Presented by Intuit
Major advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning have dominated headlines over the past year. It is obvious why large corporations, with their huge customer bases and vast data warehouses, are excited. It’s been less clear how this technology will impact small businesses and the self-employed though. Will they be able to benefit, or will they face an even tougher fight competing with global giants?
Enter QuickBooks, the largest platform for small businesses and self-employed in the world, with nearly 2.4M subscribers. Alex Chriss, Chief Product Officer for QuickBooks, says this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for small businesses and the self-employed to gain a competitive advantage.
“At times, the odds are stacked against small businesses and the self-employed, so we are here to back these people by tipping the odds in their favor. Whether it’s automating the back-office, or using data to unearth insights that were previously inaccessible or cumbersome, technology can make a small business more productive, efficient and informed,” says Chriss. “At QuickBooks, we see small businesses and self-employed face three very common challenges in their day-to-day lives: getting money when they need it, accessing data to make the big decisions, and forging the right connections. Technology can remove the friction from each of these pain points.”
Chriss unveiled three new AI and machine learning-powered services in QuickBooks, part of a series of product innovations announced at the fourth annual QuickBooks Connect conference.
Smart Money: Small businesses need capital and cash flow to be a successful business. QuickBooks is getting faster in moving money in and out. For instance, QuickBooks Capital employs a breakthrough credit model powered by more than 26 billion QuickBooks data points to give small businesses access to funding at the moment of need. QuickBooks Payments eliminates the biggest hurdle of getting paid by replacing outdated, manual methods of sending invoices to customers with “pay-enabled” electronic invoices.
Smart Decisions: It takes hundreds of decisions every day to keep a business up, running, and growing.QuickBooks is behind small business and the self-employed every step of the way, accelerating access to business insights and financial information with QuickBooks Assistant. The new virtual assistant combines data intelligence with natural language processing to deliver a conversational chat experience aimed at easing overall business operations. QuickBooks Assistant provides instant answers that help customers stay on top of their business finances whenever and wherever they need.
Smart Connections: It takes the right network of advisors, partners, customers and even apps to thrive. QuickBooks is getting smarter in how it connects small businesses and the self-employed to the people and things that matter most. The QuickBooks Find-A-ProAdvisor platform is an example of that — as an accountant matchmaking platform that connects self-employed and small businesses to an accountant who can meet their specific needs.
The technology behind the innovation
These products all tap into the zeitgeist of technological learning capabilities that are transforming the business world.
“For decades, small businesses and the self-employed were at a disadvantage when it came to technology,” Chriss says. “With QuickBooks, everything changes. QuickBooks is an AI and machine learning-powered platform that gives small businesses and the self-employed the ability to compete at scale around the world. We’re bringing together data that actually rivals, and in many cases, eclipses many other large businesses, and really tipping the scales in favor of each and every small business right now.”
QuickBooks has over seven million customers, including half a million accountants and over 5,000 app developers, in their ecosystem — which means billions and billions of data points.
“Massive advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence have unlocked ways to solve customer pain points in innovative ways,” Chriss says. “The breadth and the scale of our customer base and the changes in technology are giving us the ability to delight customers and really solve their needs in new and interesting ways.”
Empowering small business
QuickBooks Assistant, the company’s virtual assistant, harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to address one of the biggest challenges facing small businesses and the self-employed: How to keep track of business success both profitably and efficiently.”
Customers will soon be asking: “How’s my business doing? Can I afford to hire that next employee? How profitable was this job that I was working on?”
And all that data is available to them, Chriss says. Of course, they can find that information by figuring out how to run reports — they’re not bookkeepers, and frankly often have too much to juggle to spend the time on that learning curve.
“We really want to enable QuickBooks customers to have access to the critical information they need to run their businesses in the palm of their hand,” he says. “QuickBooks Assistant is a conversational user interface that allows our customers to just ask a question, and then we do the heavy lifting.”
The assistant only requires a click of a button. This feature doesn’t just answer the question a customer asks, however. With billions of data points and a sophisticated machine-learning algorithm, it can take the next step and offer up information a small business owner didn’t even know they needed.
“It’s information that they might not have asked, but that they would want to know going forward,” Chriss says. “The assistant is the eyes and ears of a customer’s business.”
The QuickBooks machine learning algorithm in action
Machine learning has also transformed how small businesses are making smart connections through the QuickBooks Find-a-ProAdvisor platform.
“Eighty-nine percent of small businesses say they’re more successful when they work with an accountant,” Chriss says. Each year, more than one million small businesses search for an accountant through the Find-a-ProAdvisor platform. But you can’t just have any accountant. You’ve got to find the one that works in the industry that you’re working in, in the type of business that you’re working in, or in the location you need.
“We’re leveraging data across both the small business, self-employed side, and the accountant side to make sure that the right accountants are matched with the right customers,” Chriss says.
Technology-powered customer success
QuickBooks customers using the Find-a-ProAdvisor platform and the accountants listed there are reaping powerful results from the machine learning algorithms that suggest that best matches. Sherrell Martin, managing member of Nitram Financial Solutions, has seen a huge spike in new quality client leads, now that small businesses can connect with a ProAdvisor directly within QuickBooks Online.
“We’ve gotten tons of leads since they have revamped the Find-a-ProAdvisor platform,” Martin says. “We get at least two to three a week from being on the Find-a-ProAdvisor website.”
And QuickBooks Capital is already making a difference for hundreds of small businesses that were invited to use the product through a private beta, Chriss adds.
“We’ve been turned down by lender after lender because we were making money just three months out of the year,” says Mike Waesch, co-founder of RMU Outdoors of Colorado, which started as a custom ski company. They’ve struggled to keep up with orders or to realize growth plans due to their lack of funding.
They turned to QuickBooks Capital to solve their seasonality problem — a plan to build a biergarten in the back of their ski shop.
“There was no discussion over ‘How are you guys doing? Can you support this?’” says Waesch. “It was like, ‘We understand where you’re at. We understand what you’ve been doing and where you’ll go with it.’ QuickBooks Capital provided the solution for us to get out of the seasonal business.”
Learn more: For more information about QuickBooks’ announcements and product vision, visit smarter.quickbooks.com.
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