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Grow Your Business Technology

How to Use Siri to Boost Your Small Business

How to Use Siri to Boost Your Small Business
Credit: Hadrian/Shutterstock

Siri, Apple's cheeky AI-powered personal assistant for iOS devices, Apple Watch, the Mac and even Apple TV, is almost a way of life for many entrepreneurs and small businesses. That's because Siri is a handy situational sidekick that doesn't bug you when you don't need it, but is ready to serve when you do. With it, you can use your voice or keyboard to easily accomplish multistep processes.

iOS 11 and MacOS High Sierra bring additional deep learning improvements to Siri, including new, natural-sounding male and female voices with regional variations. Siri can now sync across all your devices via end-to-end iCloud encryption to better personalize query results. Cross-device — sync which works only on the latest OS updates – boosts its machine learning chops by continually evaluating your actions on each platform.

It's easy to get started using Siri for routine tasks throughout the day: You can call business associates, email or text clients, set or change appointments or alarms, or get directions to your next meeting. It's also useful for everyday information that would otherwise require searching or tapping through menus, such as current weather conditions and stock prices. Siri's diverse prowess encompasses contextual reminders (doing something at a certain time or location), word definitions, math equations and finding the best lunch place.

The biggest obstacle for most people is getting accustomed to actually using Siri, as many people resist barking orders to or heeding directives from their devices. If you're ready to take the Siri plunge, there are numerous ways it can enhance your small business – but you'll have to access it first.

There are several ways to launch Siri. First, make sure it is on via the Siri & Search settings on your phone or iPad, enable "Hey Siri," and Press Home for Siri to connect to the internet. Hold down the Home button for several seconds until you hear two beeps, and then just start talking. Even easier, say "hey, Siri" without pressing the Home button.

With an iPhone 6s or later or an iPad Pro, you can say "hey, Siri" anytime. With an iPhone 6 or earlier iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, you must first plug the device into a power source. If you're on a headset with a remote or a Bluetooth device, hold down the center or call button. Got AirPods? Double-tap the outside of either one to summon Siri.

To use Siri on Mac, make sure it is enabled in the system preferences, from which you can choose to communicate verbally or type to Siri. And you can now pin answers: When Siri answers a question, click the Plus (+) button to add it to the Notification Center under the Today tab. That answer is dynamic, so you can return to it at will to note changes in status without launching Siri.

You can use Siri to send messages, place calls and get directions with your Apple Watch – but you need to first set up Siri on your paired iPhone and then enable it in the watch settings. On the Apple Watch Series 3, you can even choose when Siri speaks with options like Always On, Control With Silent Mode or Headphones Only. Be sure to download a voice, if you don’t already have one. There's even a Siri watch face.

If yours is one of the 200-plus car models that support CarPlay or are using Siri Eyes Free, its screen-free version, you can hold down the voice-command button on your steering wheel to converse with Siri. While CarPlay requires a vehicle with a compatible touchscreen system, Siri Eyes Free cars require only Bluetooth Audio. You can also reach Siri via apps such as Phone or Messages.

Now that you've enabled and set up Siri on your devices, here are some ways to put Siri to work for your company.

Company listing: As smartphones proliferate and voice search gets smarter, more and more people seeking local services are using Siri rather than a web search engine. To that end, make sure your company is present on popular maps such as Apple Maps and Google Maps, as well as sites like Yelp, Google Places, Foursquare and Citysearch. Reviews and ratings on local sites help your company get noticed by Siri.

HomeKit: If you have a HomeKit office setup, Siri can take the tedium out of opening and closing up shop each day by locking and unlocking the door, controlling the lights, starting up printers, or adjusting the thermostat in different locations.

Banking and payments: Siri lets you verbally send money to vendors or suppliers via apps such as Venmo, PayPal and Square Cash, or through iMessage. For example, you can say, "Send Ken $200 with Venmo." No need to download an app – just use the cards you already have in Wallet. You can even move money between checking and savings accounts. Apple Pay functionality with Siri is on the horizon.

Translate: You're not always at your desk. Sometimes you may be traveling abroad for meetings or conventions – or perhaps your own vendors are non-English speakers. With iOS 11, Siri helps you communicate with people in their own language in the new beta Translate feature.

If you say, "How do you say 'hello' in Dutch?" Siri responds by speaking the translation aloud. Siri can also translate longer phrases, so your listener can hear your response in their language. Translations are from English to Mandarin, French, German, Italian and Spanish, but not back into English. Apple plans to include additional languages in the future. 

Reminders: To set a location-based reminder, launch Siri and say, "Remind me to check my email when I get home." Siri uses your phone's GPS to alert you the next time you're near the specified destination, so the reminder is triggered when you are there.

Calendar: Various Siri commands make your calendar easier and faster to manage by adding or changing events and changing calendar defaults. You can use Siri commands to set or cancel a recurring calendar item or switch between daily and weekly views to view upcoming events in your life. Say, "How does my day look tomorrow?" You can invite another colleague to a planned meeting by asking Siri to send an invite to that person. Say, "Add Ken to my 11 a.m. meeting on Friday."

Notes: With Siri handy, you don't have to bother jotting down random notes. You just need to say them aloud and Siri will transcribe them in a note for you. To create elegant lists, you can say "new line” to separate each item. If you're on iOS 11 and MacOS High Sierra, you can sync Siri through iCloud so that your mobile notes will be waiting for you on your computer.

Launch apps: You know all the apps you have, but they're not always conveniently located. When you have to quickly launch an app, ask Siri to find and launch it for you instead of hunting through all your folders. Siri can even figure out which app you want if you don't use the correct name.

Time management: There are only so many hours in a workday, and when you have to get things done quickly and in sequence, Siri is there to help you set time limits for each task. Say, "Set a timer for 45 minutes," and the timer immediately begins counting down as you set to work.

Stocks: Are you rolling in dough or taking a bath? Ask Siri to check the status of all stocks and exchanges and the status of your specific holdings. Siri can also serve up ancillary information like price-to-earning ratios, market caps and yields. Not only does Siri deliver information verbally, it offers a detailed graph of your stocks' performance.

Weather: Sure, you listened to the weather reports or even checked your weather app before throwing a flannel shirt into your backpack, but results will likely be more accurate with Siri. Not only can Siri speak weather conditions back to you, it can display a detailed forecast, including the daily high and low and chance of rain. You can also ask Siri about the forecast for the next week, or query for a specific day. Say, "What's the forecast for Monday?" Siri can even tell you the approximate time of sunrise and sunset.

Directions: You no longer have to go cross-eyed trying to find directions to your next meeting on Google Maps. You no longer have to stress over maps at all, because Siri can access turn-by-turn directions to your destination. You can say, "Navigate to Elm Street," and Siri automatically launches the navigation app. You can also get alternative directions if you hit unexpected traffic. You can also get transit or street directions if you're not driving.

Get info: While searching with Google can get you the answer to almost any question, Siri can do a much faster and more accurate search for you, saving both time and taps and make suggestions based on your browsing habits. Siri has gotten smarter in iOS 11, thanks to new learning functionality and cross-device syncing.

Even if you never used Siri in your private life, you'll find Apple's voice-activated digital assistant a quick, easy way to help you manage your business, leaving you more time to concentrate on serving your customers and making your company a success. After a while, you may even find yourself using Siri after you've gone home.

Jackie Dove

Jackie is an obsessive, insomniac freelance tech writer and editor in northern California. A wildlife advocate, cat fan, photo app fanatic, and VR/AR/3D aficionado, her specialties include cross-platform hardware and software, art, design, photography, video, and a wide range of creative and productivity apps and systems.