3 Challenges of Integrating AI Into Your Small Business (and How to Address Them)

Emily GregorLast updated on January 2, 2024
5 min

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The AI era is here. And business leaders stand to lose ground competitively if there’s any delay in implementation. But we can hardly blame those who aren’t off the starting blocks yet. 

Before you can say “robot uprising”, the AI race has gone from eyebrow-raiser to ChatGPT, Google Bard, and more, growing increasingly advanced and even winning photography prizes along the way. As we’ll explore, now is the time for businesses to get their AI journeys underway.

This urgency comes from the value AI promises to deliver to employees. For instance, it is widely believed that AI can help workplaces:

  • Tackle an uphill battle against repetitive manual work

  • Streamline the creation of training and coaching resources

  • Strike up a profitable partnership where human connection partners speed and productivity

As well as the benefits, there are also challenges around implementation. Below, we’ll dive into the most common ones, according to our recent AI Index—our deep-dive into what 3,500 employees at small and medium-sized businesses worldwide really think about AI.

Why AI Requires Small Steps

With benefits like the above, it would be easy for businesses to dive into the AI race headfirst. But we believe this is a journey best taken slowly. We recently launched our own AI features, but we took the time to make sure they would align with our mission in helping us create meaningful conversations for our customers.

Business leaders must ensure that any move to AI doesn’t cloud their values or mission. AI doesn’t have to be a substitute for human experience, but any knee-jerk move to use it—one that results in hasty implementation—could be. Ultimately, this could mean your customers end up seeking that human experience elsewhere.

Besides this overarching incentive, let’s unpack the other key reasons AI should be integrated slowly but surely.

Anticipating objections

Implementing any new technology requires expert change management. AI is a new dawn for the information age, and chances are that any implementation will shake up your workplace. That’s why it’s worth taking the time to anticipate any objections early on. Think about the questions you’re set to face, whether around cost or complexity, and be sure you have the answers ready.

Reassure the workforce

Even if you’re an AI evangelist, there’s no denying that employees have some concerns about its implementation. According to our AI Index, 60% of employees are concerned that the lack of human input will impact the quality of their work, and 46% are concerned that AI will replace them. Taking baby steps in your AI journey can help you absorb these concerns and address them effectively.

Maximizing impact

Even with the wide-ranging benefits that AI delivers, you should apply it with a laser focus. This can maximize its impact and ensure that you have the right tool for the job from the get-go. Taking an audit on how your team spends its time can be critical. Especially when 20.8 hours a week are currently spent on busywork and admin.

Now that we know the advantages of taking it slow with AI, let’s look at some of the challenges AI integration poses—and how we can overcome them.

The Challenges of AI Integration (and How to Overcome Them)

In our industry report, we surveyed all levels of SMB employees worldwide to understand what they saw as the biggest challenges coming from AI integration. Below we outline three main challenges they face and include practical solutions on how to overcome them.

1. A lack of understanding of AI

When it comes to what AI can do, 63% of SMB employees said that there was a lack of understanding across the business. This highlights the need for better education around AI, in general, and investigation into the solutions on offer. Education can also fight AI misinformation—something 59% of employees say is common in the workplace.

To overcome this, leaders should create space for teams to air their concerns and ask questions about AI to better understand its value. This can take the form of virtual ask-me-anything sessions or hands-on demos with potential tools. But remember to remain open and transparent about your plans to alleviate any lingering fears.

2. A lack of skill sets

One of the biggest misnomers about AI is that its tools are exclusively for the tech-savvy. In recent years, we have come on leaps and bounds in the implementation and acceptance of AI into our lives—so much so that we consider asking a question to “Alexa” or “Siri” second nature. Yet 56% of employees cited a lack of skill sets to implement AI as their biggest challenge.

AI should be easy to use, and user-friendliness is the bedrock of good technology. The more a team gets hands-on with demos and begins to see the time savings AI can deliver, the quicker they’ll forget the doubts they had about using it in the first place.

Business leaders, though, have the added responsibility of ensuring the proper ecosystem is in place to allow AI to thrive. With 56% of employees saying a lack of proper technology infrastructure is a challenge, leaders need to ensure AI is implemented with strategy—and not used as a bolt-on that fails to weave into people’s day to day.

3. Getting everyone onboard

It’s not just employees that can benefit from getting hands-on with AI solutions, but company bosses and stakeholders too. Two of the biggest challenges cited by our survey respondents related to getting buy-in from up top, with 51% frustrated by getting stakeholders to give the green light, and 50% saying their business showed concerns about moving too fast with AI.

When implementing AI, plug into the level of urgency in your team, the challenges they face, and how AI can solve them. Meanwhile, getting hands-on with solutions through demos and free trials can go a long way to convince them of its value. Failing that, measure team improvements—for example, AI has already started to deliver some pretty eye-catching ROIs, returning the 3.8 hours a week teams lose to manual data entry.

Moving from Awareness to Action

Nothing worth having comes easy. And with AI implementation, the key thing to remember is that when it comes to the challenges standing in your way, they won’t compare to the ones it will help overcome.

We encourage businesses to take small steps in their AI journey and to do their homework when it comes to getting everything—timing, solution, strategy, and more—right. For businesses of all sizes, AI is a race worth running. But it can’t hurt to have an idea of the hurdles that lie ahead.

To find out how Aircall can support you on your AI journey, download our guide, The AI Index: Understanding Small and Medium-Sized Business Sentiment Toward AI.

Published on June 20, 2023.

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