Alexa, Cortana and Siri are moving into an office near you
Your Google Home or Amazon Echo device can help you to book and keep personal appointments, offering an aid for busy lifestyles. However, outside of the domestic sphere, voice based virtual assistants are also finding a new home in business environments. How can virtual assistants be used to improve the efficiency of business organisation, which providers are leading the way, and what does this mean for the office of the future?
1) Automated meeting coordination
X.ai has developed a computer programme that eliminates email exchange by coordinating the availability of clients with potential meeting slots. If a virtual assistant has access to your calendar (and the calendars of other employees and clients) then it can arrange meetings that fit into everyone’s schedules. Many virtual assistants come with a directory feature that can notify external attendees if a meeting is changed or cancelled.
2) Connecting with customers
Through the Google Assistant, companies can create Actions that enable them to interact directly with customers. Disney, Uber, Spotify and Starbucks are just a handful of the companies making use of Actions. Through localised Actions, companies can customise content and experiences based on region, language and location. Another rudimentary but hugely useful business application for virtual assistants is to build compatible apps that gather data about customers and use it to improve sales and outreach.
3) Managing infrastructure
Alexa’s Voice Dashboard skill can monitor the health of backend computing services, provided that those services are linked to Amazon Web Services. Users can ask what resources are available, how specific systems are performing and which security alarms are active. Alexa can also be used to track the health of public websites through Vigil Website Monitoring. Alexa can be programmed to let corporates know if and when websites crash.
4) Enabling the smart office
Voice based virtual assistants will also enable the creation of smart, connected offices. If a digital assistant knows that a room won’t be in use until 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon, it can connect with smart office solutions to turn out lights and other amenities until the space is needed – or make it available to others.
Once seamless, office and business resources will increasingly be ordered through simple voice commands. Virtual assistants will be set up to receive alerts when resources are low. They can then automatically restock supplies without requiring human input at all. Using voice recognition, some devices may even be able to identify when certain employees are in the office.
The obvious use for virtual assistants within businesses is to simplify personal and collective schedules. In the same way that you might use Siri to check when you book a restaurant, you could use it in projects, helping you keep track of meetings and deadlines. Individual employees can use virtual assistants to collate their own calendars and to do lists to help them in their own efficiency. By signing into Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), employees can link their own diaries to Cortana, receiving updates and reminders. Services like Alexa for Business can then combine employee calendars to make teams more cohesive and avoid clashes.
As well as helping to organise our personal lives, voice based virtual assistants will bring a host of benefits to business. From scheduling meetings to far more operational roles, digital platforms like Alexa, Cortana, Siri and the Google Assistant could take on the burden of menial tasks and planning. Instead of being a threat to employees, these systems can help in building more cooperative teams – saving unnecessary admin, all powered via voice.
To read more about the adoption of digital assistants, sign up for our free weekly newsletter.