Virtual Personal Assistants: Importance for Business

Today, when we say “Hey, Siri” to our smartphones, we are unlikely to surprise others with this trick. Many of us are already used to the fact that gadgets have learned to communicate with us and do our bidding. However, not everyone realizes how “smart” smart devices have become and how quickly they began to enter not only everyday life, but also business processes. Let’s talk about how virtual assistants are already changing office life in this article.

What is VPA?

The virtual and physical worlds are merging more and more rapidly. For many people, it has already become common to ask something or assign some tasks to Siri from Apple. This applies not only to everyday life but also to work – in many offices, virtual assistants play a prominent role today.

Gartner predicts that consumers and companies will spend $3.5 billion on virtual personal assistants (VPAs) by the end of 2021. 

Virtual personal assistants (VPA) are applications that may not have a visual interface. That is, they are not robots, but a kind of voice assistant. Communicating with virtual business assistants is similar to the way we communicate with company representatives in order to achieve some goal. For example, VPAs can schedule you a meeting with the right employee, send you an email, write you a pass, or give you the right reference.

Usually, office managers or receptionists perform this routine work, but there is a serious turnover in this category of personnel. On average, an employee in such a position works for up to one year, each new person needs to be trained and paid a salary. In contrast, VPAs are not fired, they are not demanding, they are polite regardless of their mood and, most importantly, they are constantly improving and expanding the range of opportunities.

VPAs use several long-standing technologies: artificial intelligence and neural networks, machine learning, and natural language processing (NLP) technologies to understand voice commands in context. None of these are new, rather it’s about creating new business cases based on them.

Let’s take a look at a few possible scenarios for using virtual assistants.

I. Automation of simple business processes

A typical office has a lot of routines: filling out forms, applications, typical contracts, routing sheets, etc. All of these sample documents can be filled out by a robot, not a human. 

Software robots (RPAs) have long been used for such tasks, but virtual assistants can expand the horizons of their use by allowing you to talk to the robot and set tasks for it by voice. 

In this case, you can turn to the virtual assistant: “Prepare for printing all the documents that came from 9 o’clock in the morning”, he will transmit the command to the software robot – and the result will only have to be received from the printer. This can significantly increase the speed of office work.

II. Interaction with customers

Every time a client calls or interacts with the company via messenger, his request can be processed not by a real employee, but by a virtual assistant. Bots can handle dozens or hundreds of requests at once much faster. 

For example, provide details of order tracking, the current status of the request, and, if necessary, switch the request to a real support staff member. Thus, it is possible to work much more efficiently with the client base.

III. Personalization of communication with customers

It is the virtual assistant who can be that ideal receptionist who gets to know each customer, remembers the history of their requests, and quickly finds the right information that will be useful for the service. 

He or she can help visitors get in the mood for communication and, for example, download the information they need before the actual company representative comes out to the customer. And also answer simple questions based on customer history. Up to personalized service: for example, customers or partners can save their preferences regarding the assistant’s voice and virtual avatar. And this is a conversation not only about speed of service but also about company image and customer loyalty.

IV. Working with social networks

The assistant can regularly monitor the company’s social media pages and help collect feedback from customers and target audiences. He will quickly scan the necessary information, filter out the negative, or, for example, make an automatic mailing to all pages about changes in the working hours of offices or branches.

V. Conversation transcription

Not only Telegram can quickly turn voice data into text, but VPA can also do the same, especially if the company keeps notes on important meetings, gatherings, or appointments, in which case the virtual assistant only needs to be added to the calendar of the appointment. The system will automatically make a record and prepare its transcript, so you can always return to it if necessary.

VI. Voice Commerce

Voice Commerce is a type of E-commerce, it’s not directly related to standard office topics, but it can’t be overlooked. By 2022, voice commerce in the U.S. and U.K. is projected to reach a staggering $40 billion. Starbucks, Dunkin ‘Donuts, Domino’s, and many other market giants already allow voice orders to be placed through bots. 

If you look at the phenomenon more broadly, the technology is applicable not only in mass retail. Virtual assistants can be used to collect and send out commercial offers, and they can also be used as a more intelligent answering machine to make sure important calls and orders aren’t missed, including in the B2B sector.

VII. Decision-making and reporting

Artificial intelligence-based technologies that rely on large data sets help businesses make decisions: they plot optimal routes in logistics, assess transaction risks or the impact of weather conditions on production processes, etc. Virtual assistants are not so powerful, but they are not useless either. They can be tasked with collecting the data you need – from currency quotes to flight arrival and departure schedules at a particular airport. They can also gather the simplest data from the corporate systems and present it in the form of reports – much faster and cheaper than the employees usually do.

VIII. Team Management

Project and product thinking is increasingly influencing business by bringing employees from different departments and divisions together in teams. And the development of remote and hybrid work formats is making managing such distributed teams an art of conducting. 

Virtual assistants can take over this work: track statuses by processes, send reminders and invitations to conference calls, meetups and real meetings, as well as book meeting rooms and issue passes.

How realistic is all this?

Virtual assistants in business and offices have not yet become a mass phenomenon, but that could change in the future. According to Juniper Research, there will be more than 8 billion artificial intelligence-based assistants in use worldwide by 2023, and today there are already about 3.2 billion!

Of course, assistants will still need to “get smarter” in order for businesses to rely on them for complex and serious issues, where the presence of a real person is still considered a more reliable option. Much will also depend on what the developers have to offer. The more cases on the use of virtual assistants there will be, the more obvious their benefits will be for business. 

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Steve Todd

Steve Todd, founder of Open Sourced Workplace and is a recognized thought leader in workplace strategy and the future of work. With a passion for work from anywhere, Steve has successfully implemented transformative strategies that enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. Through Open Sourced Workplace, he fosters collaboration among HR, facilities management, technology, and real estate professionals, providing valuable insights and resources. As a speaker and contributor to various publications, Steve remains dedicated to staying at the forefront of workplace innovation, helping organizations thrive in today's dynamic work environment.

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