By Kayla Matthews
One of the most significant breakthroughs of the past few decades has been artificial intelligence. However, AI has mostly reserved for big tech companies that could afford to research how it worked and develop custom AI-powered tools — until recently.
There is now a variety of tools, platforms and solutions directed at end-users who don’t necessarily have deep AI or technical knowledge — meaning that almost every business can take advantage of the tech. Here are a few different applications of AI for your business, regardless of size.
Customer Service Chatbots With AI
One of the biggest benefits of AI is that it can overcome some of limits of conventional automation. Customer support chatbots, for example, have proven tough to automate well. Most of the time, the hard-coded, pre-written responses that make these bots work make them inflexible — and, as a result, not great at helping customers. Usually, if a customer needed a question answered and they turned to a chatbot, they’d end up speaking to a customer support rep, anyway — or click away when they couldn’t get an answer.
While these conventional chatbots are clunky, however, most customers still want support right away. They’re also willing to talk to a chatbot if it means getting support sooner. For many businesses, especially smaller businesses, service reps can’t be available 24/7. Some kind of automated solution will probably be necessary — but conventional chatbots can’t always provide quality customer service.
AI chatbots take a more intelligent approach. These bots use tech like natural language processing to more intuitively read and respond to customer questions. They’ve proven much better at handling basic customer requests than conventional bots. According to data from Salesforce, 64 percent of service agents with AI chatbots are able to spend their time handling complex customer issues, compared to 50 percent of agents with non-AI chatbots.
These AI chatbots also collect a lot of information — like what a customer needs or even how they’re feeling — that they can pass on to a customer support rep, if the bot can’t handle the customer’s request. Reps who pick up requests from a chatbot will have a much better idea of how to help the customer as a result.
AI-Powered Workforce Management
Another strength of AI is its ability to find patterns in vast amounts of information. This means that AI tools are great at using large data sets — like historical sales data — to make predictions.
Most businesses with employees generate serious amounts of staff and customer data, but don’t take full advantage of this information. AI-powered workforce management tools can apply AI algorithms to your business’s data to optimize employee scheduling and forecast workforce needs. The insights these platforms generate can help you avoid over- or under-staffing. By offering an estimate of how many customers will be in your store, hour-by-hour, you can more accurately schedule employees.
Business Intelligence With AI
Business intelligence (or BI) tools with AI also allow businesses to more effectively use the data they create. These tools help companies collect, organize and analyze business data — information on sales, marketing, payroll and anything else — so they can make better decisions about their business direction.
Most modern BI platforms from major companies — like Microsoft’s Power BI or IBM’s Cognos Analytics — come with AI tools active by default. If you learn the platform, you won’t need any advanced training to take advantage of these features. Often, the AI features actually make the platforms more valuable and easier to use. For example, Power BI includes natural language processing. With this feature, it’s possible to type in a plain-language request — like “what were our highest-selling products last quarter” — and you’ll receive a visualization of that data, no menu-navigation or coding necessary.
Applications of AI for Any Business
Artificial intelligence has changed how the biggest businesses analyze data and solve problems. New AI-powered tools and platforms allow businesses of any size to do the same thing. Chatbots with AI can intelligently respond to and answer customer questions. Analytics platforms can take the data that businesses already generate and analyze it.
As AI tech becomes more advanced, it’s likely that new AI tools will be developed, and that existing platforms will continue to add AI-powered features.
About the Author: Kayla Matthews writes about communication and workplace productivity on her blog, Productivity Theory. Her work has also appeared on Talent Culture, MakeUseOf, The Muse and Fast Company.