Four ways we can use voice assistants in business

Alexa, Siri and Cortana could become your new colleagues.
22 July 2019

Voice assistants are moving into the workplace. Source: Shutterstock

Voice assistants used to be the stuff of sci-fi films, but with the introduction of Siri and Google Assistant, and their ilk, such technology has become commonplace in 2019.

But voice technology’s (albeit slightly forced) entry to the market didn’t come without some resistance and controversy. Being driven by artificial intelligence (AI), it collects data from its users– and some, like Google Assistant, even use human operators to monitor the audio. Amazon recently found itself in hot water when it emerged that Alexa had been recording and storing children’s voice data without their parents’ consent.

Ultimately, however, concerns over privacy are being outweighed by the technology’s convenience. By 2023, Juniper Research predicts there will be 8 billion digital voice assistants in use by 2023– triple the 2.5 billion in use at the end of last year. From setting a timer for cooking, checking traffic or weather, and even ordering groceries, consumers are embracing the hands-free convenience of voice assistant tech.

But as the technology develops, applications are moving beyond just the consumer world. Now, with the ability to be programmed for any purpose, businesses are finding unique use cases for the technology. Here are four ways voice technology is being used in the professional sector.

#1 | Speech therapy

Voice assistants are now being used s therapy tools for people with speech disabilities. With one in every 100 people struggling with stuttering issues worldwide, there’s great potential for voice assistants to help therapists in this area, and allow therapy courses to be carried out at home. The Speech Doctor app (or ‘skill’) for Alexa is an example of a service looking to corner this market.

With Alexa’s Speech Doctor skill, therapists could prescribe certain hours of practice every day to their patients to practice their pronunciation skills with Alexa. The program contains all the required practices for speech improvement including breathing techniques and phonetics that’s easy to follow with proper guidance from doctors. The tech is still being developed by a third-party developer and it is slated to be released soon. 

#2 | Office assistants 

If voice assistants are built to answer commands, they could make a perfect companion in the office– helping to book meeting rooms, on-board new employees and track down content information.

Several companies are even seeing positive results from voice assistants as non-human “receptionists”. This has several challenges, as to become an effective receptionist, it needs to not only be able to determine who’s visiting, but it also imitate small talk. Myplanet achieved this with Natural Language Processing (NLP). The company has developed a Voice Receptionist that wows every visitor passing through their doors.

Barbarian, a digital advertising agency based in New York City, reprogrammed Alexa into a virtual assistant named Barb. It’s linked to their office’s Slack app, which allows Barb to search, identify and pass messages to people inside the agency. It didn’t take them long to realize that others wanted this too, so Barbarian released the open source code to public.

#3 | Customer Service

Regardless of what you’re selling– be it a product or service, or otherwise– people will have questions, and you’ll often need a team of staff on place to field these queries, whether it’s on the phone, social media, email or live chat. 

In a similar vein to the new ubiquitous chatbot, voice assistants can man customer service desks. As reported by Cnet, Amazon is pitching this as a cloud-based service to insurance companies and healthcare providers, who could seriously benefit by having these tasks lifted from their staff. 

#4 | Patient Care

Doctors and General Practitioners usually come across cases where they’ll need to ensure their patients take prescribed medications on time. Taking medical notes could also be a tedious task too and doctors, being humans, can sometimes miss important diagnostic points.

Voice Assistants could be a perfect companion for medical professionals. Certain apps could allow doctors to track disease progression, take notes and communicate better with their patients. Several companies have been working on perfecting its application in various aspects, with some already showing positive results after being rolled out to the market.

An inexpensive way to go digital

Voice Assistants aren’t just helping us live smarter, they’re here to make us work smarter too. With the apps often open source, or just low-cost, voice assistants can be a cost-effective way of sampling the benefits of AI technology as a solution in your business.