Bots, AI and VA’s – How can they help you?

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Bots, AI and VA’s – How can they help you?

Bots, AI and VA's - How can they help you?

Bots, AI and VA's - How can they help you?

So, what are you using these days in your business? In today’s modern small business, owners need to take advantage of technology where their budgets allow them to. What do I mean by that, well some technology is still super expensive and not necessarily affordable for the small business owner, however some technology is extremely affordable and after implementation, you begin to wonder how you did without it.

Let’s talk about some examples here and please write back to us with any examples you are using that are not mentioned here.

THE BOTS ARE COMING!

For a guy like me born in the 70’s, robots (or Bots) were something that we say on cartoons and in the movies, but today Bots are more than just a computer on wheels. They are software that have AI built right in and can assist our clients/customers sometimes even better than a real person (sometimes not of course). For example, if you’ve ever gone to a website and see a chat box pop up in the lower corners asking how they can help, that’s a Bot. When you call the bank to get a balance owed on a credit card or loan, that’s a Bot. When you pull out an app that orders pizza for you based on your last order, that’s a Bot. All of these Bot’s make our life easier for sure, but what are you using for your business to make life easier for you? Maybe you’ve checked out Zoho, or MailChimp. We actually use MailChimp to make our newsletter process simple and confirm to today’s legal requirements! Did you also know that recently a survey from Verizon revealed that 30% of small US businesses have adopted some form of digital solutions to help employee shortages or cut labor costs. I think the self-checkout machine was also employee of the month at Walmart!

But how is this important to your business? Well the truth of the matter is that talented labor, or labor in general for that matter, is getting harder and harder to find, or it’s just not affordable for the small business owner. So we as the creative engine of the business world have to adapt and overcome once again (nothing new here) and face this problem head on and really embrace the change!

Artificial Intelligence – To infinity and beyond!

AI, I must admit is a little scary. I am reminded of the first Terminator movie I saw where SkyNet (AI) takes over the world and humanity as we know it is forever changed. Now I hope as a society we learn from those movies and that never happens, but there is some AI out there that’s actually really cool and can be used without too much fear. For example, as we mentioned above some chatbots can be a great tool for customer support. They can answer basic questions about your products that customers can ask online, like do you offer a gluten free pizza crust option! They can also boost your cyber security through implementing tools that weed out spam or malicious emails by tracking your company’s email behavior.

Did you know that a recent poll reported 81 percent of online retailers increased their AI budget to boost holiday sales. The same report also revealed that 42 percent of retailers continue to be concerned over the disruptions being caused by the supply chain crisis and how it may impact delivery times and inventory. It revealed that in order to remain competitive, 81 percent of retailers are planning to spend more on AI this year. (Source: Venture Beat)

So what do you think about AI being important to your business? Is it goodbye real people, hello AI? A blend of both? Or forget about it, I don’t want no stinking AI, my customers want the real deal and they are willing to pay for it?

Virtual Assistant (“VA”), YES PLEASE or NO THANK YOU???

VA’s are a fact of life these days if you ask me. Heck, Alexa or Siri are essentially VA’s in my opinion. They set timers for us, add reminders for us, make calendar appointments, even help us with answering those silly questions that sometimes pop into our heads, all at the beck and whim of the owner. Now there are also other VA’s that aren’t Bots like Alexa or Siri, like the one I use to help distribute this article you are reading. Those VA’s are real people, who are just work virtually. This could be a virtual answering service for your business, a VA that helps you sort and respond to emails, a VA that addresses employee HR questions, or even a VA that helps you with all your accounting, like Interactive Accountants does (shameless plug, yes!)

The point here is that VA’s are wonderful (in my humble opinion), in that they help solve problems or provide additional bandwidth our business needs at fractional costs. The area to be careful with is how much data you share with them, as generally you are not going to have to much control over their cyber security policies or procedures. So from my perspective, it’s best to keep VA’s in the loop with things that aren’t secure or require a password, unless of course you have that covered with a legal contract.

So why might VA’s be important to our small business? Well, they can provide us with needed bandwidth at a moments notice. The cost of a VA is generally a lot less that a full or even part time employee. VA’s can cover times when your regular staff may not be available for work, like evenings or weekends.

So if you’ve enjoyed reading this article, I would greatly appreciate it if you shared it with your family, friends and colleagues. You can also invite them to check out our past blog posts here: https://interactiveaccountants.com/blog/ where we host them.

As always, the kindest form of appreciation in small business is a referral. So if you know of someone that is seeking out high quality accounting at a reasonable price, please send them our way. We do appreciate you referring Interactive Accountants to your friends and acquaintances.

Should you ever wish to chat about these topics, or something else, please do not hesitate to book a free consultation with Matthew Shiebler, CPA