My father is a doctor, which basically means he's a small-business owner. He has eight employees, two of whom spend much of their day answering the phones. Eighty percent of the calls to his office are people asking the same questions over and over, such as "Are you open today?" and "Can I make an appointment?"
If I told my dad about an artificial intelligence (AI) project working to cure cancer, he'd be intrigued, but it would change nothing about how his business runs. Yet if I showed him a practical use for artificial intelligence in business, such as how we could set up an AI chatbot to field these common questions from his patients, then he would see the connection. This type of enterprise chat solution could relieve his staff the drudgery of answering the same things over and over again, and free up his employees to do more important tasks.
Businesses Need Help to Make the Connection
The story about my father reveals the blind spot that businesses of all sizes have. Business leaders find the more fantastical uses of AI compelling — stories of traffic jams becoming nonexistent because of self-driving cars, doctors finding cures to deadly diseases, and your refrigerator automatically arranging a delivery of milk when your supply runs low. These stories also reveal where most of our thinking about AI lives: in the future. Most business owners remain unaware of what business problems AI could solve for them right now.
The solution I described for my dad is small, yet the salient point for us here at Vonage is that we want customers to know these tremendous advances in technology can solve some of their business challenges, no matter the business size. Most business decision makers don't fully realize the implications of incorporating AI into their daily operations. To make the connections, we illustrate how to apply these sophisticated technologies in a way that provides real business impact to make companies more efficient, more productive and, ultimately, more profitable.
Where Should You Start with Artificial Intelligence in Business?
A McKinsey & Company survey found that while 40 percent of companies are contemplating the use of artificial intelligence in business, only 20 percent have adopted it. Again, that gap may be the result of businesses' failure to see a use for this technology within their own operations, or uncertainty about where to begin. But there are a number of places you can start to make headway in the use of AI in your business applications:
- Learn what's possible right now. This is where a partnership with a company grounded in the business uses of AI comes in handy. AI is not futuristic science fiction. The technology is very real and is being used in business applications every day. Find a partner who understands those uses and can share real-world examples.
- Look for better business outcomes. Just like my father's story of how AI chatbots could be used to free up his employees, uncover that one small change that could have a significant impact on your business. That change could be as simple as freeing up employees from answering repetitive phone calls; or it could be using chatbots on your website to aid in customer self-service.
- Learn by doing. Don't hesitate. When you uncover a business challenge that could be improved by AI, start there. It's fine to start small, but don't let it end there. With AI, you'll learn by doing. The actions you take will make clearer all the other ways AI could make a positive impact on your business's bottom line.
- Keep your eye on the future. Yes, AI can do a lot for your business right now, but we're still at the frontier of this technology. Someday, AI and machine learning will cure cancer and stop traffic — there's so much potential. Stay curious and watchful for breakthroughs. The smart business will look for use cases that can turn AI into a competitive advantage.
Businesses should view AI pragmatically and focus only on results. Your business involvement with AI doesn't have to be a game changer, like eradicating cancer or ending traffic jams forever. It's okay to think smaller — all AI has to be is a game changer for your business.
Read more about the 10 hottest technologies empowering AI right now. To learn more about using what these technologies can do for your enterprise communications, contact a Vonage Business representative.