Using artificial intelligence (AI) for day-to-day tasks used to seem like a far-off science fiction concept.
Now, AI is proving to be a valuable and versatile tool that many businesses are embracing. From what I’ve seen, companies that are integrating AI tend to fall into two categories: those that wholeheartedly embrace AI and those that strive to maintain a human element in their company or brand and don’t want to cut down their labor force.
Many companies have already begun integrating AI, whether it’s through automated scheduling, payment processing, or something else. Even McDonald’s is on board. The company’s use of strategic AI will help automate drive-thru lanes, hopefully giving customers a smoother experience.
I believe we are only seeing the beginning of all that AI can do for our businesses. In recent years, we’ve seen the pieces begin to fall into place as companies increasingly turned to this technology. In 2020, McKinsey & Company found that a number of the companies surveyed attributed 20% or more of their organizations’ earnings (before interest and taxes) to AI.
We can’t ignore it any longer—AI truly is the future. So how can companies integrate AI systems while retaining a human touch? Here’s what I’ve learned from working with numerous B2B tech clients on the cutting edge of AI and automation.
AIDING RESTAURANTS WITH EFFICIENT CONTACTLESS DINING
Even small businesses with budget constraints have a number of AI-driven solutions worth considering. This especially applies to the restaurant industry, which as a whole took a pretty big hit during the pandemic, with more than 110,000 restaurants closing.
Amid the chaos, mobile ordering apps have reigned supreme and kept many businesses afloat. One company I worked with, OneDine, a digital dining and hospitality solution, helps restaurants improve their point-of-sale systems, work more effectively and efficiently with mobile ordering apps, and use AI to track customer preferences.
As a consumer, I was part of the shift toward contactless dining, and as an entrepreneur and CEO, I was fascinated by restaurants’ ability to fully integrate AI in a way that benefits both them and the consumer. The benefits of AI in the hospitality and service industry made me think about how other companies, regardless of their industry, can best use AI for a better end-to-end user experience.
LET YOUR EMPLOYEES FOCUS ON WHAT MATTERS
Many companies have areas that could easily be automated, like data and document processing (which can be complex, not to mention a little boring), leaving space for employees to focus more on what matters. Imagine how much of your employees’ time and energy you could save if you made processes a little easier or took menial tasks off their hands completely.
A huge benefit of AI is that it helps automate tasks people simply don’t want to do; this can reduce costs and errors while increasing operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. A digital transformation strategy that includes AI can have major benefits on cutting down time spent on mindless, cumbersome tasks, freeing up your employees’ time to focus on providing optimal customer service, and making human connections that can result in long-term customers.
The first step for many companies looking to integrate AI is to think about all of the busywork that would be better accomplished through an automated system, and how you could implement such a system. For instance, an automation firm I worked with, qBotica, creates customized AI solutions to streamline and automate the menial tasks that take up employees’ time. By automating some of the paper-pushing minutiae, your employees’ time can be spent personalizing their client relationships—I’d call that a win-win.
USE DATA TO HELP MAKE THE BIG DECISIONS
One huge area of business where AI can help is performance insights and sales forecasting. The next level for business analytics in this area is finding a system that can analyze these factors and suggest the next best steps.
In my experience, taking in all the data and information available is one thing—accurately synthesizing it and making decisions based on that data is where the real challenge comes in. Luckily, AI can help. The next step after you’ve identified all the busy work is to look into how AI can actually help you make better decisions.
At my company, we use software to collect and synthesize time-tracking data, allowing us to tie efforts to results, and results to costs. Collecting and using this data helps us make more informed decisions, which is key to forecasting the future of the business. And AI can enable forecasting for more specific, strategic goals as well.
For example, Revenue.io has created AI solutions to track client data and make predictions about sales trends and revenue streams. Having the data, and the solution to analyze it, enables companies using these AI products to take more measured risks, make more informed decisions, and increase sales revenue.
At the end of the day, AI is about shifting from working hard to working smart. It can reduce your time spent on tedious tasks or complex calculations, and it can transform your business offerings to make them more accessible. Perhaps most important, using technology to do the menial and complex allows your people to focus on the things that only humans are capable of—building connections and offering that human touch.
AI isn’t necessarily about saving money or cutting out overhead—it’s about maximizing the potential for your business. Those who invest in working smarter are the ones who will excel in 2022. It’s time to consider how AI can transform your business and redirect your focus.
Shama is the CEO of Zen Media, a B2B PR and marketing firm for technology-driven B2B brands, a best-selling author, & a keynote speaker.