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Insights

Build It And They Will Come: Voice Assistants In Business

by Ben Barton / October 31, 2019

“Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to take you up to the bridge.” Marvin the Paranoid Android was not a very happy assistant, but after some sass or some existential grumblings of malcontent, he would eventually do as he was instructed.

Fortunately for us, the voice assistants we have today are a good deal more balanced than Marvin. The likes of Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) and Google’s Home have become an increasingly popular feature in our homes, controlling lighting systems or making purchases from Amazon or playing music.

In fact, according to a report in 2018, 19.7% of US adults have a smart speaker in their home – that’s roughly 47.3 million people. Of those 47 million, nearly 63% said that they used their smart speaker at least 1-2 times a day.

More important than usage numbers, however, is what people are using their smart speakers for.

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The adoption of smart speakers and voice assistants in homes is significant for us in the business world as well. People are more than willing to use smart speakers, so the primary question for businesses is this: how do we create effective systems and processes that can properly leverage the power of smart speakers in our organisations?

From the numbers we’ve seen, it is clear that most smart speaker users are performing low-level ‘consumer’ activities – asking questions, streaming music, etc. How does that translate into business, and if it doesn’t, what can we do to make smart speakers and voice assistants a regular feature in our businesses?

 

Build It, And They Will Come

When we think of smart speakers, or voice assistants, or even just Artificial Intelligence in general, it can be easy to picture an automated future, where jobs and tasks are performed by programmed machines. As it stands right now, there aren’t really any off-the-shelf solutions in the smart speaker market – there isn’t an Amazon Echo Accountant or an Apple HR Pod. Replacing jobs isn’t really the point of voice assistants anyway.

What is clear is that, in order to properly leverage voice assistant technology in your business, you will need to build it yourself.

That might seem like a daunting prospect initially, but there are dozens of online tools and resources available to help you build a ground-up ‘skill’ that is relevant to your business and feeds directly into your voice assistant of choice.

 

What Could I Use A Voice Assistant For?

Voice assistants generally operate on a command-and-fetch model – the user issues a spoken command, the voice assistant fetches the information to meet that command. That model enables you to create a whole host of useful skills for your voice assistant.

You’re preparing for a meeting, and you need a sales report but the person responsible for that report is in a meeting themselves, so they can’t find it for you. One simple request to a voice assistant – “Alexa, print the October 2019 Sales Report” – and you’re ready to go.

Maybe you need to know when your next client meeting is, but your calendar won’t load (because technology is strange and does strange things sometimes). One simple request – “Alexa, when is my next meeting?” – and you’re ready to go.

As we have already discussed, those solutions don’t exist right now – so it’s up to you to build them first. Being the first foot in the door for business-centric voice assistants puts you in a position to take hold of the entire market.

Even if you need to bring someone on board to build your assistant for you, the cost of their labour will fade into distant memory compared to the benefits you will see in your business, and beyond.

Voice assistants and smart speakers are more than just a flash in the pan – they might not always look the way they do now, but the technology behind them is here to stay. What areas of your business could be enhanced by incorporating a voice assistant?

 

Our Approach

For us at eTravelSafety, we have managed to incorporate our Travel Safety Chatbot, Chatbot Charlie, into an Amazon Echo skill. By waking Alexa, and instructing Alexa to ‘Talk to eTravelSafety’, you then have access to live country risk ratings, including Travel Safety and risk alerts for the destination of your choice.

For more information about Chatbot Charlie, or to simply ask some questions about what we’re doing at eTravelSafety with voice assistants and other emerging technologies, drop us a line at hello@etravelsafety.com and we’d be delighted to speak to you.

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Ben Barton

Ben Barton

Using words to inform, persuade and entertain. From Travel Safety to the NFL, I write about anything and everything. Except for golf.