What is AI?

AI means computer programs that can do things which normally need human intelligence.

Different types of AI can:

  • look for patterns in data and use them to make predictions or recommendations
  • process and communicate using natural human language
  • create new content like text, images and computer code.

The next few years will see more and more businesses using AI as part of their operations.

Ways to use AI in your business

AI can answer simple questions over email or through a chatbot on your website. That means your customers can get instant help after hours or when it suits them.

If the AI tool can’t solve a customer’s query, it can refer them to a human for help.

Using AI this way can save time for you and your customers. But it’s no substitute for building a real human connection with customers.

Learn how to communicate with customers

AI can analyse your customer data to identify trends, behaviours and preferences.

You can use these insights to:

  • predict future trends
  • improve ad campaigns
  • engage your customers with personalised content
  • find and fix common issues your customers have.

Find out more about marketing your business

Some AI tools can generate text from a prompt you give it. This can save a lot of time and effort, especially if writing isn’t your strength.

For example, you could ask an AI to write:

  • product descriptions
  • website content
  • emails
  • social media posts.

Other AI programs can generate image, video and audio content.

AI can take care of a lot of routine business tasks. That frees up your time to focus on other work.

Some of the everyday things AI can help with are:

  • data entry
  • sending and processing invoices
  • accounting
  • creating spreadsheet formulas
  • scheduling appointments
  • task and project management
  • inventory management
  • generating reports.

Using AI responsibly

AI is a powerful technology, so it’s important that you use it responsibly.

Here are some things to consider to make sure your business uses AI safely, securely and ethically.

Understand that AI can get things wrong

AI tools aren’t perfect. Just like people, they can make mistakes, take things out of context or use information from unreliable sources. Sometimes they can even be biased against minority groups.

Your business is responsible for the actions of any AI tools you use. That’s why it’s important to carefully check AI outputs before you use or share them with others.

Make sure AI-generated content:

  • is accurate
  • is relevant
  • uses language that’s appropriate for your audience
  • respects our diverse society.

Protect privacy and security

As with all business software, you need to understand what you’re signing up for before using an AI tool. That includes knowing how it will treat any personal information about your business or customers.

Before you start using an AI tool:

  • read reviews of the tool from reliable sources
  • go over the terms and conditions carefully and don’t agree to anything you’re not comfortable with.

Make sure the AI tool:

  • protects your customers’ informationincluding obeying privacy laws
  • will not incorporate any copyrighted information you provide into its training data for other users
  • can be set up and used without compromising your cyber security.

Be transparent with customers

Make sure your customers know when they are talking to AI rather than a human. This is particularly important if you’re using AI for customer support or chatbots.

Also consider telling your customers about any other ways you use AI. Explain:

  • what you use it for
  • how you’re using it responsibly
  • the benefits for them
  • who they can contact if they have any concerns.

Introducing AI in your business

Identify the problems you want AI to solve

Don’t use AI just for the sake of it. Make a list of the business problems or goals AI could help with.

You might like to refer to the goals and objectives in your:

Choose the right solution

Once you’ve identified how AI can help your business, research the best solutions for your needs.

A good place to start is by looking at what you already have. Many of the digital tools you currently use in your business might have AI features. For example:

  • word processing and spreadsheet software
  • customer relationship management (CRM) systems
  • marketing automation, email marketing and social media software
  • graphic design tools.

If you need something else, you can choose between an off-the-shelf product or a custom solution.

Off-the-shelf AI tools tend to be:

  • cheaper
  • quicker and easier to implement
  • reliable, because they’ve been tested by many users.

Custom AI solutions can be tailored to solve your specific business problems. They are usually more flexible and scalable than off-the-shelf software, so they can evolve along with your business.

However, custom solutions:

  • tend to be more expensive than off-the-shelf products
  • have ongoing support and maintenance costs
  • need to be trained on high-quality, well organised data.

Set policies and guidelines

To protect yourself and your customers, create some policies and guidelines for using AI responsibly.

These could include:

  • the things you will and won’t use AI for
  • how to ensure AI output is accurate and unbiased
  • when to tell customers you’re using AI
  • how you’ll protect personal data and make sure you’re following privacy laws
  • who makes decisions about AI in your business.

Bring your staff on board

Before introducing AI, it’s important to teach your staff about its benefits and address any misconceptions.

Some ways to do this:

  • Explain that you’re not introducing AI to replace employees. You’re using it to make their lives easier and enhance their existing skills.
  • Get staff involved in researching and choosing AI tools.
  • Train employees to use new tools effectively, safely and responsibly. This will help them see the benefits firsthand.
  • Keep communicating with staff and answer their questions as they start using AI.

Find out how to manage change in your business.

Start out small and evolve

AI has huge potential for businesses of all sizes. But there’s no need to change everything overnight.

Start by trialling AI in 1 or 2 areas of your business. Try out a few different products to test their accuracy and see what works for you. This also lets you make sure you’re using AI safely and responsibly.

Once you’ve got a better sense of how your business could benefit from AI, you can start rolling it out in other areas.

AI is changing incredibly fast. In a few years, businesses will probably be using AI tools we haven’t even thought of yet. Stay across the latest developments to keep improving how you use AI in your business.

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