It's been a huge technology trend for the last few years and, certainly, the demand for innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) shows no sign of slowing down. We know that big companies around the world have already started to incorporate AI into their business operations. And industry trailblazers like Bill Gates and Elon Musk have spoken out about the effectiveness of AI in business. But what does all this mean for you? Is there a place for AI in small businesses and new startups? Here, we find out how AI can help entrepreneurs grow new businesses. And stay ahead of the game...
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
Often referred to as machine intelligence or machine learning, AI technology is about 'teaching' machines to display human characteristics, like considered analysis and problem solving. Of course, it's no substitute for natural human intelligence, but it can be used to simplify basic tasks like calculations, monitoring and planning. Most importantly, AI can help to sort information and interpret data. There is some concern over the extent to which AI could replace humans in the workplace. But, for now, let's focus on how it can be used to better your small business workplace.
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How can AI help you grow your small business?
Keep up with cash flow
This is something most small businesses struggle with, especially in the early days. Because business owners have so much on their plates, it's often difficult to keep up with the details surrounding loan repayments, monthly sales figures and projected income based on when clients will pay. All this means that if there's the slightest hiccup, or even faster business growth than expected, it could lead to a cash flow crunch. But, things like AI-assisted business dashboards and integrated systems can help you keep track of every facet of your business. From projected sales and salaries, to tax payments and credit scores.
This is an area where AI is already being used extensively. With the growth of e-commerce and online retail, it's become more and more important to offer accurate delivery and logistics services. Here, AI can help with everything from tracking the best route for your drivers to monitoring warehouse stock and delivery feedback. Big companies like Takealot and UberEats have mastered the art of efficient logistics, and your small business can too. As we become accustomed to living with COVID-19, the online retail industry has only grown. Why not take advantage of the situation and make the most of AI technology to make sure your business offers a flawless logistics system?
Increase customer communication
In any new business, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is crucial. According to Microsoft, AI-enabled CRM software is there to help you learn about your customers. So that you can give them a better, more individualised service. AI can help your customers by offering assistance and insight 24/7, even after employees have left for the day. Consider using chatbots on your website or social media pages, so that any frequently asked questions can be answered there and then. AI systems can also help to anticipate what a customer needs, provide them with useful information and determine whether it's time for human help. It's there to let you know when you need to step in.
Just like AI-assisted chatbots can help improve communication between you and your customers, they can also be used to transfer information between you and your staff. With customers, chatbots can answer questions like which regions you deliver to, when the season sales can be expected, and what your policy is on returns. So think about what the frequently asked questions are with your staff. New HR chatbot solutions are being developed to handle topics like leave days, pension fund queries and company policies so that you can focus on the more complex HR matters.
There are probably many more ways AI can be incorporated into your business, and it's likely that the innovations will only grow. We've highlighted a few useful AI efficiencies, but keep an eye out for more.