To say AI is a hot topic right now is an understatement. The technology has been taking the world by storm, with the AI market growing 50% faster than the overall software market.
As more solutions become available, the opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to use AI to drive greater productivity only grows. No longer the preserve of large enterprises, today, AI can be used by all kinds of different organizations. And despite reservations in certain areas (we’ll get to that below), businesses are feeling positive about what AI can do for them.
In fact, 64% of SMB employees say they feel optimistic about the potential of AI in the workplace. And this rises to 68% of those aged 25 to 34, suggesting AI will continue to be an important part of work for future generations. These were just some of the insights unearthed in our recent AI Index, which surveyed over 3,500 employees of SMBs to discover the opportunities they can unlock with AI.
So are you wondering where exactly AI's potential lies, what tools your business can get started with, and what challenges need to be overcome first? Well, you’re in the right place.
Where AI Can Boost Productivity and Connection
Customer relationships are essential to building the strength of any SMB. AI can reinforce those connections and improve customer experiences.
Today, however, just 4.2 hours out of the average SMB employee’s workweek are spent on meaningful customer interactions. And 63% of the employees we surveyed recognize that having enough time to nurture those relationships—which are key to improving business metrics like revenue and customer satisfaction—is a challenge.
Particularly for teams like sales and customer support, who should spend a lot of time interacting directly with customers, streamlining busywork and admin can lead to significant productivity gains. In turn, that means more time to focus on building relationships that provide real value to the business.
This is where the reasons behind the optimism for AI can be identified. Workers estimate that AI applications could save a significant amount of time on day-to-day tasks—estimates that are only likely to grow as AI technology matures and its uses become better understood.
For example, employees believe AI tools could save them 28% of the time they spend manually transferring data, 27% of the time they lose to reporting, and 25% of the time they spend writing up notes. But to gain these benefits, the right approach is needed.
AI Concerns—and How to Overcome Them
While optimism for AI is broadly high, there are concerns that will need to be addressed by businesses to ensure everyone understands AI and gets access to its benefits.
Ultimately, the biggest of these is around the human connection—with 60% worrying that a lack of human input would impact the quality of their work.
Meanwhile, those who work in customer-facing roles were more likely to highlight this concern than general employees—showing that AI must be implemented in a way that supports stronger human connections and doesn’t replace them.
And let’s be honest: It’s natural for teams to feel concerned about the use of AI, given it can have far-reaching implications for how work is done. Equally, to unlock the value of any new technology, buy-in from the workforce is essential.
To start maximizing the value of AI, here are a few tips to help your team feel comfortable.
Take time to educate teams
Creating space for teams to air their concerns around AI is key to helping them understand its value. From virtual ask-me-anything sessions to hands-on demos with new AI tools, being open and transparent about AI plans can alleviate any lingering fears.
Build an AI code of conduct
Employees are clear that their biggest concerns around AI are that it will replace human connections. Putting a code of conduct in place about how AI will be used in your organization can demonstrate that you have guardrails in place to ensure AI is strictly there to support workers—not replace them.
Embrace experimentation and flexibility
No organization can say exactly how they’ll be using AI in a year’s time—let alone five. As the technology evolves, it’s important to be flexible, and not just so you can take advantage of new developments but also so you can address employee feedback. Listen to teams—if they say an AI approach or tool isn’t working, there’s no shame in stepping back and shifting strategy.
The AI Starter Kit for Customer-Facing Teams
If you’re ready to start driving greater productivity by using AI, there are several different tools that can help your customer-facing teams reduce admin, access valuable customer insights, and deliver standout customer experiences. Here are a few you can start adding to your AI toolbox.
Aircall AI transcription
Aircall’s intuitive call and voicemail transcription features make it simpler than ever for sales and support teams to access insights that drive efficiency and improve customer experiences. Alongside synchronizing transcriptions with a business’s CRM for even greater productivity gains, the features also help teams record real-world scenarios that can be used to strengthen onboarding and coaching.
HubSpot’s Content Assistant and ChatSpot
These two AI-powered features from CRM platform HubSpot can help teams rapidly build content for sales assets alongside boosting productivity—for example, by drafting follow-up emails, providing status updates, or identifying prospects.
Salesforce’s Einstein AI
Salesforce’s Einstein can help sales teams identify their best leads and connect with their calendar and emails to reduce time spent on admin. For customer service teams, Einstein can be used to answer common questions, freeing up time for support reps to focus on more complex cases.
Intercom AI support features
New tools from Intercom can summarize lengthy support conversations to simplify handovers, instantly adjust the tone of a drafted message (for example to make it friendlier), and can generate help center articles from shorthand notes.
Reecall’s conversational AI
Reecall’s virtual assistant helps customer-facing teams easily understand the caller’s intentions and needs, providing them with helpful and contextualized responses.
A Positive Future for Customer-Facing Teams with AI
Clearly, there are plenty of reasons for SMBs to feel optimistic about the potential of AI. With AI taking on administrative tasks, transcribing notes, and helping to adjust the tone of messages, customer-facing teams have more time to invest in building customer relationships, solving problems, and closing deals.
However, it’s important to remember to take your team or employees with you on your AI journey. Ensure they know what added value tools can offer them while ensuring that the essential human touch remains at the center of your business (because without it, you won’t be delivering quality experiences).
Want to understand more about how you can use AI to build more productive teams and better serve customers?
Published on January 2, 2024.