Intelligent Voice Assistants for 5 Places in Today’s Digital Workplace
Intelligent voice assistants are seeing increasing adoption among consumers. Naturally, this is having an impact on their use in the workplace.
Consumers are getting accustomed to using their voice to search for information, explore and discover, and even conduct simple transactions, thanks to intelligent voice assistants like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Microsoft Cortana, and Apple Siri.
So far, many of the uses for voice assistants have been confined to basic tasks such as consumers requesting a playlist, asking for directions, getting news, checking the weather, or activating home gadgets such as lights and security systems. However, like any innovation that gains consumer interest, businesses and the device manufacturers are looking to see how voice can be leveraged commercially and how it will impact their business.
In this blog, I decided to take a look at employee use cases for creating voice experiences and how devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri could be used in today’s workplace.
The Business Case for Intelligent Voice Assistants at Work
There are some interesting business use cases for intelligent voice assistants and some applications of the technology have already been implemented. Hence the emergence of services such as Amazon’s Alexa for Business. So here are some ideas of workplace use cases for voice assistants:
- IT Helpdesk for self-servicing employees. An organization’s IT Helpdesk can be a costly operation to run but is critical to employee productivity. The use of intelligent voice assistants can help automate repetitive tasks and reduce the need for human interaction. Take the example of a request to reset logins and passwords or respond to IT-related FAQs. Using an intelligent virtual assistant, employees can access service 24/7 while the need for human helpdesk staff can be reduced. Think of a company’s help desk as an internal customer service department and the similar use of conversational or voice UI applies.
- HR-related Tasks. Although probably not in widespread use yet, the use of voice devices for routine HR services such as requesting PTO or holiday leave, payroll statements, benefits information, etc. are areas that can also bring cost savings and convenience, alleviating the need for HR staff to answer routine queries while making HR information readily available to staff. Chatbots for employee engagement can help lower staff turnover.
- Voice-based Search. Using voice to search for information in a report offers interesting benefits. Think about an engineer working in the field to repair equipment, requesting specific installation guidelines or information, and that information being filtered and tailored exactly to his or her need. This eliminates the need to sift through lengthy web pages or PDFs to access the desired information.
- Conference room scheduling and control of AV conferencing systems. Systems like Amazon’s Alexa for Business have been at the forefront of voice-controlled meeting room scheduling. The ability to control the AV equipment via voice and link to attendees’ calendars and other services helps get meetings up and running efficiently and quickly.
- Inventory management for office supply rooms. Replenishing printer paper or other office supplies could be enabled via voice assistant. Similarly, in dispatch and delivery rooms, orders can be initiated using voice assistants.
However, the reality is that voice interfaces have their limits in many business environments. Typically, office spaces are busy and noisy, making it difficult for a device to understand requests but there are also considerable privacy concerns where a device could potentially pick up on confidential or sensitive company information.
Hence, the best use cases for voice interfaces tend to be confined to more private places like meeting rooms, conference rooms, the supply room, the IT Helpdesk, delivery vans, or remote worksites as well as use cases that do not involve sensitive company data. Verbal communication also can have many nuances and can be highly complex. But advances in machine learning will continue to improve how these devices can understand, not just words, but also the emotions that are expressed. Whatever the application of voice technology may be, security and privacy will be key concerns while good voice design will determine successful employee experiences.
A Blended Approach: Intelligent Voice Assistants Meet Text
Rather than looking at voice-only use cases for the work environment, there are broader opportunities to take voice interactions and blend them with text, message, or email interactions using a customer service chatbot. This approach helps overcome some of the barriers that businesses have around privacy and the use of intelligent voice assistants. It also enables a clearer authentication path to verify the identity of a user and continue engaging with them in proactive conversations. This can expand how virtual assistants can be used to engage with employees in ways that enhance their experience and build trust.
An example of this blended approach is an employee requesting HR information via voice and then being moved to their text or messaging channel to give them access to their personal information, following authentication. By moving employees across channels the experience can be optimized and the conversation can be continued in a more secure and proactive way. This can give the best of both worlds by enabling a voice-first experience but moving to a messaging channel for deeper interactions.
Voice plays an important role in employee experience but it should not just be considered in isolation. Voice, combined with text and even visual interfaces, can open up a whole new slew of employee engagement opportunities.