Article: Don’t be afraid of robots and Artificial Intelligence

Below is a copy of an article that Andrew was asked to write for this month’s Island Business magazine on the subject of embracing new technology for better business. You can find it on page 22 of the Island Business magazine (July 2018 edition).

Don’t be afraid of robots and Artificial Intelligence

Embracing new technology for better business

Automation in business is a hot topic right now, but it is not something to be feared, it should be embraced. Robots won’t take all our jobs! At Wight Computers we find that businesses who adopt innovative technology, reap the benefits very quickly. The efficiencies that automation brings allows staff to focus on growing the business.

Many of the services that we all use daily already incorporate elements of automation through AI (Artificial Intelligence) to improve the customer experience.

Numerous businesses are automating their customer service by introducing AI chatbots to deal with customer queries, such as finding their nearest store and even handling simple transactions like ordering pizza! These digital employees don’t need to sleep and can be there to help around the clock, on many different platforms including Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and WhatsApp.

Just a few months ago, Google showed off their new virtual assistant which made a phone call to a hair salon and booked an appointment for a haircut. The voice was remarkably natural; the person on the receiving end of the call had no idea they were talking to a machine.

Voice can be a powerful tool for interacting with technology. Voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa are now becoming common place in the home, but I predict that they will soon be adopted by businesses. At Wight Computers we have been working on a concept for the hospitality industry, programming a skill for Alexa to create a series of Q&A that guests can ask to get an instant response e.g. “What is for dinner tonight?” or “When does the pool close?”. These answers can be easily updated by the hotel, allowing them to offer a 24/7 service to guests.

Utilising software within your business can help increase productivity and streamline your processes. Many cloud-based software programs can talk to each other, reducing the need to copy information from one to another. In our office, our phone system talks to our CRM to show the name of the person who’s calling (if they are known to us – we’re always GDPR aware!). The same CRM system talks to our accounts software, so that we can easily raise an invoice without entering the address into two systems.

So, don’t worry that we’re about to be replaced by robots! Here are some top tips for embracing automation and introducing it into the workplace:

  1. Start using cloud-based accounting software
    Creating invoices and submitting VAT returns can be a tedious task. Cloud accounting software such as FreeAgent or Xero can help speed this up by emailing out your invoices, automatically importing all your bank transactions (and marking invoices as paid, or entering them as expenses), chasing late payments for you, and submitting VAT returns electronically. You can access it anywhere from any device, giving you a clear overview of your current financial position, in real-time. The introduction of Making Tax Digital from 2019 means you will need to submit quarterly returns electronically, so speak to your accountant soon to find out which package would work best for you.
  2. Analyse your business processes
    Consider if there are basic administrative tasks or large amounts of paperwork that could be replaced by automation. If you take orders over the phone, perhaps you could have an online ordering facility on your website. This reduces admin time as the customer types up their order for you, meaning you are open for business, day and night.
  3. Automation isn’t limited to the virtual world
    The advance of the Internet of Things (IoT) opens up possibilities to automate objects in the physical world e.g. motion sensors that detect when everybody has left and turns the lights off to save money.

Andrew Nordbruch is the founder of Wight Computers, a Quality in Business accredited company based at the Innovation Centre in Newport. Wight Computers offers innovation solutions for businesses on the Isle of Wight; ranging from IT support to web design & development, with a special interest in the creation of bespoke software applications to help save customers both time and money.

Contact us on 01983 898250 or by email to see how we can help your business make the most of technology.

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