Tension is building in the business world. On one side lies mounting evidence that implementing artificial intelligence can rocket a business past its competitors. On the other, executives worry their company isn’t ready for AI.
Preparation is the difference between success and a wasted investment, and seeing high profile losses deters leaders from pushing forward with their own AI initiatives. That puts them at a disadvantage versus data-ready competitors.
A low-stress way to resolve this tension is to pilot one of the more “entry level” AI technologies. There are several relatively simple tools which can be used to build confidence in artificial intelligence.
A Cautious Approach
72% of companies feel AI is a major competitive advantage. It’s mostly larger companies moving to adopt, though. 40% of organizations with more than 500 employees are launching chatbots or intelligent assistants this year compared to about a quarter of smaller companies.
Why is there such a gap when so many recognize the potential of AI?
Small and medium companies hesitate for several reasons:
- Feel the technology isn’t enterprise-ready yet
- Security and privacy concerns
- Think cost is too high
- Not enough success stories
- Too complicated to implement
These fears reveal a common misconception about artificial intelligence. Adopting AI doesn’t have to mean a complete overhaul of existing tools and workflows. Companies can start small and integrate gradually to grow into a process that works for them. Here are some entry-level artificial intelligence tools to get the ball rolling.
Virtual assistants are probably the easiest form of AI to use. There’s a very low bar to entry since many companies already have them available. Virtual assistants often come bundled with popular enterprise software and productivity tools. Cortana, Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, and similar assistants require little to no setup. They can be learned in a single training session or even by using the software’s tutorial. In fact, nearly half of American adults use virtual assistants for personal business.
Virtual assistants vary, but common applications include:
- Voice to text dictation
- Team collaboration
- Calendar management
- Email management
- Travel planning
- Small scale research
- Data analysis
Right now, virtual assistants are most regularly used in the IT department. That’s an unfortunate waste of resources. Integrating these tools into daily operations cuts down on tedious administrative tasks and improves the efficiency of interdepartmental workflows. For example, when used to plan travel or meetings, the assistant updates all relevant calendars, so everyone is on the same schedule.
Since it’s likely a company already has virtual assistants available, putting them to work is mostly a matter of spreading awareness. Hold training to generate excitement and demonstrate the possibilities. Guide mid-level managers in integrating assistants into their existing workflows and make easy-to-navigate resources available for reference.
Conversational interfaces make a huge difference when they’re customer-facing, too. Chatbots can handle a flood of incoming customer inquiries without making customers wait on hold. They’re available all day, even after business hours, and are unfailingly polite no matter how frustrated a customer is. Chatbots typically transfer difficult issues to a live agent, but in practice they can handle 80% of routine questions unassisted.
About 45% of global internet users actually prefer a chatbot to a live representative as a first point of contact. They’re more willing to engage with bots than humans early in the purchase cycle, when they’re researching options. No-pressure information provided by a chatbot can inspire conversions down the road.
As an added benefit, chatbots power future artificial intelligence ventures. The data they provide on what customers want and need feeds the sales and marketing process.
There are a number of online bot builders, but those tend to be little more than toys. Security can also be an issue if the builder doesn’t understand the larger technical pictures. It’s safer- and surprisingly economical- to have a chatbot specifically built for the company website or social media page.
Marketing Email and Text Optimization
Marketers spend as much as 35 hours a week crafting and testing emails, and for good reason. Emails and texts have high ROI potential. They’re a major driver of business with low overhead. 61% customers like to get relevant emails from brands, and artificial intelligence helps create that relevance while reducing the time humans spend on the more tedious aspects of the process.
Intelligent email optimization software can generate personalized messages triggered by specific customer activities that indicate interest. They use tailored subject lines, internal content, and timing designed to catch each customer at the ideal spot in the purchase cycle. Artificial intelligence is the driving force behind the 3 year high on marketing email and text open rates.
While email optimization isn’t as simple to put in place as chatbots or virtual assistants, it’s an excellent choice for the early stages of AI adoption. It can demonstrate its value clearly and relatively quickly. Take Sprint as an example. Sprint began using artificial intelligence to guide their text interactions with customers. With targeted, relevant messages the company was able to reduce the number of texts sent to customers while improving base SMS marketing returns more than six times over.
Leading from The Front
Most importantly, have executives lead by example with these early tools. High adoption rates are a huge part of making any tech project work. If leaders show commitment to the artificial intelligence tools, their enthusiasm could make the difference between success and failure.
Ready to explore how artificial intelligence can benefit your enterprise? Set up a free appointment with one of Concepta’s developers to find out what your options are!