Me, myself and AI: The options for small businesses

Power is nothing without control. This is a tagline made popular by a car tyre ad. It’s a common adage, one that, if applied to business, can have quite the impact.

My understanding of this sentiment is that strength is nothing without direction. I’ll take it even further and say control is nothing without decision.

For you to steer your business to a successful end, you have to make the best decisions at the right time, all the time. This is a daunting requirement for many business owners in Africa as we usually don’t have that much to go on as far as information is concerned. This means we end up going with gut instincts, fuzzy logic and lots of experimentation.

This is the problem the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in small businesses aims to solve.

AI has until now always been thought of as the preserve of big corporates. In the recent past, however, considering the leaps and bounds made in tech, access to AI has become more democratised.

And now that it’s within our reach, how can we as small business owners take advantage of it? Here are some of the business functions that can gain from AI.

Data management

You can use widely available AI algorithims to gain better insight into who your customer is and how you can better improve their experience of what you offer, whether it’s a product or service.

To start with, you can implement a simple automated customer relationship management programme that interacts with your clients, as well as observe your firm’s interaction with current and future clients, gleaning valuable information.

This information can then be made sense of by AI algorithms, which will guide you on the steps you can take to manage this very valuable resource.  

Customer care

You can also automate interaction with your clients using chatbots, which are essentially pieces of software that have the ability to respond to questions or guide customers on the right way to interact with the business.

This is an invaluable resource, especially if you’re dealing with a huge number of clients or don’t have the resources to hire dedicated customer care agents. 

Chatbots can be implemented on your website or even on popular messaging apps like Telegram. This solution essentially works like a filter of customer care calls so only the ones that need human intervention get through to a customer care agent.

Marketing

AI can also enhance your marketing. A somewhat traditional way of marketing is targeting your audience. This means that you handpick certain criteria, like age, gender and income range, and then send out messages to people who fit this criteria.

AI takes this further by actually choosing the audience your message gets to based on your model client. This is what Facebook is doing with the ‘Lookalike Audience’ feature in its ads.  

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