Explore the Role of Artificial Intelligence in Business

It isn’t uncommon to hear talk of robots replacing humans at work. You’ve likely seen a TV show or movie that depicts this precise scenario. Although artificial intelligence (AI) will play a role in automating work, it won’t entirely replace human labour or command our day-to-day activities – despite the best efforts of Hollywood!

Believe it or not, the concept of ‘artificial intelligence,’ was first coined way back in 1956. Despite this,  we’ve only just begun to see AI live up to its full potential thanks to the onset of advanced algorithms, increased data volumes, computing power and storage upgrades. This technology allows machines to learn from experience to perform tedious tasks normally done by humans. Think of self-driving cars, assembly lines, smartphone voice assistants, and computers that play games against live humans as different examples of AI in the real world.

The role of artificial intelligence in business has grown as more people realize the benefits. AI is now present in many industries, including retail, manufacturing, law and healthcare, to name a few. It allows them to reduce labour costs and time-consuming tasks, while providing a more interactive experience for their customers.

How Does Artificial Intelligence (AI) Work?

So, you’re curious – how does AI work? How can complex tasks, that once required careful attention to detail by a human, be conducted to the same level (or sometimes better) by a computer? To best understand the inner workings of AI, we must look at its various sub-domains, with the following three being most prominent.

Machine Learning: This scenario involves a machine making decisions based on past experiences. It will analyse previous data to pick up on patterns, reaching a final decision without the need for human intervention.

Neural Networks: Much like the neural cells of the human brain, this concept involves a machine using interconnected units to respond to external inputs. These inputs are continually passed around different units to find meaning and connections towards a decision.

Deep Learning: Utilizes large neural networks and layers of processing units. This method makes use of improved computer processing to analyse large and complex datasets. This is mainly used in photo and speech recognition.

Five Ways AI Can be Used to Make Small Business More Efficient

In the past, AI was considered a luxury for most businesses. It was adopted by larger organizations that could afford it, leaving others on the sidelines. Thanks to its improved accessibility and range of capabilities, it has become more common to see AI in small business settings. How can you make use of AI in your business?  

  1. Automate Manual Processes:

 AI is most effective when it automates tedious manual processes like data entry. Almost every business – big or small – has a shared drive containing lengthy excel documents used for tracking, managed by a human. An AI system can eliminate the need for physical intervention and assist with data capture, document indexing and more, freeing your employees to focus on other meaningful projects.

  1. Customer Behavior:

 You may know what your regular customers want and like, but what about new customers or those you haven’t met in person? Perhaps you’ve noticed low uptake in website visits and ecommerce. Businesses can use AI to gauge a customer’s experience. For example, implementing a website-visit survey that asks questions about navigation, speed, customer service and overall satisfaction. The system can then collect the information and provide a synopsis used for improvement.

  1. Chatbots and Self-Service:

One of the best ways that businesses can make use of AI is through self-service options – primarily chatbots. Calling and waiting on hold can be frustrating and time consuming, while sending an email inquiry and waiting 2-3 business days for a reply might not be an option. Customers want service and they want it quickly. Chatbots can assist in this area by scheduling appointments and providing automated replies to frequently asked questions. With this technology, customers can access around the clock service, while allowing employees to focus on more complex inquiries.

  1. Add Predictability to Your Supply Chain:

Businesses lose money by ordering too much of a product that never sells. Depending on the product, this can result in price reductions below cost or spoiled goods thrown away. Trying to forecast demand without the assistance of computer models can be difficult, if not impossible. AI can help employees in charge of the supply chain to better analyze large amounts of data, sometimes in real-time. This data can provide a better understanding of trends through the lens of the previous year’s sales and other key indicators. The information provided in supply chain data can help your organization stay well-stocked with the right product, ultimately leaving your customers happy and your bottom line intact.

Resource: Amazon AWS provides a range of services including chatbots, demand forecasting, fraud prevention and more.

  1. Cyber Security

Another great AI tool for small business comes in the form of antivirus software or other built-in system defenses. A cyber attack, such as ransomware, can cripple a business by throwing it into extended periods of downtime. Consequences can include the theft of customers’ personal information, while the entire experience can cost a business thousands of dollars, especially if the fix involves paying a ransom. AI can assist in the early detection of suspicious activity through anomaly detection. It can also complete regular system analyses to determine if there are opportunities for improvement. Outside of your IT team, other employees may not be cybersecurity experts, nor can they be relied on to follow up with regular software updates. Allowing AI to watch your back provides added peace of mind.

Listen: On the Road Podcast Episode 1: What to Include in a Small Business Cybersecurity Checklist

The Bottom Line: Improve Small Business Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction

The role of artificial intelligence in business is undeniable. It has effects on various individuals from employees to end customers. It can help to reduce redundant tasks, forecast with better accuracy, and keep bad actors away from personal information. AI comes in many forms, and it’s important that businesses adopt this technology, especially in the realm of data entry and customer service. Although it can be intimidating to front-line employees, it should be reiterated that although AI provides for human-like interactions, it its not a replacement for humans on the job.