Why 53% of SMBs Plan to Invest in AI Over the Next 12 Months

Emily GregorLast updated on January 2, 2024
6 min

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AI is big business. By 2030, it’s expected to contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy, and we’re already seeing huge changes. Compared to the overall software market, AI is growing 50% faster, and according to Aircall’s AI Index Report, more than half (53%) of SMBs are planning to invest in the technology over the next 12 months

Timing is critical. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) need to improve customer and employee experiences by unlocking the value of AI or face lagging behind competitors. Organizations that invest sooner than later stand to make significant gains, saving time on repetitive manual work, introducing more effective training and coaching, and freeing up teams to forge meaningful human relationships.

53% of SMBs are planning to invest in the technology over the next 12 months

Here are three key reasons your business needs to invest in AI now, rather than waiting for the technology to mature.  

Reason #1: Busywork and Admin Are Only Going to Get Worse

SMBs are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to administration, spending more time and resources on time-consuming repetitive tasks than they do building and maintaining meaningful customer relationships. In fact, according to Aircall’s AI Report, just 4.2 hours out of the workweek are spent on meaningful customer interactions, while 20.8 hours are spent on busywork, admin, and training. 

It’s easy to see the impact that AI could have on resources, with the potential to reduce time lost to busywork and improve access to effective coaching materials, freeing up customer-facing sales and support teams to focus on providing high-quality service for your customers. 

Along with helping to allocate resources more effectively so teams can provide a better customer experience, the adoption of AI could also help to solve one of the biggest challenges facing contact center staff today: burnout. 

With a disproportionately large amount of time spent dealing with admin and other busywork, employees on the front line are facing the pinch like never before, with 59% of agents at risk of burnout. AI can help to fight this trend, picking up the slack and empowering customer-facing teams to instead focus on business-critical tasks. 

Reason #2: Meaningful Relationships Are Increasingly Make or Break for Businesses

With so much time spent on time-consuming and repetitive tasks, customer-facing teams are struggling to find the time to deal with customers. In fact, 63% of respondents in Aircall’s AI survey reported that having enough time to create and nurture meaningful customer relationships is a challenge highlighting a huge number of agents who are struggling to do their jobs effectively. 

This can have a big impact on businesses. According to McKinsey & Company, companies that excel at personalization generate 40% more revenue from those activities than average players

Furthermore, personalization isn’t just desirable when it comes to sales success and customer retention—it’s necessary. According to the same report, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. 

63% of respondents reported that having enough time to create and nurture meaningful customer relationships is a challenge

With AI doing the heavy lifting when it comes to busy work, customer-facing teams can focus on delivering such personalization, providing a service your customers deserve. This isn’t just critical to your business—it’s critical for your employees as well, helping them to derive purpose from their work.

Reason #3: Employees Have Serious Ambitions for AI—Businesses Must Rise to Meet Them

There’s a clear opportunity for AI to deliver value for SMBs, but it’s important that organizations recognize the challenges ahead of them and take employee ambition seriously. Sentiment toward AI is currently mixed. Many SMB employees feel hopeful about the technology and the impact it can have on their work. Others, meanwhile, raise concerns about its implications.

The following are among workers’ biggest ambitions for AI:

  • 44% envision greater efficiency

  • 39% predict less time spent on admin.

  • 35% see an opportunity for better training, onboarding, and upskilling

  • 35% hope for a better work/life balance

  • 33% highlight an improved customer service or sales function

  • 18% think it will lead to stronger resilience to recession.

With such a range of important ambitions, it really is easy to see why now is the time to embrace AI. 

With 60% also worrying that a lack of human input would impact the quality of their work, however, it’s also important that businesses think about retention and purpose for their teams.

Buy-in from the workforce is essential, and businesses should consider taking time to educate teams on the value of AI. A code of conduct is also critical, making it clear you have guardrails in place to ensure AI is strictly there to support workers—not replace them. It’s also important to embrace experimentation and flexibility, ensuring you can take advantage of new developments while also addressing employee feedback.

Where to Start: An Action Plan for SMBs

AI is a tantalizing blank canvas on which businesses can define their futures. ​​Knowing where to start with the technology can seem like a daunting task, however. Follow the five steps below to hit the ground running. 

1. Set your AI objectives

Getting the first step right is key to embedding AI into your business. This means doing competitive research and ensuring that the solution you choose doesn’t just work for other companies but will work for you too. It’s vital that you ask yourself what you want to achieve, helping you solve the challenges specific to your business. 

2. Identify your integration requirements

It’s also critical that you pick a solution that plays nicely with your existing tech stack. AI can be a transformative time-saver for your business, but a SaaS ecosystem is better when it works together. And that means your phone, help desk, and CRM work hand-in-hand with your AI to share data, automate, and set up your sales and support teams for success.

3. Prioritize training

A little onboarding goes a long way, and the more comfortable your team is with the AI software you use, the better the time-savings and business results you’ll experience. This can also help with empowerment for employees, with training driving higher confidence levels. 

4. Embrace experimentation

Part of the attraction of AI is the customization that it can introduce. As a part of your training, give your team the go-ahead to experiment with AI and the way the tools work. This will not only ensure greater ROI from employees finding new routes to productivity and profit, but it will also feed a learning culture that’s proven to lead to results.

5. Measure and optimize

Remember that AI isn’t about replacement—it’s about collaboration. That means ensuring your team remains happy and equipped to succeed. A surefire way to guarantee the longevity of your AI solution is to gather feedback and review results along the way, making changes and updates where necessary. 

AI: Not a Replacement for Connection—But a Way Forward

The business landscape is quickly changing, with more and more companies embracing AI to gain a competitive advantage. The technology can be used to revolutionize your organization, but it’s important to put your best foot forward. 

Critically, organizations need to remember that AI is not a replacement for human connections. Building meaningful partnerships with customers will remain vital for businesses—AI is just another tool to help forge those connections. With over half of SMBs confirming they will be investing in AI implementation in the next 12 months, embracing a revolution that could contribute more than the current annual output of China and India combined to the global economy by 2030, it’s crucial that you don’t get left behind. 

Download Aircall’s AI Index Report today to learn more about how you can use AI to get ahead of the competition.


Published on January 2, 2024.

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