AI in the Small Business World

What angle and marketing strategies have you come up with to adjust to the new AI acceleration against your competitors? Do you find there are a higher percentage of pros than there are cons with the immense functional you of the AI functions? 

Share some things of how AI and AI integration has affected your business! 

  • What a pointed and inspiring question Brett. Thank you for sharing! I look forward to the responses on this one.

  • I run a market research firm. My competitors are relying on the internet more than AI, but there is a mix. For people in the CX industry, they are giving some terrible CX to their evaluators!

    Computers - They are listing secret shops on job boards without assigning any humans to them. The jobs sit on the board until an evaluator self-assigns them. Yes, it's saving money by not paying schedulers, so they are offering rock-bottom, impossible fees in order to edge the rest of us out. The problem? There are no people! Evaluators end up with no one to answer questions or move their date should they need to request a date change. From what I have heard if an evaluator emails a scheduler(human) with a question about those projects, they are told there is no scheduler for them. That is the WORST customer experience for the evaluator and they are in the CX industry! Of course, the clients have zero clue that no one is actually working on those projects. They wait until 15-20 days into the month, then put a scheduler on whatever is left, but they are alienating the evaluators. In turn, the evaluators are walking away from those businesses because they had a poor experience.

    AI- Some of my other competitors use AI to answer questions posed by an evaluator, but they are not programmed to give the correct answers for each client. the bot will start the chat, then end up telling the evaluator that after some 20 minutes of chatting (from what I have heard), they need to leave a message on the chat for a scheduler (human) to get back to them. I was told this takes 12-24 hours for a response from the one person who is trying to handle all of the requests.

    My company- we always have humans working with other humans. Yes, we have AI in our platforms, but a human set of eyes is always looking over everything. AI can save time with many things, but there are some things that it cannot replace. I would never send a secret shop or focus group report to a client without at least one set of human eyes on it. For scheduling of appts, timing, contacts- yes. I'm all in, but not for evaluators, schedulers, or editors. We are in the CX/UX industry.

    So, if any of you use any size market research firm, you might want to ask them if there are humans on their projects at all times. If the fee you are paying is very low, I would question that as well. Think of it this way: for every secret shop, there must be at least one scheduler, one editor, and a project manager, in addition to the evaluator. Let's say for ease of numbers, a company is charging $25 per location. If the scheduler gets $10, let's say it takes an hour to schedule, they are often ICs and need to pay their own tax out of that- keep that in mind. How hard is someone going to work who is making roughly &7.80 an hour after paying self-employment taxes? Having been in that position, some shops will take several hours and get paid by the job, so if that $10 is split over two hours they won't bother working it. They will let it sit on the job board and hope someone logs in and takes the job. I digress. Let's say the editor makes $5 to edit the job; minus the self-employment taxes, they are making $3.90 to edit your report. Now there is just $10 left. Should the PM make the same as the scheduler? Suppose the PM makes $10, so that is the $25 rock bottom price per shop.

    How does the company make any money? Many build in extra fees to charge or they do not make any money. Some of these rock-bottom pricing companies are selling contracts at a loss with the intent to double, triple, or quadruple the contract at the next renewal. They figure with the historical data they have over the year, you would not want to start over with a new company. (Just an FYI if you ever find yourself in that situation- every secret shopping platform can upload flat data from the previous market research company!  If they say they can't, then their software is inferior or they are lying! There are only three main platforms and I've worked on all of them, in addition to several proprietary software over the last 24 years.)  Essentially, you end up with poorly paid schedulers, editors, and PM's. How well is the project going to run? You get what you pay for. I've seen this occurring with small and large (quite large) market research firms since the pandemic began. I would ask the AI question of any company you may contact for market research, should you need it. AI can be a great time saver, but not at the cost of providing great customer service. Customers do not return to businesses when they receive poor customer service. It's something around 87% of people will drive further to visit an establishment with great customer service and great reviews over those that are lower.

    AI can work wonders in some industries, but I believe it has a limited function in a world revolving around customer service and human exchange. It can also intimidate your employees and make them feel less valued. Some fear for their jobs, but I think that is expected with the unknown. Movies like iRobot do not help that situation either.

  • I haven't used any AI tools in my work and don't see any need for it in my projects.

  • Some of the AI-assisted photo editing tools look promising, but I haven't really fully dived into exploring using AI for my business as my previous experience playing around with ChatGPT seemed to often provide very unreliable results.

  • I have live classes and chat bot Human AI inspired classes. I always offer both.

  • AI integration has made certain tasks easier and freed up resources for more complex and higher margin services

  • Marketing's in another department (thankfully). Honestly, we've done little in our editing department to use AI. As editors though, we have to be extra careful to spot plagarism, and AI makes catching it more difficult -- we simply won't publish AI generatied material.

  • I do not use AI for my business, but I do find the Gemini and Copilot are both great for researching general information. They are usually about 90% accurate with information, but you have to wary of the built in bias that was programmed into them. You always want to verify any stats or figures they give you against other sources.  There was a story recently of a reporter who was using AI to write his stories and they were filled with incorrect information. AI is generally accurate, but it can only be as reliable as the information it finds online, and we all know how unreliable that is.

  • there are many Pros to AI.. it really helps in writing short copy that gives you a start to edit from and they utilize.. just check the work.. 

  • Currently still learning more about AI and the difference between various service platforms. I'd like to see the technology stabilize and mature a bit more before committing myself to using specific platforms to integrate into my workflow.