SMEs optimistic about AI but many fear it will replace them

New research reveals that, while the majority (61%) of UK SMBs are optimistic about AI and plan to invest in the technology in the next 12 months, nearly half of employees are worried about its impact on their jobs and quality of work.

The study, commissioned by phone and communication platform Aircall in conjunction with Sapio Research, looked at behavior and attitudes towards AI in the workplace from 500 SMEs from across the UK.

Of those surveyed, over half (53%) of UK SMEs confirm they will be investing in AI in the next 12 months. However, just under two-thirds of UK employees (64%) think there is a lack of understanding of what AI can do in the workplace, and over three-quarters (76%) would be interested in learning more about how AI can benefit them.

While there is a clear appetite to leverage AI, the research shows that businesses need to strike a balance between speed and caution in its deployment. Just under half (49%) of employees are concerned about moving too fast with AI, and 57% reveal that they lack the proper technology infrastructure and skill sets to implement it effectively. Meanwhile, 57% of employees are worried that AI’s lack of human input could impact the quality of their work.

For SMEs who get the balance right, however, the impact is clear: employees feel confident in AI’s ability to automate the day-to-day admin of teams and return workers’ hours to meaningful, high-impact work.

Employees within UK SMEs expect AI to benefit their work in the following ways:

  • 64% say improved customer service
  • 69% say the automation of processes
  • 69% say providing impactful business insights
  • 60% say greater sales performance or revenue growth
  • 60% say coaching and upskilling teams

The research coincides with the launch of new AI features from Aircall, which allow SMBs to improve and scale team performance while delivering a higher level of customer understanding.

Jonathan Anguelov, Co-founder and Chief Sales Officer at Aircall, said: “AI is still in its infancy, but we’re already seeing its profound potential for businesses. To untap its true value, businesses must see AI as a facilitator of greater human connections—not a substitute for them. This is something we at Aircall have done with the launch of our own AI features, taking aim at the daily work of sales and support teams, which has become overburdened with repetitive tasks that don’t create impact for them or their customers. Partnering with AI empowers them to take that time back, build stronger customer relationships and human connection. Caution is needed of course, and businesses should spend their time investing in supervision, awareness, and training. Ultimately, this will ensure an exciting new journey for them remains one that accords to their values, model, and objectives.”

Aircall’s AI Index and more information about the findings are available here.