Smart tech for your small business

By Hilary Thompson

It seems like everyone is going smart these days, but is investing in smart tech a smart idea for your small business? It depends. Such tech can improve your efficiency, but it can also just be an expensive distraction. Before you start considering it, spend some time thinking about what’s working and what needs improvement. Only when you have a clear idea of how smart tech can improve your bottom line is it time to consider what to add to your business.

Just like in your home, smart tech can add to the things you are doing to save on energy costs. It can also improve the customer experience, enhance the culture and productivity of you or your team, provide more data—the list goes on. It also comes at a cost. Here are some things to consider while looking at moving your business into the digital age with smart technology.

How are your energy costs?

Some businesses spend a lot on energy. If you have to maintain a storefront or an office, heating, cooling, and lighting costs are probably a big line item. Traditionally, to improve your HVAC costs, you’d have to spend a lot on insulation, new windows and doors, and more efficient systems and monitor usage closely.

But with smart tech, saving energy can be automated, so you never have to think about it again except when you see your lower monthly bills. A smart thermostat like the Nest offers customized programming so you can set it to kick on and off exactly when people first arrive and leave the workspace, but it will do more than that. It will track your usage and adjust the HVAC system according to that. You can also control it from your smartphone if there’s a schedule change.

Lighting systems are another place to implement some smart tech. Not only are LED lights much more energy-efficient, but a system with sensors will make sure you’re never lighting an empty room again. Systems like the Philips Hue also allow you to set bulb temperature, which can make for a much more pleasant environment than harsh fluorescents.

What do your customers want? 

How well do you understand your customer base? Many consumers these days want quick answers from businesses, but some still prefer human interaction to an immediate, automated response. Are your customers more likely to call you up or message you on Facebook or Twitter?

If it’s the latter, you may want to consider investing in a chatbot either on Facebook or for your own website. Even in cases when human intervention is necessary, chatbots can offer immediate response and initiate a ticket, which can go a long way in reducing an unhappy customer’s frustration or anxiety. A chatbot can also help you save money on customer service resourcing over time if your budget is tight.

With the proliferation of this tech, it’s not just for big companies anymore. There are some options that are free with limited features, while others are low cost. Here are some customer service chatbot recommendations from one of the experts.

Where is there room for improvement in productivity?

Productivity can be hard to measure, but there’s no doubt that low productivity is a significant business expense. Things like health problems and personal life stress have a big impact on productivity, and while you might not be able to do a lot about those, you can help your employees and yourself be more productive in other ways.

For instance, if you have a data-heavy business, chances are your employees spend a fair amount of time tracking down information they need for reports or analysis. This is another area where a chatbot can be quite useful. Some are designed to connect to whatever data or customer management system you use and provide quick answers to your questions.

You may also benefit from a digital personal assistant since you’re less likely to be able to employ a human one full time. You can use a chatbot like Jarvis to set reminders and manage your schedule, or add an Alexa or Google Home device to your office to help you with anything from booking your next work trip to managing your email to finding a new supplier.

Energy costs, customer service, and productivity/administrative support are good areas to start examining if you’re thinking about adding smart tech to your small business, but that’s just the beginning. Smart tech options for security, team communication, and inventory management may also be helpful for your business. Which are best for you will depend on your specific business model and needs, but smart tech is definitely worth consideration.


Hilary Thompson is a small business owner who writes in her free time on topics from health to business, tech and parenting. She especially loves helping other small business owners pursue their dreams of success and fulfillment in their companies.

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