The difference AI makes: A company road-tests productivity hacks

AI transform business

Ben Willis, CTO of MadeComfy. Source: Supplied.

The business world is abuzz with the potential for generative AI to transform and streamline everyday tasks—but what does that actually mean in individual workplaces?

Ben Willis, CTO of MadeComfy, explains how his company is exploring innovative new uses for this revolutionary tech.

Taking a playful approach

As a management company for short-term rental properties, MadeComfy has a lot of irons in the fire. From onboarding and listing new properties, coordinating partners and contractors, managing bookings, and liaising with guests, it’s all go all the time—just like for so many other SMEs.

A few months ago, the leadership team got excited about the potential for generative AI to help lighten everybody’s load, smooth processes, and improve efficiency. So, they encouraged employees to experiment with it.

“It was really just trying to create the mindset within the business that we’re very for it,” Willis says. “We want everyone trying to use it as much as possible to help them do their jobs while reassuring them that it won’t impact anyone’s job negatively. ‘It’s going to help you become more productive’ was our approach in talking to everyone.”

This tactic generated some excellent ideas. For example, a sales rep had the brainwave to streamline the property onboarding process by feeding the details of new rental properties into a chatbot and getting it to spit out summaries.

This small change saves the sales team around half an hour per property, freeing them up to devote more time to their core skills—which, as Willis points out, is the aim of the game with AI.

“There’s a lot of staff that can now experiment with things that they never had a chance to do because they were caught up with mundane admin tasks every day,” he says.

Register for our upcoming webinar AI & your business | How SMEs can get ready  a free webinar hosted by SmartCompany in partnership with Salesforce exploring what AI means for small-businesses.

Improving the Guest Experience

MadeComfy is exploring plenty of other ways to streamline processes, including scanning property photographs for amenities with an image-inspection tool and using AI to automate and enhance the accuracy of dynamic pricing.

Willis is also investigating tools like Salesforce’s Einstein GPT to improve the guest experience (GX).

“Our services team gets messages from guests every day, constantly—thousands of them,” he says. “And a lot of the questions are about really simple things: ‘How far away is the key box from the front door?’, ‘What’s the closest shopping centre?’

“The long-term plan is to expose all of our property data to have the AI answer those basic questions, only handing off to our GX staff if it goes beyond that into something it can’t handle.”

He acknowledges that this will take some nutting out, so the short-term plan is to use EinsteinGPT to suggest quick-fire replies.

“We have a large GX team, but guests still sometimes need to wait to get an answer due to the sheer volume of daily check-ins,” Willis says. “So if we can shift that to guests being looked after immediately, I think that will be big.”

Tips for leveraging AI in your workplace

Willis has a few learnings to share with other business leaders hoping to unlock the potential of AI:

  • Make people feel safe. Encourage experimentation by reassuring employees their job isn’t on the line—it’s just about assisting them to do their role better and automating mundane tasks.
  • Invite input. Ask people to share their ideas for possible uses, and be open to those ideas.
  • Monitor output. Emphasise that the AI isn’t going to be right every time. Human co-pilots will need to review and monitor what it’s outputting.
  • Respect the learning curve. It takes practice and training to use AI properly, so ask volunteers to learn the latest skills.

Willis’s parting advice is to start playing around with this technology sooner rather than later so you can enjoy the competitive advantage of being an early adopter. 

“There will be a few years of people experimenting, working out the various ways to use it and how it can be incorporated,” he says. “I think it’s probably a great time to start now and still be ahead of the game.”

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