Contrary to what The Terminator would have us believe, the prevalence of artificial intelligence probably won’t end with the extermination of the human race any time soon.
AI and machine learning solutions are already helping small businesses drive growth, be more efficient, and provide a better customer experience – all relatively cost-effectively.
Not convinced? Here are some ways AI technology can directly help small business owners.
Customer service via chatbots.
While allowing a bot to handle your website communications might seem like a stretch, it’s actually not. Chatbots are designed to understand natural language commands via voice (as is the case for Amazon’s Alexa or Yellow’s Jan), text, and even images. This allows them to do everything from answer online queries, create custom support tickets, and, when needed, reroute questions for human assistance. This means they’re fast becoming the new website mandatory.
Ready to help instantly, you’re saving yourself and your customers valuable time with a chatbot. Not only do they provide 24 hour, instant support, they can often help to cement a sale, by providing additional information when a customer is actively looking to purchase your product or services.
On the other side of the coin, they’re also a great ‘help desk’. Whether it’s a question about a return or a delivery time, a quick and efficient answer creates a great user experience.
A chatbot does take a bit of time to set up – you’ll need to program them with answers to begin with – but once you’ve done this, you won’t need to man the keyboard responding to every customer query.
And great news for small business – they’re also extremely accessible and affordable. Check out some some paid and free options here.
Your own PA (kind of).
While AI definitely can’t do everything a polished and professional human PA can do, it’s great for scheduling meetings.
When you’re on the road or just busy running your business, finding a mutually agreeable time to meet with a supplier or to schedule a client appointment can be a process. Instead of going back and fourth to lock in a date and time, an AI scheduling assistant does this all for you. Sync to your calendar then simply CC them in an initial email proposing a meeting and they do the rest. They even come with human names and friendly personalities, so the person on the other end of the email won’t realise they’re dealing with AI. Plus they’re great-value! With one particular AI company supplying ‘Amy’ or ‘Andrew’ for a bargain each month.
Turning data into useful insights.
Most businesses have access to mountains of data (think Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, email marketing analytics, customer feedback, sales data – the list goes on) but few small businesses have the time or resources to trawl through and pull out the meaningful insights needed to drive growth and make better business decisions.
Nowadays, small businesses can plug AI-enabled tools into virtually any element of their business workflow that involves data. Tools like MonkeyLearn and Wootric, for example, use machine learning and sentiment analysis to contextualise data from customer comments, emails, etc. and distil it into practical business insights. In other words, they turn raw data into actionable insights – an invaluable resource for any small business in today’s data-driven economy.
These applications are only scratching the surface of what’s possible with artificial intelligence and machine learning for small businesses. In fact, the number of tools to automate tasks, gather data analytics, manage communications and more grows larger by the day.