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Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the world of business. From chatbots to self-driving cars, AI is enabling new products, services, and processes that were unimaginable a few years ago. However, many small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) may think that AI is too complex, too expensive, or too risky. Is AI only for big corporations that have deep pockets, large data sets, and the ability to attract and retain the technical staff needed to support AI workstreams?

 In this post, we will explore five reasons why SMBs MUST invest in AI, and how organizations can get started with AI without breaking the bank. We will also share some success stories of SMBs that have leveraged AI to grow their businesses and achieve their goals.

According to a recent survey by PwC, 34% of SMBs use AI or plan to use it in the next 12 months to improve operational efficiency.

SMBs should be leveraging AI to increase productivity and efficiency. By automating repetitive and tedious tasks like data entry, invoicing, payroll, and inventory management, SMBs can save significant time and resources. AI tools also help optimize workflows like scheduling, project management, and resource allocation, which can improve collaboration and communication among teams. Tools also support decision making by providing insights and predictions based on data analysis, which can help leaders identify and action for opportunities and risks.

According to a recent study by Salesforce, 51% of SMBs use chatbots or plan to use them in the next 18 months. AI can help SMBs improve customer service and satisfaction.

By enabling 24/7 support, personalized recommendations, and faster responses to customer queries and complaints, AI tools can be a difference-maker for SMBs. Depending on the business type, chatbots can automate customer interactions like booking appointments, answering FAQs, and providing feedback. Chatbots can also collect valuable data from customers, such as their preferences, needs, and behavior, which can help SMBs tailor their products and services accordingly.

According to a report by Accenture, SMBs that adopt AI can expect to see an average of 38% increase in profitability by 2035.

AI can help businesses of any size reduce costs and increase profitability. Reductions in operational expenses stemming from the automation and optimization of processes like as labor, energy, and maintenance can be game changers for even the smallest of firms, and the improvements don’t have to equate to layoffs. In small business, where employee tend to wear a lot of hats, freeing those individuals up to focus on other workstreams can generate new revenue sources or improve the experience for existing customers.  The bottom line can also be boosted thanks for reductions in errors, waste, and fraud, with corresponding increases to quality, accuracy, and customer loyalty.

According to a study by IBM, 45% of SMBs use AI or plan to use it in the next 12 months to gain competitive advantage.

AI-savvy SMBs can quickly dfferentiate themselves from competitors by offering unique and customized solutions, enhanced customer experience, rapid response programs and other offerings to enhance brand loyalty. By identifying new patterns, trends, opportunities and gaps, SMBs can be inspired to innovate and experiment with new products and services. The tools encourage collaboration across partner teams and supply chains, allowing all stakeholders to better leverage collective intelligence and creativity.

According to a report by Deloitte, 43% of SMBs use AI or plan to use it in the next 12 months to drive business growth.

SMBs are showing particular interest in tools that can help scale operations by handling more customers, transactions, and data without compromising on quality or performance. The development of new products and services doesn’t have to equate to increased costs or complexity of operations.  SMBs can adapt and evolve their businesses by better identifying and responding to changing customer needs, preferences, and expectations.

Below are a few tips and best practices for SMBs that want to dip their toes into the AI water:

  • Start with a single, clearly understood business problem, desired outcome and expected business value. This can be a use case around such goals as increasing sales, reducing churn, or improving customer satisfaction, and should be accompanied by key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics of success like conversion rate, retention rate, or net promoter score.
  • Hire a consultant to ensure that strategy – as well as the capabilities of existing technology products – will drive your efforts. Only after all stakeholders are aligned to the strategy, use cases, desired outcomes, resource allocations should a technology partner that aligns to those needs be researched. An advisor like Escalate Solutions can help guide you through considerations such as ease of use, integration with existing systems, scalability of the AI solution and provider, and the quality and security of the data and algorithms that they use. Testing and iteration with the solution should be conducted before any significant investment is made, with focus placed on ethical, legal and social implications as well as technical appropriateness and cost. 

If you are interested in learning more contact us via [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you and working with you on your AI journey.

GenAI resources were used in the drafting of this article.