AI for small business has become an increasingly hot topic in the new climate. As SMEs move more of their operations online and introduce new technologies to empower decentralised workforces, they have a lot on their plate. But by enabling SMEs to automate processes and become more customer-centric, AI can help do some of the heavy lifting. AI can also help SMEs leverage analytics to make smarter, data-backed decisions.
Let’s take a look at what exactly AI is, as well as how AI for small business can be a game-changer for SMEs in the current climate and beyond.
AI, or Artificial Intelligence, refers to the creation of machines or systems that can perform tasks that once required human intelligence. The idea of artificial intelligence has been around for over 70 years. Alan Turing wrote a paper on creating intelligent machines in 1950, and the Logic Theorist program – the “first artificial intelligence program” was developed in 1956.
Today, AI powers everything from smart cars and autopilot features on commercial flights to chatbots and voice assistants on mobile phones. AI also promises to radically reimagine the future, with game-changing implications for medicine, financial services, the battle against disinformation and more. In fact, a PwC report shows that AI could result in a 14% boost in global GDP in 2030. And while the long-term impact of AI will be seismic, it’s already driving change and empowering small businesses to do more with less.
AI-powered communities, smart vehicles and robotic surgeons may be the norm one day. But for small businesses, the future is now. AI is already helping small businesses free up their workforces, optimise their supply chains, improve their marketing and better serve their customers.
Here are just some of the transformative benefits that AI for small business can provide your growing business:
Increased productivity through automated processes. By leveraging AI to automate routine, mundane work, SMEs can free their workforce to concentrate on more business-critical tasks. In other words, sales and service reps can focus on their customer, rather than productivity-killing admin.
Productivity gains through an augmented workforce. PwC report predicts that labour productivity improvements are expected to account for over 55% of GDP gains from AI between 2017 – 2030. And over a third of large, global organisations are already supporting their customer service teams with AI. This creates an imperative for SMEs, who need to offer the same level of service as their larger counterparts.
Better customer service. It’s not just big international firms that are turning to AI to turbocharge service; SMEs are empowering their teams as well. AI not only helps bring reps closer to their customers, it can help SMEs deliver personalised experiences at scale.
Better opportunities for upselling and cross-selling. Upselling and cross-selling are key for SMEs looking to drive revenue. AI can predict cross-sell and upsell opportunities and surface the right recommendations to customers at the right moment.
Improved logistics and smarter supply chains. Supply-chain difficulties are creating challenges worldwide, but the AI supply-chain revolution promises new ways to manage the supply chain. AI can analyse volumes of data, provide end-to-end visibility and support better decision-making.
While popular culture and dystopian sci-fi may often portray artificial intelligence as a tool for displacing humans, the truth is that AI is being used to empower them.
From automating repetitive tasks to providing sales reps and service agents with actionable information in real time, AI for small business can help people do their jobs more efficiently. In turn, the workforce can spend their time on work that prioritises creativity and deep thinking.
Here are a few ways that SMES are using AI for small business.
Deploying chatbots to provide self-service options for customers. Implementing AI-powered chatbots empower both customers and service reps to be more efficient.
Delivering personalised recommendations. SMEs can take a page from Netflix, Amazon and Spotify, who all rely on AI-powered algorithms to provide personalised experiences.
Improving products and processes through data-driven insights. AI-driven analytics can help SMEs optimise their products and services. Just look at fields like agriculture, where AI is being used to maximise yields in surprising new ways.
Tailoring marketing campaigns & communications. Businesses used to have to spend large amounts for one-size-fits-all billboards, which were cost-prohibitive for many SMEs. But AI now makes it possible to deliver tailored communications at scale for a fraction of the cost.
The potential applications for AI are vast. Even better, the benefits of AI can be felt across industries. If you’ve always thought about AI as being something for bigger companies, you might be surprised at the benefits for SMEs. Here are just a few:
Online Retail: AI is taking eCommerce to powerful new places. Beyond leveraging AI to provide recommendations, online retailers can use it to tailor marketing campaigns, analyse customer reviews and tag and categorise products.
Customer Support: Customer service teams that haven’t yet introduced AI to make their operations more personal and efficient will find it difficult to meet new service expectations. Today’s customers want self-service options and they expect reps to know their unique wants and needs: AI can help. For instance, deploying chatbots can help customers resolve their own issues quickly and efficiently, while enabling service reps to focus on more complex issues.
Logistics: AI can help SMEs manage their logistics by providing better visibility into end-to-end processes. AI can also help SMEs make better, data-backed decisions by using analytics to evaluate risks and disruptions.
From retail to agriculture. From service to sales. From personalisation to risk management. AI is not just changing the way we live; it’s changing the way we work.
To see how Salesforce can help your SME leverage AI to work smarter and make better connections, grab your free copy of Your Complete CRM Handbook.