Artificial Intelligence

3 Forward-Looking Mindsets Entrepreneurs Need to Have About AI

AI isn't just about improving customer service; it can also refine employee performance.
3 Forward-Looking Mindsets Entrepreneurs Need to Have About AI
Image credit: Busakorn Pongparnit | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Founder and president of E2M Solutions Inc.
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The concept of artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for some time. Government organizations and big enterprises have been experimenting with this technology for decades.  

Related: 5 Innovative Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Advancing Technology

The results have led to all kinds of solutions that make the world smarter and more efficient. However, AI’s mass implementation into the small-business sector is still relatively new.

For entrepreneurs who aren’t specialized in areas like machine-learning and big data analytics, reading up on the potential of AI and how to incorporate it into everyday business practices can certainly be overwhelming.

Yet, ignoring the AI trend is simply not an option for either new or veteran entrepreneurs. What's more, the skeptical mindset and overall resistance many of them have long had about and to new technology need to be left behind.

Here are three mindsets entrepreneurs need to have about AI if they want to use it to improve their day-to-day operations:

1. AI can be used to refine employee performance.

Using AI to enhance the customer journey is the concept that's gotten most of the media coverage thus far. However, one of the most important things to remember about business is that providing a stellar customer experience starts on the inside.

So, if your employees aren't able to do their jobs effectively, this problem will inevitably spill to the outside. When you are doing your research on AI,  a good mindset will revolve around the question: “How can this be used to improve the employee experience?”

Fortunately, plenty of AI tools exist and can be game-changers for both predicting and improving employee performance. Some of them can even be applied before a new employee is brought on board.

For instance, during the hiring process, AI resources can be used to screen candidates with specialized assessments, to gauge key traits like problem-solving ability, communication skills, organization and more. From there, machine-learning capabilities draw on a number of publicly available and company-specific datasets to predict how a particular employee might perform on the job.

Related: Robots Are Our Friends -- How Artificial Intelligence Is Leveling-Up Marketing

In terms of using AI to improve employee performance, there are a number of tools you can use to track each person’s performance metrics and compare them to your overall ROI. From there, AI tools are equipped to identify patterns that determine the average performance of a certain department and traits in the top performers, and, of course, the sources of weak spots.

These detailed insights can then be used to create a "gold standard" that employees need to be held to. This might relate to time management, email habits, approaches to multitasking and other factors. Furthermore, these clear standards of achievement can essentially eliminate bias in the workplace.

According to a study by Accenture, businesses that successfully apply AI could potentially increase productivity (and profitability) by nearly 40 percent over the next two decades.

The takeaway: Adopting the mindset that AI is a powerful tool to refine employee performance is one of the best things you can do for long-term growth.

2. Investing in AI can eliminate many monotonous, time-consuming tasks.

One of the biggest fears employees have about AI is that it will eventually take a huge number of human-operated jobs. While there is certainly no denying this, AI can also be a lifesaver for newer entrepreneurs looking to get their startups off the ground.

In short, AI can automate many of the day-to-day tasks that in previous decades required either that an entrepreneur either: (a) work endless hours or (b) increase his or her overhead by hiring an employee on a shoestring budget.

To put things in perspective, sales-forecasting is one of AI’s most crucial roles in today’s business landscape. Many of these tools draw on a wide range of data sets to predict spikes in demand, to spot patterns that could potentially lead to drops and to create a reliable pipeline. Tools like Pipedrive or Aviso are great for this purpose and can save a business owner huge amounts of time currently spent on monotonous tasks like data entry and research.

Additionally, AI can eliminate a great deal of the legwork involved in building a social presence -- something that is indispensable these days. Manually conducting research on social media trends and insights is a task that requires around-the-clock attention.

But that's no longer neccesary because AI tools like Hootsuite and Brandwatch allow you to keep close tabs on your business name, competitors and certain keywords across the major platforms. From there, you can pinpoint patterns that give you an idea of which topics to post about, when to post, key bits of information to include and more.

The takeaway: Sales-forecasting and social media monitoring are just two of the cumbersome tasks AI can streamline. Plain and simple: If you want to "future-proof" your company, you need to look for ways to automate the grunt work. This is a mindset that many of the big companies (Amazon in particular) have fully embraced.

3. AI can be used to provide granular customer service insights.

Customer service is one of the newest frontiers of AI. Moreover, it is one of the areas that involves the most skepticism about using technologies. Naysayers tend toward the mindset that customer service is purely a human-to-human entity, and should stay that way.

Now, if you firmly stand behind this ideology, more power to you. However, it’s important to at least be knowledgeable about how AI can be used in this field. If you aren’t familiar with chatbots, for instance, you need to look into what they can do and how they can help your business.

Due to the fact they are machine-operated, bots can be used to provide instantaneous customer service 24/7. And this is just the tip of the spear in terms of chatbots' capabilities. Many of these applications use machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to measure customer inquiries and identify common threads.

For example, if you use a tool like ManyChat or Chatfuel, you can get in-depth reporting on the demographics of the people who interact with your chatbots, the common phraseology they use and the solutions that remedy their questions.

The best part about AI-powered chatbots is that each customer interaction yields granular insights that can be used to improve the next. In other words, chatbots are constantly working to improve the accuracy of your customer service.

On a more in-depth level, these bots can be further programmed to go beyond the FAQ level. They can be used to make upsells and cross-sells at the most opportune times in a conversation.

For example, let’s say you run a SaaS company for project management. If someone reaches out via chat to ask a question about the functionality of file storage, you can insert an upsell for an upgrade that provides more space and versatility.

The takeaway: Replacing humans entirely in customer service might be a long shot. However, approaching this function with the mindset that AI bots could handle common inquiries to your business might do wonders for you in terms of speedier assistance and the freeing-up of your customer service reps' time to tackle more important issues.

Conclusion

Adopting an AI-friendly mindset toward business operations is a bit more complex than a quick attitude change. Knowing where and how to invest in AI is a task that requires a lot of research and critical analysis of your business structure.

Related: Add SEO to the List of Everything Being Transformed by Artificial Intelligence

From a general perspective, though, you need to view AI as part of the view that your business is a constant work in progress. The successes and failures of yesterday need to have a strong influence over what you do today and tomorrow. In a nutshell, the future is what AI is all about. 

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