AI and SMBs: How to decide what is right for you
Posted: September 06, 2023 | Word Count: 1,289
By Irana Wasti, Chief Product Officer at BILL
From the news to social media to your favorite podcast — artificial intelligence (AI) is capturing headlines. You’ve probably heard about generative AI tools that can write articles, create plans and manipulate images, and as a business owner, you might be curious how this could save you time and benefit your bottom line.
You’re not alone. As technology advances, AI’s potential to revolutionize business grows more significant every day. I’ve served SMBs my whole career, and now in my current role at BILL, I spend time speaking to our SMB customers. I’m consistently hearing the same message: SMBs want to understand how automation and AI can help them get more control of their business and be more efficient.
For these businesses, the key is to find the right technology partner that can help you integrate AI tools in a way that works for you and your business.
Here are some tips for how you can find the right technology and tools to help your business make the most of AI.
How AI can help your business thrive
First, let’s take a look at what we mean when we talk about AI. An AI tool is a software application that relies on artificial intelligence and machine learning to complete a specific task. These tools are used in all kinds of industries and sectors, including health care, education, finance, marketing and business. Like all technology, AI is changing and evolving, and you may have read about, or tried, the latest in AI technology — Generative AI.
AI tools can be really helpful for small businesses — you just need to find the right tool or solution for the jobs you need done. Here are some of the capabilities that AI can deliver for your business:
1. AI can automate your repetitive tasks: Administrative tasks like recording sales data, reconciling accounts, reporting spends and expenses, creating invoices, and issuing payments can take hours. It’s also susceptible to human error. One incorrect calculation or wrong number could have a big financial impact for your business. The good news is, you can save time by using AI tools to automate these tasks.
2. AI can improve customer engagement: We know that SMBs are focused on serving your customers. Which is why tools to help you listen to, and understand, your customers’ needs, questions and concerns are so valuable. AI-powered chat on your website or social media platform can interact with customers in real time, and enable you to respond promptly.
3. AI can help you promote your business: Great marketing can be a catalyst for growth, but it also takes time and money. AI can help speed up the creation of content for you that amplifies your brand and business, speaks to your customer base, and reaches new customers. For example, it can help write blogs, social media, product descriptions and more.
4. AI can analyze your customer data: When it comes to making strategic business decisions, data is one of the most important assets you have. AI-powered tools can analyze large amounts of data quickly and efficiently, and deliver actionable information so you can capitalize on key trends. This can help you make informed decisions about all aspects of your business from products, to pricing, operations and more.
5. AI can help you deliver a better customer journey: The way customers experience your product or service is key to customer retention and brand loyalty. As AI tools develop, they are becoming better adapted and trained. This means they can learn from customer behavior and deliver a more personalized customer journey. This is good for your customers, and good for your business.
Things to consider
Before making any investment or change in technology, it’s important to consider a few factors related to the AI capabilities that you integrate, as well as your own business needs. These factors can help determine what kind of AI is — and isn’t — right for you.
1. Optimizing what you already have: Integrating AI doesn’t necessarily mean making a new investment in a different software or tool. There are lots of situations where you can optimize your existing tools with embedded AI. For example, if you’re using a financial operations platform like BILL, there’s a good chance that you are already using AI capabilities within the platform that you weren’t aware of. BILL has integrated AI into different parts of our solutions, some examples include auto-reading invoices, auto-matching customers and suppliers, detecting and managing risks, and accelerating payments for our customers.
2. Security: Keeping your data, and the data of your customers, safe is at the top of every business owner’s priorities. The potential for hacking and data breaches is one of the risks associated with some AI tools, particularly free or low-cost options that don’t keep your information secure. It’s important to partner with a trusted company or organization that is committed to keeping your business information safe and is transparent about the risk landscape.
3. Supporting your team with this transition: AI can change an employee's responsibilities and team dynamics. For example, they may have questions about whether their position will no longer be needed, or how this can help their workload. Take the time to talk with your team early in the process about changes, including opportunities to use the efficiencies gained for their benefit.
4. Don’t rush!: Before investing in any technology, take the time to assess whether it is right for you and your business. Talk to fellow business owners and ask for recommendations. Take advantage of free trials and experiments before you integrate. And if you’re wondering whether a product is right for you, reach out to a company and ask them for a demo. Third-party review sites might also be a helpful gauge of the pros and cons of a product.
Partnering for AI success
One of the most important considerations is which company you choose to partner with to deliver these AI capabilities for your business. You want to work with technology partners that can work with you to help customize AI tools to your needs and facilitate integration.
While the technology is still developing and will continue to evolve, there are great technology partners that can help your business harness AI. I always encourage SMBs to partner with innovation-forward companies that build AI technology with the unique needs and interests of SMBs front of mind.
At BILL, we’re 100% focused on helping SMBs to get more control, visibility and efficiency in their business. We do this by taking sophisticated and complex AI, and making it simple, accessible and impactful for SMBs. Our advanced software eliminates human error caused by manual data entry and lets you accomplish more tasks in less time. Customers report saving, on average, 50% of time on bill pay thanks to our artificial intelligence simplifying the payments process.
One of our customers, Repurpose, a plant-based materials company, has seen firsthand the benefits of harnessing AI for their business. "Our AP manager is very impressed by the AI technology that BILL employs," says Senior Controller Sarah Sanders. "The pre-populated invoice information makes the bill recording very painless."
By cutting time spent on bill creation and reducing costly human errors, SMBs like Repurpose are able to maximize productivity.
Incorporating AI into your workflows successfully can be a gamechanger for your business. BILL can help you save time and focus on your business, thanks to our AI-powered business payment technology that is powerful, secure, and easy to integrate and use.
To learn more, visit bill.com/product/ai to read how BILL is putting AI to work to help businesses thrive.