Running a business is no longer dependent on manual intervention. Imagine the busy schedules of entrepreneurs in the past. Attending inventory management, scouting for clients, hopping from one client meeting to the next, taking care of piles of paperwork, planning, adhering to compliances, promoting their brand, filing tax returns, and marketing! The very thought is enough to give me nightmares. *Phew! It’s relaxing to know that it’s not the case any longer.* As business operations have evolved over the years, we have tools to improve our efficiency, productivity, and profitability while also giving us time to take a step back and relax. Thanks to artificial intelligence and virtual assistants, entrepreneurs can now focus on the most important aspect of their business and avoid being stuck with repetitive tasks. If it’s routine, hand it over to AI or a virtual assistant. In fact, of global companies use AI, and when it comes to virtual assistants, of business owners hired at least one VA in 2021. 35% 67% Now that we’ve spoken about AI and virtual assistants being both lifesavers for business people let’s address the elephant in the room: Which one do you select for your business? Is it going to be AI or a VA that will make or break your venture? I will take you through both of them and help you decide. Mind you, it’s no small decision to choose between the two, as having a peaceful life along with a thriving business is what you can achieve through this decision. How Can AI Make Your Business Operations a Breeze? Artificial intelligence has really created a buzz! It’s percolated into our lives like oxygen. You need an example? Well, you needn’t look too far - don’t forget our very own Alexa and Siri. We are so dependent on AI that we do not even want to move our fingers to switch on the lights. We just go, “Hey Siri…”. So, if AI is so deep into our daily lives, imagine what its role is in business! I’ll break it down for you: Using AI to forecast trends to streamline inventory management and marketing efforts is not far-fetched. For example, AI can help you to predict the hottest-selling items for the upcoming season and adjust stock orders accordingly. Now, what it does is improve inventory efficiency, reduce overstock, limit the chances of stockouts, and increase sales. Predicting the next big trend: AI chatbots are all the rage in customer service. of companies prefer to use chatbots for personalized customer service. They improve the customer experience immensely by instantly handling customer queries 24/7. They also free up staff to take care of more complex responsibilities. Keeping your customers happy: 64% Now, this one is huge and highly significant in the current scenario. As cyberattacks increase, there is a need for businesses to protect themselves against cybercrime. AI enhances cybersecurity by monitoring transactions and detecting unusual patterns that indicate fraud. This goes a long way toward reducing financial losses and improving compliance with financial regulations. Looking out for fraud: Have you ever considered using AI to analyze customer behavior and data to create targeted marketing campaigns? of organizations use AI for marketing and sales. It’s more likely to increase engagement and conversion rates. No more one-size-fits-all marketing: 14% Businesses receive hundreds of job applications, and it is not easy to sift through them and identify the right candidates efficiently and timely. AI is a helping hand in screening the resumes and assessing the potential candidates in the initial stages. It goes without saying that this streamlines the recruitment process, improving the quality of candidates and reducing the time-to-hire. Selecting top talent for your business: If you find yourself wishing to make better financial and investment decisions, AI is the way to go. AI algorithms analyze financial data and help businesses make more informed financial decisions and manage risks in a better way. This leads to potentially higher returns and reduces the risk of financial losses. Hitting the bullseye with decisions: Gone are the days of manual intervention in each aspect of your business. Implementing AI to automate routine business workflows improves efficiency. Not only that, but it also frees up ample time for project managers to focus on more strategic tasks. The outcome is more efficient project management and a reduction of unnecessary manual workload. Passing on those routine tasks: If you’re keen on saving time and reducing errors, AI tools are here to help. AI tools can automatically generate business reports. Just imagine the workload it would take off an already burdened project manager if they used AI tools to generate accurate weekly performance reports automatically. Another benefit would be that businesses would get more timely access to important metrics. Making reporting hassle-free: The above are just a few ways AI makes handling business operations more efficient and streamlined. There are several other benefits that make AI very important for business. VA for Managing Your Business Better While AI is making waves when it comes to managing businesses and its usage is increasing with every passing day, it lacks something quite significant: the human element. While analytics and data, accuracy, and promptness are extremely important, AI cannot handle situations that need emotions or something different from routine tasks. It is virtual assistants that fill this gap. Let’s have a look at how VAs are making business operations more efficient and productive: You do not need to dip your toes into routine tasks like scheduling appointments, managing emails, and organizing documents. VAs are there to take care of it, and that too efficiently. This would free up ample time for you and your employees to focus on core tasks and increase productivity. If it’s routine work, hand it over to your VA. Handling administrative work like a pro: Data entry and management of records and trackers seem like a small task, but one miss can lead you to hours of scrutinizing all your records from scratch. It’s essential to maintain and regularly update data accurately for the integrity of your business, reducing errors and making sound decisions. VAs are adept at this task and ensure your data is up-to-date and correct. Handing your data on a platter: Don’t you secretly wish to be a social media influencer with a horde of people following you and being inspired by you? But then you get pulled back by other commitments requiring urgent intervention, and your social media account remains inactive. But this is a problem that VAs can quickly solve. They can manage your social media account, schedule your posts, engage with your followers, interact with others, analyze social media metrics, etc. This improves your online presence, makes your brand recognizable, and attracts more customers. Improving your online presence: Bookkeeping, invoicing, payroll processing, preparing financial reports—enough to cause sleepless nights. But VAs are pros at these critical aspects of financial management, allowing you to have a clearer understanding of your financial position and, in a way, aiding you in better financial planning and budget management. Financial management on track: It’s important to connect with potential clients; creating content that resonates with your target clients is a great way of doing so. VAs prove to be useful as they skillfully tackle all the requirements of content creation, such as writing, editing, graphic designing, video production, and much more. Getting your VA to create content for websites, newsletters, blogs, and social media posts is a hassle-free and effective way of doing content marketing. Creating content that hits the mark: One proven way to keep your customers coming back is great (not good) customer service. You can delegate this significant task to VAs as they handle customer inquiries promptly and provide the required support. You should note that of consumers prefer to speak to a real agent rather than get an instant response from an AI. Now, this has a two-fold benefit. First, your customers are satisfied with the timely support, making them loyal to your brand. Secondly, VAs are a great way of getting customer feedback, managing surveys, and compiling data for analysis. Smooth customer support: 60% If you’re considering expanding your business internationally and do not know the native language, it can negatively impact your venture. While learning a new language is an outstanding achievement, you might not have the time to invest in it. In such a situation, hiring a VA who is well-versed in the local language and culture is best. The VA can translate your communications, and the cultural insights would help grow your business. Breaking the language divide: As an entrepreneur, you’re dealing with multiple clients, multiple projects, and a lot of things that demand your attention. This might make meeting deadlines really tedious, and you might end up missing them sometimes. However, delegating projects to VAs can make managing them easy. VAs plan, execute, and monitor your projects. They coordinate with team members, follow up, and ensure that deadlines are met. Managing your projects: Burnout is a pretty common challenge entrepreneurs face. You’re all over the place managing your business, leaving no room for your personal commitments. Many times, your work-life balance goes for a toss. Delegating your routine tasks to VAs can improve your overall well-being, as they handle both your professional and personal tasks. Whether booking appointments or personal tickets and reservations, a VA can take on the task and free up some time for you. Nailing the work-life balance: The AI vs. VA Decision Choosing between AI and VA is a crucial decision for your business. I’ve included a few scenarios below to help you make the right decision. AI is the right choice for you if: AI can process and analyze vast amounts of data more efficiently than a VA. You can use these insights to drive your business strategies effectively. Your business relies heavily on data-driven decision-making and forecasts. One example of this is the use of AI-driven NLP to enhance customer support. This helps automate customer interactions, from handling inquiries and complaints to suggesting personalized recommendations. AI can read, interpret, and summarize complex documents for sectors like law or finance. AI is also helpful in quality control, image recognition, and complex decision-making. You’re looking to automate complex processes. AI is ideal for a dynamic environment that relies on adaptability. If we talk about tech startups, for instance, they need to evolve their algorithms based on feedback and current data constantly. AI systems make this possible as they adapt and improve over time. You’re looking to scale and continuous upgrades. AI can detect fraudulent activities and identify anomalies. This helps improve your business’s cybersecurity and reduce the risk of potential data breaches and cyberattacks. You prioritize privacy and security. VA is your go-to choice if: VAs handle routine tasks like managing your emails, scheduling appointments, etc. This frees up time to focus on core activities. You’re tired of handling routine tasks. If your business depends on high-end and personalized customer support or if you belong to an industry that needs emotional intelligence, cultural understanding, and personalized communication, like hospitality, then VA proves critical. That human touch matters. If you have a business that relies on project-based work, then VAs prove to be a boon. You can hire a VA with specific skills, like graphic design or digital marketing, for specific projects without the long-term commitment of a full-time employee. You need specialized skills on demand. If you have a small business or a startup, you might not be able to invest significantly in advanced AI systems or full-time employees. Virtual assistants cost less than full-time employees. VAs step in as essential, cost-effective support to run your business smoothly. You’re looking for cost-effective solutions. 78% Making the Right Choice As discussed above, I suggest basing this critical decision between AI and VA on carefully considering your business needs, budget, and long-term goals. In some cases, the best way to go would be to go for a combination of AI and VA. While AI can handle heavy tasks like automation, VAs can handle flexibility, human interactions, and flexibility. Ultimately, your choice should go hand-in-hand with your business objectives and improve your overall efficiency. Just remember that your business deserves the best support to thrive.