Top 4 Benefits of Generative AI for SMBs: Expert Insights

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In today’s rapidly evolving business environment, companies are continually seeking innovative ways to stay competitive. Generative AI (GenAI) technologies have captured significant attention for their potential to transform business operations for all organizations, including SMBs.

Claire-Juliette Beale, principal marketing manager for SMB at SAS, a data and AI provider, told Techopedia:

“GenAI can automate various tasks, reduce the need for some manual labor, facilitate innovation, and potentially lower operational costs for SMBs.”

One of the main benefits of generative AI is that it helps SMBs streamline operations by automating repetitive tasks, freeing up time and resources.

Other benefits of implementing generative AI for SMBs include enhancing productivity with real-time insights, personalizing customer experiences, and ensuring these companies remain competitive by helping them quickly adapt to changing market trends.

In this article, we asked experts to identify the most significant advantages GenAI can bring to SMBs and highlight some crucial generative AI risks to be aware of.

Key Takeaways

  • One of the main benefits of generative AI is that it helps SMBs streamline operations by automating repetitive tasks.
  • GenAI can automate various tasks, reduce the need for manual labor, facilitate innovation, and potentially lower operational costs for SMBs.
  • An example of how GenAI can boost operational efficiency is by taking advantage of virtual assistant technology to monitor customer communications.
  • Although SMBs can benefit from implementing GenAI, they must also be aware of the risks of the technology.

Key Benefits of Generative AI for SMBs

When SMBs implement GenAI, they should strive for customized AI solutions focused on the specific needs of their businesses as well as the requirements of their frontline workers, says Luiz Domingos, chief technology officer at Mitel, a business communications company.

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Top 4 Benefits of Generative AI for SMBs

Generate Additional Revenue Streams

Verizon Business is already starting to see its small business customers experiment with the power and potential of generative AI, says Aparna Khurjekar, chief revenue officer, business markets and SaaS for Verizon Business.

In fact, according to the Verizon Business 4th Annual State of Small Business Survey, 43% of SMBs agree that AI can help generate additional revenue streams for their businesses. The answer to why is simple: if used correctly, GenAI helps optimize their most valuable commodity – time.

Khurjekar says:

“From developing marketing emails and engaging with current and prospective customers to leveraging AI-powered chatbots on their websites as well as answering and expediting customer issues, the barrier to entry for utilizing GenAI has never been lower. And the opportunity to see immediate benefits has never been easier.”

Mahesh Ram, head of AI at Zoom, agrees that GenAI can help SMBs generate revenue, saying GenAI can play a key role for SMBs in improving their top-line sales, providing intelligent customer support and service, and insights into their customers’ needs.

Boost Operational Efficiency

For many SMBs, a logical first step is implementing GenAI for services and support functions, as they can estimate the return on investment based on improvements in productivity, says Domingos.

An example of how GenAI can boost operational efficiency is by taking advantage of virtual assistant technology to monitor customer communications. Domingos says:

“Virtual assistant technology monitors customer interactions and suggests responses to ensure customers receive informed, personalized, and compliant guidance. The data generated by virtual assistant technology is also incredibly valuable as it allows organizations to quickly identify trends and address knowledge gaps, which helps boost productivity and the customer experience.”

Shawn Plummer, CEO of The Annuity Expert, an online insurance agency, believes GenAI can boost productivity as well as creativity and decision-making. He says:

“For example, we’ve used GenAI to automate repetitive tasks, freeing up our team to focus on more strategic initiatives. Specifically, we’ve leveraged AI for customer inquiries and email responses. This shift has not only improved our response times but also allowed our team to dedicate more energy to personalized client consultations and strategic planning.”

Beale agrees that by automating routine tasks with AI and GenAI capabilities, SMBs can augment their existing skills and capabilities so employees can focus on more essential work.

At a high level, generative AI acts as a great equalizer when it comes to talent, creating even bigger benefits for smaller firms, says Octavio Laos, senior manager at Armanino LLP, an accounting and business consulting firm.

“Couldn’t code your own website before because you have a small team? Now you can leverage generative AI to help you build things that were out of your grasp,” he says.

Create Better Content

GenAI has also made a significant impact in content creation, according to Plummer.

“By using AI tools, we’ve been able to produce regular, high-quality blog posts and marketing materials that align with our brand voice (using ChatGPT for drafting content and Grammarly for ensuring grammatical accuracy) much faster than before,” he says. “This efficiency has enhanced our online presence and engagement with potential clients.”

Oguz Acar, professor of marketing and innovation at King’s College London, says:

“GenAI tools substantially reduce the cost of intelligence which, when used strategically, can give SMBs capabilities once deemed unattainable, such as in content creation and market research.”

And acting as a writing assistant or to help summarize information, GenAI enables SMBs to save valuable time almost immediately, Laos adds.

Unlock Customer Insights

GenAI not only automates mundane tasks, freeing up employees for more important work, but it also unlocks a “treasure trove” of insights from customer data – behaviors, patterns, preferences, and predictions, says Vijay Guntur, president of engineering and R&D services at HCLTech, an information technology consulting company.

“These insights pave the way for personalized customer experiences, which are key to building loyalty and competitive differentiation for SMBs,” he says. “With GenAI, predicting market trends, risks, customer behavior, and operational bottlenecks become feasible with a higher level of accuracy.”

Overall, GenAI can be a strategic ally for SMBs – helping them operate efficiently, understand and predict customer behavior, and quickly move toward new opportunities, Guntur adds.

Pitfalls & Risks of GenAI for SMBs

Although SMBs can benefit from implementing GenAI, they must also be aware of the risks of generative AI.

Implementation & Maintenance

Guntur told Techopedia:

“It’s always prudent to understand the risks involved in any technology implementation, especially GenAI, which is evolving at a rapid pace. While GenAI can drive innovation and growth, its adoption necessitates thoughtful planning, careful implementation, and continuous oversight.”

Another concern for SMBs is the financial burden associated with deploying and maintaining GenAI solutions.

“The initial investments and ongoing expenses can be substantial, underscoring the importance of a thorough cost-benefit analysis,” Guntur says. “Another concern is around fairness and data privacy given GenAI’s reliance on vast datasets. This issue is especially pertinent for businesses in such fields as cybersecurity, diagnostics, and autonomous vehicles, where consumer trust and operational stability are of prime importance.”

GenAI Solution Cost

An additional issue that could derail the use of the technology by SMBs is cost.

Ram says:

“With virtually every vendor touting GenAI capabilities and almost all charging a premium for these, SMBs need to carefully evaluate and invest in platforms that can offer a wide range of capabilities without breaking the budget.”

Beale agrees, saying that the Initial costs of acquiring the technology acquisition, training, and integration can strain SMBs with limited resources.

Large language models, for example, require a lot of resources and can be expensive for SMBs to develop and adopt,” she says.

Quality Control

Another generative AI risk revolves around quality-control issues as AI-generated content might not consistently meet designed standards, leading to errors and misconceptions, Beale adds.

Additionally, SMBs might be too dependent on AI, which can cause vulnerabilities if the technology malfunctions or produces inaccurate results.

“And the complexity of understanding and managing these technologies can be daunting, especially for SMBs lacking specialized skills and expertise in this area,” she says.

Actual Value

SAS’s Beale says:

“The responsible use of AI and GenAI will require careful consideration of how – and even if – GenAI should be integrated with an organization’s products, services, workflows, and processes.”

SMBs also need to consider whether GenAI actually solves their business problems.

Unfortunately, most AI projects still fail, largely because the focus in on “AI” and less on the problems that people are trying to solve, says Laos.

“Simply budgeting big software spend on AI initiatives is not often a path for success,” he says.

“It’s a lot easier to take these experiments as learning experiences when your business is larger. Small to midsize firms need to let themselves breathe for a moment and really evaluate how they will actually leverage the technology in the long run, not just if they should.”

The Bottom Line

SMBs are adopting AI and GenAI to enhance efficiency, gain insights from data, personalize customer experiences, and empower their workforces to gain an edge over their competitors and expand their businesses, says Beale.

“Given resource constraints at SMBs, particularly in terms of skilled personnel for data analysis and data management, the integration of GenAI technologies is crucial,” she says. “These technologies are contributing to the democratization of AI and analytics.”

By making data-driven insights more accessible and manageable for SMBs, these technologies level the playing field and allow SMBs to compete more efficiently in today’s digital world.

However, while GenAI presents vast opportunities for small to midsize businesses, these companies must carefully manage the challenges that come with it.

Guntur concludes:

“Engaging with these technologies offers a pathway to growth, provided businesses remain vigilant in mitigating associated risks.”

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Linda Rosencrance
Technology journalist
Linda Rosencrance
Technology journalist

Linda Rosencrance is a freelance writer and editor based in the Boston area, with expertise ranging from AI and machine learning to cybersecurity and DevOps. She has been covering IT topics since 1999 as an investigative reporter working for several newspapers in the Boston metro area. Before joining Techopedia in 2022, her articles have appeared in TechTarget, MSDynamicsworld.com, TechBeacon, IoT World Today, Computerworld, CIO magazine, and many other publications. She also writes white papers, case studies, ebooks, and blog posts for many corporate clients, interviewing key players, including CIOs, CISOs, and other C-suite execs.