The conversation around artificial intelligence tends to focus on how it can make companies more efficient and productive. And that stands to reason — implemented effectively, such automation really does lead to greater output in less time at a lower cost.

Of course, AI customized for your business doesn’t grow on trees. One software development firm, for instance, estimates that a simple chatbot could cost between $6,000 to $12,240, while a more complex bot’s price tag could be closer to six figures. But even with AI’s short-term costs, the tech could be a worthwhile investment that lowers your business’s long-term expenditures.

As marketplaces become more crowded and competitive, companies will need to look for every advantage to remain relevant and appealing. AI plays a big part in that, cementing a company’s reputation as an innovator in the process. Here are four ways you can use AI to cut costs for your business:

Use Automation to Improve Efficiency and Reduce Errors

Errors aren’t just disruptive; they’re wasteful. In healthcare, for example, unnecessary tests and procedures cost U.S. consumers an astounding $210 billion a year. Part of the problem is that each patient is likely receiving medical treatment from multiple service providers, making it difficult to effectively organize a treatment schedule. AI, however, can spot duplicate procedures in the scheduling process and reduce scheduling errors as well.

CHRISTUS Health, for instance, worked with Experian Health to automate up to 80 percent of its preregistration-related tasks, such as inputting new patients’ health history. As a result, productivity increased by 60 percent while errors plummeted. Staffers reallocated the time that was being spent on menial tasks to helping out with more important needs. Increasing efficiency and decreasing errors benefits both patients and providers.

Improve Your Production Output With Stronger Workflows

The cumulative effects of inefficiency can cause end-to-end production processes to lag and accrue extra costs. Automating workflows ensures that they run automatically, consistently, and with less oversight. AI can replace human inputs while helping to manage the inputs humans still make, improving every aspect of production in the process.

For example, a major paper packaging manufacturer was looking to reduce its scrap rate, so it implemented Sight Machine’s sensor-enabled, AI-driven application suite to track the production process in depth. This enabled the company to monitor every instance when a machine came into contact with paper and analyze the resulting production data in real time, eliminating many inefficiencies and QA issues in the process.

Free Up Your Employees’ Time for Higher-Level Tasks

People are your biggest asset, so save their valuable time by automating some of their menial duties. For example, Botkeeper uses human-assisted AI to handle bill paying, accounts receivable, financial reporting, and myriad other accounting tasks. To date, the solution has automated more than 1,200,000 hours of bookkeeping for its 1,000 clients. With the time saved, companies can either reduce the number of accountants they employ or repurpose the existing ones to work on more strategic accounting efforts.

Once AI has time- and labor-intensive processes running on autopilot, remaining employees can redirect their focus to more important things. By one estimate, employees who saved 240 hours due to automation return $9,240 in value to their employers. The numbers are even higher when it’s executives’ time that’s being repurposed.  

Automate the Sticking Points of Customer Service

Automation in the form of chatbots and digital assistants leads to better customer service overall because customers can reach these AI helpers 24/7. This technology is so beneficial for all involved that Gartner predicts that 85 percent of customer service interactions will take place between humans and AI by 2020.

That prediction’s believable when you consider an example like Autodesk Virtual Assistant. AVA is able to handle 30,000 interactions a month, speeding up response times from 1.5 days to 5 minutes. Call centers are quickly becoming obsolete as automation learns to answer the same queries as human representatives in less time. In turn, companies can offer customers superior service.

AI can optimize companies’ operations in ways that both improve their bottom line and enhance the customer experience. AI-driven automation is an advantage now, but moving forward, companies will consider it a critical asset for remaining competitive.

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.