When people say artificial intelligence, it can bring to mind a lot of different things. Maybe the first thing you think of is movies with a futuristic AI theme. Or maybe you think about a news article exploring if AI is going to replace certain jobs. Or, perhaps, you wonder about the future of AI in small business.
Whether we realize it or not, AI impacts a lot of things we do every day already. But what role does it play for small businesses today and in the future?
What exactly is artificial intelligence?
In general, artificial intelligence means computers or other technology that can perform tasks typically associated with intelligent beings. Some easy examples include opening your phone using facial recognition, playing a virtual reality game, or using an app to help you navigate. In other words, it’s not as far off and unfamiliar as some of those movies make it seem.
What does AI look like for small businesses?
Many small businesses and nonprofits may think AI is out of reach for them due to budget constraints. In many cases, that’s probably true, at least in terms of the more advanced AI technology that large companies can access. But there are starting to be more AI-focused tools that can be used to enhance your marketing efforts overall, including email marketing tools, CRM integrations, and scheduling systems. In fact, if you’re using an automated phone system, you’re already somewhat using AI for small business, though it’s also a lot of programming rather than full AI.
What is the value of using AI?
One of the biggest reasons that many companies use AI technology is to save time. While it may not fully replace a position in your company (and you may not want it to), it can give you or your team members several hours back each week. However, that time savings could also result in a slightly different experience for your customers, so take that into consideration as well.
You don’t want to focus so much on saving time that you harm the customer relationship, but you also want to be realistic about your team’s time and the value it creates. If you do decide to put something in place, make sure to monitor it and pay attention to how it’s impacting both employees and customers.
Does it line up with your values?
There will continue to be lots of talk about AI in small business. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do something just because a competitor or a fellow business owner is doing it. Ask yourself if using artificial intelligence aligns with your values and your brand? If not, then don’t do it, at least not on a scale that would have a negative impact for you. But chances are, there are small ways you can incorporate AI into your business to save time or reduce stress and even deliver on a better customer experience.