Improving business efficiency with AI

by | Jan 17, 2019 | Upcoming Tech

used with permission from Microsoft Industry Blogs

Small businesses can use AI to improve their bottom line

Chatbots cut business costs by $20 million last year. By 2022, that savings is expected to jump to $8 billion.[1] That’s an increase of about 75% in five years. Artificial intelligence (AI) allows customers to ask questions, compare products and pricing, and make purchases, without speaking to a sales representative. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their enterprise relationships without interacting with a human. Not only does this empower consumers, but it saves your business time and money with fewer personnel on the payroll.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

To understand what AI means today, it helps to go back in time. In the mid-19th century, when a person carried out a task that required thinking, problem solving, planning, learning, or reasoning, it was said that they had to “apply intelligence” to accomplish the job. When computers began carrying out those same tasks (counting, for example, or tracking inventory), that machine was said to use “artificial intelligence.”

Today, artificial intelligence is all around us, from asking Cortana to search for information to the advent of self-driving cars. Small businesses have much to gain from taking advantage of this technology, especially in light of the competitive landscape. While powerhouse enterprises make it difficult for smaller retailers to compete, technology levels the playing field. Not only does it create possibilities to reach customers where they prefer to spend their time, but it allows for faster, more natural communication with consumers in the way that suits them best.

AI in use

AI is all around us, and you may already be utilizing it without even realizing it. Focused Inbox in Outlook simplifies your email based on your preferences. Over time, it understands the people you interact with often to show you the most important messages. OneDrive uses AI to power its intelligent search function, automatically extracting searchable text from images. This brings a whole new power to business cards, receipts, and important documents. In many ways, AI is the next evolution of the tools companies are using. Taken a step further, small businesses can benefit by adding AI to automate repetitive tasks, saving both time and money.

In the front of the house, small businesses can use AI to improve sales and customer retention. From employee hiring and retention to inventory control and sales forecasting, AI can positively impact back of the house functions too.

Smarter sales teams

AI makes sales teams smarter and more efficient by using data to inform lead generation efforts. By analyzing customer intent in chatbot inquiries, leads can be automatically routed to the correct person. This allows sales teams to focus their efforts where they can be most productive. Businesses can gain valuable insights from customer data and consumer sentiment can be analyzed across all channels so that sales efforts can be adjusted as necessary.

Improved customer experience

Many small businesses are built on one-to-one relationships, but the last few years has seen a rise in automated services that take something away from that experience. AI gives consumers a more personal experience while allowing businesses to scale without losing touch. With AI, businesses can reduce average handling time and automate repetitive queries to vastly improve customer satisfaction.

Increased productivity

Small businesses can utilize AI to evaluate candidates as they’re screened and measure employee productivity. By analyzing key insights about what’s working and what’s not, businesses are better able to increase their team’s productivity and provide constructive feedback to improve employee confidence and retention.

More accurate forecasting

Small businesses can use technology to predict inventory needs, sales ebbs and flows, and potential risks. With the ability to forecast demand, businesses can save money and streamline processes. Repetitive administrative tasks can be automated too, freeing up time to focus on more important endeavors like building customer relationships and increasing revenue.

With AI, small businesses have the power and flexibility they need to turn ideas into solutions and stay ahead of the competition. Getting started can be overwhelming – that’s why we’re offering a webinar designed to help retailers discover the benefits of AI and learn how chatbots are changing the game. Join executive leaders at Microsoft as they discuss chatbots in the retail industry and how to get started with the Microsoft Bot framework.