Use an AI tool like ChatGPT to ask “what are some ways a (insert your business type) can use AI to save time and energy” as a starting point for a brainstorm on the topic, or check out our guide 5 ways to use AI in your business.
The latest advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have made headlines around the world. Here’s a simple starter guide to using AI in your small business – including what it’s good for and what you might like to avoid.
Once confined to the imagination of Hollywood filmmakers, the powers of artificial intelligence (AI) are fast becoming a normal part of everyday life. If you decide to use AI in your business, here are some tips to get started and get the best results.
Work out how AI could streamline your processes
Every business is different – so it could be worth exploring how AI could help you to free up some of your time and energy. For example, you could use AI tools to:
- provide around-the-clock support for your customers by answering questions about your products and services outside of your usual business hours
- analyse what your customers need help with most often – and collect data on how, when and where your customers interact with your business
- automate certain processes without needing to invest a lot of time and money in other solutions.
Be cautions about the AI tool you’re using
Before you share any personal details or information about your business with any kind of artificial intelligence, or use it to collect data from your customers, it’s important to know exactly where this information could end up.
Read the terms and conditions of any business tool you use carefully. Keep up-to-date from reliable sources about your chosen tool and check sites you trust for reviews and recommendations. Don’t agree to any terms you’re not comfortable with and make sure you have a good understanding of what you’ll be using.
It’s important to understand the potential risks of using AI, such as software glitches, internet outages and security risks. Always take appropriate steps to keep your customers’ details and information about your business secure.
Use AI to improve your skills, not replace them
AI is getting even better at communicating with humans – but it’s no replacement for a genuine human conversation or connection! Customer service and interactions can be automated to a point, but the real interactions between you, your customers, your staff members and others in your business community are much more likely to drive your success.
As an example, as a small business owner you could use an AI program to run a job interview and screen potential candidates for a role with your business. While this could save time and effort in the short term, it would also take away the chance to connect with someone and discover how they might contribute to your workplace culture, or assess skills like interpersonal communication. For a more personal approach, you might instead use AI to create interview questions tailored to the role and your company, which you could ask your candidates directly.
Get familiar with “prompt engineering”
Prompt engineering is a technical term for knowing the right way to get the best results from AI, by asking the right questions. As with any tool you use in your business, providing the right inputs is key to helping you achieve the outputs you need.
To start with, it’s a good idea to give your chosen AI tool some context on what you’re looking for and, if you have one, an example of what you need. You can also tell your AI tool how you would like the responses to appear – for example, whether you would like a list, to use a certain style or tone of voice or a certain format.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about working with AI is that you can ask your AI to ask YOU questions about a project. You can ask it for the kind of prompt it needs to give you the results you’re looking for – or you can ask it to formulate questions for you to answer.
Check the outputs you receive
Whenever you use AI to provide information you’ll be relying on or sharing, always check it carefully. While AI isn’t “only human”, it can make mistakes, use sources you wouldn’t normally use, take ideas out of context or use language which might not be relevant or appropriate to your business or industry. You are the expert in your own business, so check the information provided by AI so you can correct any errors.
Be careful if you use AI for information in an area outside of your usual area of expertise. If you’re not experienced in a certain area, you might not pick up mistakes, outdated or irrelevant information.
Find out more
SBDC business adviser, Mark Kostner, has helped to put a lot of minds at ease on the topic of AI.
Mark says: “Don’t look at AI as something taking over your role or job – it’s enhancing it. Look for ways to leverage AI in your current business. Ask yourself: How can I use AI to make my life easier? Can I hand this task over to AI? Is there an AI out there to do this task with?”
For more of Mark’s insights on AI, take a look at 5 ways to use AI in your business.
To boost your practical AI and tech skills, you might like to enrol in one of our SBDC workshops to explore this area further, such as our Revolutionise Your Business with ChatGPT or A Practical Introduction to Cyber Security.