Artificial intelligence_Smart thinking for business

27

November

Mention Artificial Intelligence (AI) and it’s tempting to think sci-fi. But forget robotic dogs and automated butlers (at least for now), because AI is already having a significant impact in less obviously ‘theatrical’ ways.

Artificial intelligence is based on computer systems that change and adapt to circumstance through learning.

Obvious examples right now are image recognition and processing, the ‘machine vision’ that makes possible driverless cars. Also ‘hot’ is natural-language processing – analyzing audio and responding to the spoken word. This opens up the world of automated real-time translation services.

But what does AI mean for the smaller business? Is it a ‘secret sauce’ you could use to gain advantage over much larger competitors? Or is it still too ‘out there’ to be of practical benefit right now?

The first thing to realize is that AI is the ‘here and now’. Research firm Forrester says 12% of businesses are already implementing AI technologies, even if some may not even know they are. Your CRM probably uses its machine learning capabilities — a type of artificial intelligence — to log customer email and calendar activity and recommend best actions.

And AI’s not just the preserve of big business.

Blake Irving, CEO of web hosting firm GoDaddy, for instance, believes AI won’t only reshape the world’s economy through the efficiencies it offers, but give smaller businesses a real advantage in the process.

These are just a few of the things that AI will help smaller businesses do better.

One. Create a more personalized customer experience. By enabling you to see connections in data you might otherwise have missed, AI lets you better predict an individual customer’s preferences. Being able to do this will be increasingly important with over half of customers saying they will switch brands in future if a company doesn’t anticipate their needs.

Two. Solve problems faster. If a product issue arises, you can use an artificial intelligence system to resolve it without involving human customer services. Imagine the AI call center that’s learned to interpret so many different accents that no matter who phones in, they won’t have to wait on hold but will instead get an appropriate response immediately. This is possible with natural-language processing.

Three. Enjoy more qualified sales leads. AI apps can interrogate customer data so as to identify those most likely to do business with you right now. By using such predictive analytics, Meeto, a British company that develops apps for real time audience polling, was able to grow its user base by 400% in 2016 alone.

Four. Remove administrative inconvenience. For instance, by rescheduling business meetings and managing travel issues without you having to do a thing, AI apps can help make life run more smoothly and free up your time. With an ‘AI assistant’ riding shotgun, suddenly time-consuming manual chores become a thing of the past.

AI’s increasing affordability means that the technology is already open to even the smallest businesses, and will be ever more so as ‘AI as a Service’ (AIaaS) becomes the norm.

Going forward, companies need to see AI as an opportunity. Undoubtedly, some technological unemployment will result, just as it has in the past with any disruptive event.

Discover your level of Digitalization

Though technology offers smaller businesses so many opportunities, it’s often not easy to decide on what should be your next ‘digital step’ or when you should take it.

To help make that clearer, we have created our Digitalization Index, a unique tool that helps you determine your digital options based on more than 200 parameters and competitor benchmarks.