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How AI can work for small business

For lots of small business owners, AI (Artificial Intelligence) is a daunting topic – one that can only truly be understood by data scientists and tech experts. 

 

The reality is, however, that AI is already all around us – even infiltrating its way into our everyday lives. A study by Pegasystems has shown that only 33% of people think they use AI, but really, 77% have already implemented it – most commonly through using an AI-powered device. 

 

If you’ve got Google Home giving you weather updates, Siri answering your obscure questions, or Cortana reminding you about upcoming appointments – you’re already immersed in the world of AI.

 

But for many businesses, especially start-ups and those on the smaller end of the spectrum, AI is intimidating. It’s foreign. And even a little scary. They worry it might end human interaction, and possibly even replace real, tangible, livingstaff. Because of these concerns, and AI’s reputation as somewhat of an ‘alien’ concept, it often falls to the wayside as the business-as-usual tasks like generating leads and closing invoices take priority. 

 

Word to the wise, however, is that AI’s role in small business is not to be ignored. AI helps work through and solve day-to-day business problems, meaning small teams can work smarter, faster, and more efficiently than ever. And plenty of small businesses are taking advantage of AI every day already.

 

Chatbots, as an example, are an invaluable resource for many small businesses and start-ups. Chatbots are computer programs that can talk to users just like real humans. Companies using chatbots give them an identity, often even a ‘human’ name, because the bots are can understand spoken and written text. Once they’ve comprehended the meaning of the question or statement, they then offer the most relevant information or solution to users.

 

Chatbots are an excellent tool for increasing return on investment. According to InsightSquared, a reduction of 5 percent in customer churn rate increases profit margins between 25 and 125 per cent. By engaging in more meaningful ways with customers, chatbots can keep them from looking elsewhere.

 

AI is also becoming a crucial tool for data collection and analysis. A recent study conducted by Qualtrics has shown that 96 percent of leaders in the marketing industry rely on AI to take care of repetitive research tasks, including data clearing, before 2030.  

For small business, AI is vital in drawing meaningful conclusions from more limited amounts of information. While techniques such as statistical regression analysis were not at the disposal of small business with small budgets prior to AI, they’re now available, affordable and intuitive, thanks to AI.

 

Another function of AI for small business is being able to hire smarter. With less brand recognition, smaller networks, and less resources than large corporates – small businesses have a tougher time recruiting the right talent. However, small businesses still compete with the big wigs when it comes to securing people – often contending with companies with their own dedicated HR departments. 

But now, AI is an excellent leveller in the hiring contest. Rummaging through CVs was once a manual process performed by an employee, but now – AI has made the process efficient and streamlined. 

By looking through your past hiring processes and practices, AI can pull together data and determine what was most effective for you. AI can also help with determining what types of communications are best for specific candidates, finding talent in places you wouldn’t normally look, and letting you know the relevant information about the candidate’s history.

In this competitive business landscape, where small businesses have to compete with both their smaller and larger counterparts, AI is a game changer. To remain a player in the marketplace, small businesses need a future-proofed AI technology platform to keep them ahead of the curve.

For more on AI tune into CGU’s new podcast in partnership with SBS, The Few Who Do– two hosts, one problem, two possibilities. 

In Episode 3 “Not OK Computer: Future Proofing Artificial Intelligence” hosts Jan Fran and Marc Fennell tackle bias and ethics in AI.