How even small businesses can use AI to move forward

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer just in the realm of the largest global companies with the biggest budgets. With continuing advances in technology and lowering upfront costs, AI can help businesses of any size to achieve the goals and get ahead—without breaking the bank.

What are the benefits of AI for SMEs?

With its recent development and advances AI seems to be everywhere we look. Alexa, Siri, Cortana or Google Translate are just some of the services used by millions of people every day. The voice-search assistants carry out simple information searches and tasks, or make quick suggestions based on language processing software, while the user is doing something else, like driving a car.

Within two years, some digital analysts predict there will be more digital assistants than the entire population on Earth. These experts say that there will soon be around around 7.5 billion digital assistants, as the language processing software continues to improve at a rapid rate.

The ability to multi-task is one thing, but how else can AI help in small to medium-sized businesses?

In short, implementing AI into business workflow can improve ROI and business turnover. AI can be useful in companies of all sizes, particularly in making sense of generated data and analytics, which is often a good first step into the world of AI. These and other AI tools can increase efficiency and productivity without having to invest a substantial amount in software or infrastructure.

Excellent customer service

AI tools such as simple chatbots can substantially reduce wait times and reduce costs in providing excellent customer service. There are two types of chatbots currently used within small or medium-sized businesses. These are Script-based and AI-powered chatbots.

Script-based chatbots, follow a predefined script for a specific purpose, whereas AI-powered chatbots use machine learning and data drawn from previous conversations to interact and ‘talk’ like a human.

With the goal of driving customer engagement and better allocating limited, small business resources, these AI tools can sort customer tickets, forward messages, assist with simple problems or refer on to humans to complete a more complex task.

Fostering employee engagement

Creating a positive work environment often starts with employees being heard and feeling understood. AI tools can not only monitor organisation-wide employment in real-time, but can also gather feedback allowing employees to voice any concerns, then collate and analyse. Actioning this data can create a more engaging work environment with less effort, less time and a higher accuracy.

Determining market fit

Through tools such as Keatext or Monkeylearn, collecting feedback from users, analysing the data to understand how your product is used and by whom, can be done very quickly. AI can be used to build up a picture of a potential customer, meaning that business owners can then tailor specific marketing directly towards a small segment of audience, rather than take a scattergun or haphazard approach to marketing.

Understanding the competition

AI-based analytics can provide significant insights into competitors. Described as a competitive intelligence and analysis platform, a product like Crayon will scrutinise the business processes of your competitors. This AI tool can monitor any market, product or pricing changes in your competitors products or services, as well as more than 100 other data streams such as employee or customer reviews, amendments to website content or campaign launches. The AI tool then combines the gathered insights into simple and easy to consume real-time data. This can drive better strategic decisions so that small business owners and entrepreneurs can stay ahead of the market.

How can SMEs can employ AI now?

The cost and time benefits of now utilising AI are very real for SMEs. Repetitious work can be done quickly and efficiently, freeing employees to focus on the core business opportunities or act strategically on AI-gathered analytics.

So what’s the best way for a small business to start with AI?

Without investing huge sums of money, the answer is to leverage existing platforms. Using ready-made solutions offers an increasingly vast range of options. Small businesses have access to a large assortment of dedicated AI tools which automate or streamline many processes and routine day-to-day tasks.

Some examples include Tensorflow (TF) by Google. TF is a well maintained framework for machine learning and works with almost all major programming languages. Keras is another very user-friendly model and can be employed on top of TF, making it an ideal add-on. Facebook’s AI Research (FAIR) lab is also available across all major platforms.

None of these platforms can be integrated overnight, and not without a good degree of proficiency, However, the promise of being able to improve efficiency and productivity with the manageable investment of an out-of-the-box solution, could be a game-changer for small and medium businesses.

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