It wasn't all that long ago that the phrase "artificial intelligence" (AI) conjured images of the Jetsons' maid Rosie bringing in dinner or doing the laundry -- or, more nefariously, an Ex-Machina-esque being plotting to destroy us and take over our lives. Luckily, as AI has become more ubiquitous, much of the misinformation about it has dissipated.
AI is already improving the way people undertake everyday tasks and run their companies, and it even promises to alleviate global problems.
But on a less-grand scale, even small businesses can put AI to work and also see results. Below, we list the top five areas in which artificial-intelligence technologies can be a boon to small businesses.
Chatbots, those automated online conversationalists, can be a business' dream. Rather than deploy real people (with all the human-resources-related expense and paperwork that accompany them), many companies choose to use chatbots on their websites for customer service.
And with another good reason: Chatbots have evolved from the clearly automated, oblique-response givers of years past to far smoother operators capable of satisfying large percentages of customer-service demands -- at a fraction of the cost of human beings.
Chatbots can help lower small-business' costs and streamline processes in another area, too: payments. A bot can easily guide online users through paying online, using multiple forms of payment. And accepting money through your own site is quicker -- and often more secure -- than directing your visitors to a third-party page.
Plus, having chatbots accept payment eliminates the need for site users to create another account elsewhere, a time sucker respondents have cited as a top reason for abandoning an online purchase before checkout.
Company training programs need regular, frequent evaluation and updating if they're to work efficiently. Here's where AI comes in. An AI program could easily help your small business with data collection and synthesis, so you would know where and how to make programmatic changes on a monthly, quarterly or even annual basis.
Instead of having someone slog through hours of resumes looking for the right candidate for an available job, you could use an AI program (or several) to make your whole hiring process more efficient. Among your options: Textio, which helps companies create just the right job posting, Harver, which helps screen applicants via various assessments and Ansaro, which builds predictive models for hiring based on your employee data.
Tailored customer experiences
Rather than spam your potential customer base with emails, pop-ups, social-media posts and other content that may not be relevant or interesting to them, consider using an AI-powered tool to tailor your marketing efforts. One example: Consider having tailored push notifications -- based on site visitors' previous searches and other online behavior -- created and sent directly to your targets' phones.
Something else the agile small business needs: flexible office-space options. Metro Offices has been the Washington, D.C., area's leader in centrally located, high-quality office space for more than 25 years. We offer shard, virtual and temporary space in the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia. Here, compare what it costs to run your own office vs. simply letting Metro Offices do the work for you.