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3 ways small businesses can start using AI right now

Artificial Intelligence isn’t the future – it’s the present. And while it may not be ready to take over all your tasks, it would be a mistake to ignore the ways it can benefit your business today.

Because AI doesn’t just solve problems for governments and tech giants. It has a whole host of practical applications for businesses small and large across every industry. There aren’t many companies that wouldn’t benefit from AI.

And it doesn’t need to be intimidating. There are some simple AI solutions that can make a tangible impact on your business today without disrupting everything you do. Here are three:

1. Automate your online customer service

Chatbots are one of the most effective ways to help guide customers when they arrive on your website.

Unlike simple chatbots, that offer a limited set of pre-programmed answers for common, predictable actions—like making a purchase or booking a flight—AI chatbots offer flexible responses to a wide range of user questions.

And they learn on the job: every conversation will help your bot respond more accurately to the next customer, so your interactions improve over time. 

AI voice assistants are another way to offer customers an increasingly efficient and personalised service. Gone are the days of wading through endless options, pressing 3 then 5 then 2 only getting through to the right person after a long, frustrating wait (and some hideous hold music). 

Instead, AI voice assistants can understand the whole context of a conversation, rather than just one command at a time. And when they understand the client’s goals, they can help.

Some systems even incorporate human-like touches, like background keyboard typing or a friendly ‘mm-hmm’ between exchanges. You may not have the sultry tones of John Legend answering calls (as recently unveiled by Google Assistant) but your voice assistant can.

Of course, both these solutions have limitations. They can’t lead the conversation or understand truly complex problems, and you will always need a human to back up the system. 

But they can help more customers get better assistance, and that if they do need to speak to you, you already know exactly why.  

You never want to disappoint a customer. If AI can help… it’s worth exploring.

2. Spotting patterns and making process improvements

Humans are made to spot patterns. We’re not bad at it, but we can only handle a limited amount of data. AI is also made to spot patterns, but it can handle a lot of data.

And it doesn’t just spot patterns: it spots patterns within patterns, loops within processes and can test models against data it doesn’t even have yet. And the more data it collects, the more useful the things it can spot.

Humans can’t do that – especially ones who are already tied up with the day to day demands of running a business.

Whatever data your business generates, AI can help you collect it, interpret it and ultimately benefit from it. 

AI is already built into a wide range of applications that can help you get a better understanding of your customers and how they interact with your website and products. Or develop more effective marketing campaigns based on conversion data. Or streamline operations based on past bottlenecks.

The best thing is that your business doesn’t have to invest in developing these AI solutions. Software companies are already doing that. All you have to do is put the new generation of AI-powered apps to work, integrating them with the way you do things.

It can make your whole operation slicker, smarter and more efficient. 

3. Insights for improved decision-making

You may have a hunch about something in your business. If we just tweak this one thing, it could transform our fortunes. AI and data can back that up—or tell you you’re barking up the wrong tree. 

Companies from finance to marketing to automotive are already using AI to make smarter decisions across the business. 

There’s one simple reason: every decision makes more sense if you can back it up with data. You may be making the right call anyway, but why not know instead of guessing?

The problem is, over 80% of data a business collects will be unstructured (not in a neat, tidy database or spreadsheet). And that makes it hard to analyze.

Human capacity is simply too limited to process millions of disparate data points—emails, images, audio, conversion, browsing time, customer journeys—without help from AI. 

But once you deploy AI, it can offer insight on every aspect of the business. Whether that’s monthly inventory, optimized scheduling, or detecting security threats.

In a company with limited resources (all companies, unless you happen to be Amazon or Google), you can’t afford to make bad decisions. 

AI can help with that. And investing in it now can make a huge difference down the line.

Again, you won’t have to figure it all out yourself. Just look for business intelligence and analytics software that has AI built in.

Deploying AI in your business is easier than you think—you can do it without breaking stride. It means you can improve customer experience, streamline your operations and make smarter decisions with more confidence. And every business can benefit from that.