James Zahansky, AWMA®
Principal/Managing Partner, Investment Advisor & Chief Goals Strategist
Small businesses looking to gain an edge may want to start the new year by exploring the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI). Proponents of the technology believe it will increase productivity and reduce operating costs, allowing small businesses to stretch their limited resources and compete more effectively with larger rivals.
AI can help a company improve communications with customers when it’s used in chatbots or to develop targeted market programs. AI can also analyze data, allowing managers to make more rapid and better-informed decisions. The cutting-edge technology isn’t perfect. It can generate incorrect answers to queries, so for now it still requires human supervision. But there’s no doubt that artificial intelligence is changing the way businesses operate, just as the Internet and software did in years past.
Here are some of the ways small businesses can benefit from AI.
Improving Customer Experience
AI has made chatbots much smarter. Traditional chatbots respond to a specific list of questions with a specific set of answers. AI-powered chatbots can be trained on a company’s information and are much better at interpreting and responding to customers’ inquiries. They can offer more personalized and conversational answers, making customers feel like they’re conversing with a human and not a robot.
Some chatbots can be connected to a company’s e-commerce system or customer relationship management system so it can retrieve information that’s specific to the customer making the inquiry. At their best, chatbots improve customer service and satisfaction, while cutting staffing costs.
Other AI programs can help companies turn sales leads into future customers. These programs can follow up on leads via website chat, text or email, making sure that none fall through the cracks. They also know when it’s time to pass the lead on to a human salesperson to continue the conversation and close the sale. The process allows the employee to prioritize the leads that are most likely to turn into actual sales, saving time and improving efficiency.
AI software can collect and analyze data on past customer behavior, preferences, and demographics to create marketing messages that are targeted and impactful. Marketing programs can be tailored to different segments of customers so that the message delivered via email, social media or other means has maximum impact.
AI programs can be amazingly creative. Prompted by just a few words or a phrase, AI programs can generate pictures and written content that can be used as part of a marketing program or on a website. AI programs can be used to generate ideas at the start of a project, to write colorful product descriptions, or to create a rough draft of a blog post. Conversely, some AI programs are used to edit writing, suggesting changes to grammar or even tone.
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Smarter Data Analytics
A number of AI programs can help small businesses collect and interpret data across their operations. By gathering information about inventory, sales, and orders, management can better understand how their business is performing. Managers can also compare where the business stands today and where it stood in years past.
AI-generated information helps managers better understand their customers, market trends, and their own operations so they can make any necessary operational adjustments more quickly. Changes might involve increasing or reducing inventory levels, addressing inventory bottlenecks, and predicting when maintenance is necessary on equipment.
AI can also be used to analyze a company’s financial data, gathering information from various sources including accounting systems, bank statements, and sales invoices. The ability to identify anomalies, detect fraud or suspicious transactions as well as innocent errors also makes AI programs useful.
Benefits and Pitfalls.
As with most things in life, AI programs have their pros and cons. With artificial intelligence, a company can potentially become more efficient in many different areas, saving valuable time and money. However, integrating AI programs into a business will take an upfront investment of both time and money before those benefits begin to accrue.
Some AI programs can generate incorrect information, what techies like to call “hallucination,” so AI output requires human monitoring. Most importantly, businesses that rely too heavily on artificial intelligence may lose their personal connection with customers, something that we here at WHZ value greatly as the most important aspect of ensuring the best possible experience for our clients. That said, the impressive benefits of artificial intelligence may make it worth the time, effort, and money necessary to deploy it throughout an organization as long as your client or customer relationships and experience never suffer in the process.
Our team at WHZ works closely with a wide variety of businesses to help create and maintain a strategic plan aimed at achieving continued financial efficiency, growth and success, for both the business itself as well as the business owner. If you’d like to learn more about how our Plan Well. Invest Well. Live Well.™ process can benefit you and your business, give us a call at (860) 928-2341 or book a complimentary consultation online any time on our website.
Authored by Principal/Managing Partner James Zahansky, AWMA®. Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. These materials are general in nature and do not address your specific situation. For your specific investment needs, please discuss your individual circumstances with your representative. Weiss, Hale & Zahansky Strategic Wealth Advisors does not provide tax or legal advice, and nothing in the accompanying pages should be construed as specific tax or legal advice. 697 Pomfret Street, Pomfret Center, CT 06259 and 392-A Merrow Road, Tolland, CT 06084. 860-928-2341. www.whzwealth.com.