Technological evolutions have enabled businesses of varying types to enhance their products and service quality and improve the operations in big ways. It is no longer only about using the latest software or having a stunning app to woo the customers. Companies of varying types are leaning towards the adoption of AI technology solutions. AI and machine learning solutions are being embraced by the MNCs and corporate giants across the world. Gartner states that by 2020, 55% of customer-business relationships in enterprises will be managed through AI. However, the rate of adoption of such futuristic and emerging tech in small and midsized companies is still slow. This trend is set to change soon, say the business analysts. If you are one of the small businesses thinking to deploy these intelligent technologies for your venture, this article will help you make the right decisions. Will AI and ML Increase the Expenses or Decrease them? One big reason the SMBs hesitate to embrace AI technologies is the cost factor. These businesses have budgetary constraints, and they are skeptical about using technologies that can add to the running expenditure. But the truth is, AI-enabled deployments increases your productivity by 40% and reduces the cost being spent on the human workforce, says a study. Implementing AI solutions can indeed be quite costly for any company. However, the reality is post-deployment, the companies can obtain numerous benefits, and one of those is running cost deduction. Companies can execute more volume of work in less time using AI solutions while recruiting fewer people. These results in the long-term running cost reduction – regardless of the sector of the company. Benefits of Utilizing AI/ML-Driven Solutions for Business Operations Contrary to the popular conception, AI and ML-based solutions are not only limited to the giants like Microsoft and Apple or Amazon. Using such emerging software solution can be quite beneficial even for the small businesses belonging to diverse sectors. Here are a few of the advantages offered by AI and ML to businesses – Enhancing relationship with the customers For any company, keeping a good relationship with the customers is of utmost importance, and this includes small business setups too. In an era of cut-throat competition and knowledgeable customers, the SMBs need to deploy measures to retain the customers. AI-powered CRM solutions can do wonders in this regard. The customers get quick resolutions to their problems, and they also get customized recommendations. These add to the satisfaction level of customers. Automation of customer service operations The AI tools can be used by SMBs to automate parts of their customer service operations. This automation can be helpful for small companies with ambitious expansion plans and a growing customer base. It is found that the implementation of AI-based VCAs reduced the queries by 70% and saved 33% of voice call engagement expenditure. Automation helps in getting every day, and mundane customer care tasks accomplished instantly, without errors and intervention of human efforts. The support staff can look after the complex and pressing issues. Analysis of competitor operations and strategies Even for small-sized companies, learning about processes and policies of segment rivals is essential. This is where the AI-powered software solutions come into pictures. These software solutions can be used to gather data on strategies and online activities of rivals in a fast and efficient manner. By analyzing competitor activities and strategies, your company can devise ways to attract and retain the customers and stay ahead in the race. Data based customized service Customers have become choosier than in the past – everywhere. They not only want good products at reasonable rates; they seek personalized services as well. By using advanced AI solutions, small and midsized companies can understand customer preferences. After that, they can devise suitable personalized ads and product recommendations for the customers. Streamlining the recruitment process Unlike big businesses and MNCs, small and midsized companies may not always have a dedicated HR team or recruitment department. By using advanced AI tools, they can streamline the recruitment procedure and speed up things significantly. Through algorithm-based data analysis and pattern matching, such solutions can help companies zero in on the most eligible applicants for specific positions. Recruiting the right candidates is pivotal to the growth of any company – including the SMBs. Using chatbots 45% of your end-users prefer your business if you’ve deployed chatbot for customer care. Chatbots are already being used by big companies like Swiggy and many banking giants to streamline customer service operations. The smaller businesses can also benefit by using these solutions. Using chatbots can be helpful for companies with limited staff. Chatbots are useful in resolving basic and common customer queries. So, the small companies will be able to cater to more customers in less time by deploying this technology, even with a shortage of human resources. How to Utilize AI/ML to Increase Capabilities of your Organization? You can get custom products developed, or you can use AI/ML tools, available in the market – free or paid. However, it is not just enough to invest in an AI solution for your small or midsized venture. It is also necessary to have a proper and relevant deployment strategy for the solution and technology. Such technologies can be beneficial when they are adapted to the needs of specific setups. Listed below are effective ways to use AI and ML solutions: Getting familiar with AI and ML concepts Employees in a small business should be given the required knowledge about the concepts of AI and machine learning. They should be explained how embracing these emerging technologies can benefit the organization and help them work smart. Unless the employees are sensitized about the technology and its nuances, they will not be able to leverage its benefits properly. Online resources and tutorial videos can be utilized for such training. Identifying the problem areas to resolve with AI AI is not a gimmick for the SMBs. It is an underutilized technology that can be used to help these entities fix problem areas in operations. It may vary from one company to another. Typically, the areas that can be enhanced with the deployment of AI tech include logistics operations, customer support, inventory management, marketing, recruitment. Once the issues plaguing these areas are pointed out, it is easier to develop AI deployment strategies to enhance those. Deploying AI carefully and without hurry In its bid to implement AI tech in the company operations and outshine the rivals, a company should not go overboard. Till now, deploying AI solutions can be costly, and that is something SMBs have to bear in mind. Ideally, such deployments should be planned in advance and done at a time when the workflow is not high. The employees have to be prepared for the shift, and the deployment should be done in a phased manner. Balancing human operations with AI and ML AI and ML technologies are mostly deployed to augment human activities and rectify related errors, not to replace them. So, the SMBs should put in the best efforts to synchronize human operations with AI-driven ones. In the early stages, simple and common operations can be left to the AI solution. Later, based on results, more talks can be allotted to the AI-enabled solution. Applications of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Small Businesses Small businesses can make use of available and emerging AI technology, much like big businesses. Of course, they have budgetary constraints, but the procedures will follow the same paths, more or less – Marketing Research 61% of marketers find AI essential for their data strategy nowadays, as it saves a significant amount of time for them. So, there is no doubt that SMBs can make use of AI solution to ensure effective marketing method is chosen for specific regions and customers. This research can be done by utilizing robust data analysis features of AI solutions. Financial operations/accounting Small-sized companies dealing with financial services can also utilize AI tools. Processes like customer data verification and application processing get faster, and errors are eliminated when such means are used. In CRMs and ERPs AI technology and ML can be used by fast-growing SMBs to strengthen the relationship with the customers. They can use such tools to identify the shopping preferences of the customers and tweak their offerings and strategies accordingly. Similarly, it can be deployed to make ERPs intelligent and automate things well. Let us give you an example of this. Einstein AI by Salesforce can be deployed with Salesforce CRM. It is capable of analyzing the sentiments of customers through written or verbal text received from calls, emails, social media messages or posts, etc. So, the process of customer feedback evolution, which used to be very tough, time-consuming, and complicated, is now an easy and automated job as AI is implemented in CRM. Above all, it is more precise and trustable. Self-servicing The SMBs can also make use of AI tools to enable self-service options for their customers and employees. This application of AI can be done for operations like ticket generation and tracking, placing an order online and sending feedback about service, etc. Security Small-sized companies on the fast growth track, mainly those deals with financial services can use Ai tech to boost security and fraud detection. The Ai algorithms and mechanisms are capable of detecting financial transactions related to anomalies better than humans. Similarly, organizations can utilize these high-end technologies in other areas of their work, such as Human Resource, forecasting, and Analytics for your business too. There are plenty of business tools, such as Monkey Learn which allow organizations to extract data from different channels like excel, CSV and Google Sheets for various purposes like email automation, support, classification, tagging, etc. Is there any Downside of using AI and ML? Like every technological innovation, AI has to be used carefully. It is still an emerging tech and cannot be used in place of human operation in every instance. Most companies are using it to accomplish simple, repetitive tasks with accuracy and speed. Of course, AI-powered applications are equipped with advanced algorithm-based analysis and logical deduction, but these can’t be used to emulate human thinking and analysis completely. The deployment of AI technology has to be done, keeping an eye on the security aspect. As more business operations are being done using AI applications, the focus should be given to deploying stringent security measures. The malicious lot and hackers can wreak havoc if they get access to such powerful tech tools. Conclusion Do you know that 49% of customers show more willingness to shop from you while 34% of buyers purchase more than what they came for? Yes, PointSource Study concluded that. So, AI and ML are efficient and beneficial for small businesses – that is for sure. Despite the initial reluctance, small and midsized companies will start embracing AI and ML technologies shortly. Pricing remains a hindrance for some of these entities, but they need to look into long term cost reduction and other benefits that deploying such tools can bring. Proper planning and careful, phase-wise deployment of AI solutions will be prudent for the SMBs.