The Secret to Unlocking AI for Small Businesses

Steph SmithLast updated on March 7, 2024
4 min

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From productivity savior to evil robot overlord, it can be hard for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to know what to make of AI. But the truth is that the evolution of the workplace depends on it. Especially for leaner, often resource-light small businesses. 

So, how can leaders get their AI strategy right? With the clock ticking and their competitors making a comprehensive head start, this is one of the big SMB challenges in the age of AI. Our latest report, The Voice of SMBs 2024, looks beyond the black and white of AI—uncovering the pressures teams are under, why using AI to unlock people power is the answer, and actionable tips for successful implementation.

Coping With Performance Pressure

One of the reasons AI has become such a staple of the modern workplace is the increase in expectations workers face—whether sales targets, team development, or customer retention scores. For instance, more than half (57%) of employees say that their organizations will be scrutinizing performance in the year ahead. And the fallout from this is that 35% believe a failure to hit their targets will hurt career progression, while 28% believe it will result in layoffs. 

To relieve this pressure, more and more businesses are turning to AI with almost half (48%) saying they are actively looking to use it to hit targets. But this isn’t about handing the reins over to the machine—instead it’s about using it to gain a better understanding of your most valuable catalysts for sustainable growth in 2024: your customers.

How to Use AI to Grow Your Small Business 

Alleviating the pressure sales and customer support teams face isn’t about working harder—but smarter. And that means arming them with insights that can turn a routine conversation into something more meaningful that connects the caller to the customer.

An overwhelming 68% of employees ​​say that to hit targets, they need to be able to rapidly personalize customer interactions. But for this to happen, leaders need one of two things—one: a time machine; or two: the time-saving potential of AI. We’re not sure about the details of the first option, but when it comes to the second, your team can use AI to carve out the space to learn from customer insights, before putting them into action.

“My priority is to help my team build relationships and be in tune with our future customers. To do that effectively, our processes must evolve to free up more of their time by automating data entry and surfacing insights through technology.”

—Jamie Synan, Head of Sales, Europe, The Economist Intelligence Unit

Unlocking People Power

Successful AI implementation is about human enablement, not replacement. And—just like Jamie says—automating as many routine tasks as possible. IDC notes this strategy will drive a 20% boost in revenue for companies that offer it to frontline workers.

But when the prize is something as valuable as unlocking people power, AI cannot just be airdropped into workflows. It requires a more finessed strategy. More than half (54%) of sales teams say that prior sales and account history is vital for them, followed by advice or knowledge shared by their coworkers. 43% of customer support workers agreed with this, while 44% wanted personal customer details such as individual likes and dislikes. 

In short, AI can play an essential role in providing every customer-facing rep with access to relevant details about their customers—without sacrificing their time in the process. So, let’s look at how you can get started. 

4 Proven AI Growth Strategies for SMBs

Even when focused on people power, it can be easy to become starry-eyed at the potential of AI. And then throw in the towel when results aren’t immediate. 

Aircall has long recognized the important role SMBs play—not just in the business ecosystem, but the global economy. This is why our AI-supported tools are designed to help them achieve sustainable growth; built around useability and unlocking people power. To keep teams on track, below are four tips to guarantee your AI implementation keeps working for you as you build an AI strategy for business efficiency.

1. Find Where AI Belongs

Thankfully, turning to AI doesn’t mean ripping up and starting again. And when 60% of businesses say Generative AI can’t yet integrate with their tech stack, it’s worth taking your time exploring AI features within your existing apps, or finding AI-supported tools that integrate  with other critical apps like your CRM or helpdesk software. 

2. Experience Beats Headlines

From the headline that AI could replace 300 million jobs, to a 294% increase in searches for ‘Is AI going to take my job?’, there’s plenty out there to color your opinion of AI. But leaders need to put the noise to one side and make their own minds up. This is something only hands-on experience can achieve, so start speaking to solution providers, set up demos, and explore what’s out there.

3. Start Small and Have Fun

How can AI help your business grow? This is the big question that has leaders like deer in the headlights. But remember that this is something you and your teams should have fun doing—so start small and, crucially, don’t waste time in getting started.

4. Focus on Partnership

If the endgame of your AI strategy is unlocking your people power, then you need to keep talking to your teams. Schedule regular feedback loops to understand what is and isn’t working, and you might even find you’re taken in some exciting, unanticipated directions.

Start Boosting Performance With AI

Ready to get your AI implementation underway? Download your personalized Voice of SMBs 2024 report now. A definitive look at the local sales and customer support trends happening in Australia, Europe, North America, and the UK, these regional adaptations are specifically designed for either sales or customer support teams in these regions. A definitive look at the must-know trends happening in your country today, your personalized report can prepare your business for tomorrow.

Published on March 4, 2024.

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