers are doing and how their competitor’s results stack up to their own. Of course, this can be done by trawling through pages on the internet and checking manually in every nook and cranny of media coverage, but it’s not a particularly time effective way of checking up on competitors. After all, you want to be out there beating them at their own game, not being waylaid by information overload.


That’s where tools like RivallQ or Crayon can come in handy. Not only do they check how you’re going in comparison to your competitors, they analyse the footprint of your competitor – everything from customer reviews and interviews to an analysis of their company’s stakeholders and key distributors.


It’s understandable that so many small businesses are reluctant to bring AI into their operations but the key to success is planning before you adopt a piece of technology. Adopting AI just for the sake of progress is a sure-fire way to fail, instead, outline all your business goals and choose the technology to help you along the way to achieving those goals.


To learn more about AI and business improvement, download Pendragon’s eBook: ‘The New World of Work’.

Purnima Kabra