Virtual assistants have been incorporated into customer service applications and web pages, including technical support, product sales, or while receiving assistance during a purchase process. We currently experience virtual assistants without knowing it when we communicate with airlines, banks, social networks, insurance, or tourism companies.
Machines (software) are able to incorporate user interaction into their functions and learn about their needs on the fly. They achieve this by recognizing the same user, along with their emotions (joy, frustration, anger, disappointment, doubt) even better than many people by studying not only the tone of their voice but also the posture and gestures.
The most popular virtual assistants
The most popular virtual assistants are in the electronic equipment that we use daily. These have been incorporated into them by the manufacturers such as Apple, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook.
Virtual assistants (Siri, Cortana, Alexa, etc.) can have a natural conversation with us. They will offer truly useful indications (much better than the current ones) and will help users to make the right decisions according to their preferences.
Currently, there are cases where robots (software) are in charge of basic customer service, while human beings remain indispensable for the most advanced forms of advice (functions that need a "personal touch" and greater empathy).
Will we stop using screens to navigate?
It is even possible to think that, in some years, most Internet browsing sessions will be done without using a screen but through the voice. This will be achieved by talking and interacting directly with virtual assistants.
Today, we can find equipment installed in homes or offices that talk with their owners. They provide information about the weather, traffic to work, the news, the messages they received from family or friends. They are even able to understand the mood and respond with sympathy about it or receive us effusively with joy after a heavy working day.
Echo, Amazon's smart speaker, uses Alexa as the virtual assistant installed on the computer. During their presentation, they promised that "My children and yours will not live a single day without a device with which they talk to." Apple offers HomePod as its smart speaker, and it integrates with the virtual assistant Siri.
This allows HomePod to answer requests regarding the weather, translations, news, sports, traffic or control home lights, music, blinds, air conditioning, as well as the garage door, security cameras. It even sends a message to a family member or transfers money to a friend in distress.
It is intended that intelligent electronic equipment have some interface to establish a natural communication and conversation with people, digital assistants, or robots. On the other hand, virtually all popular applications will have some integration with virtual assistants.
In Amazon Alexa, they are called Skills, and there are more than 15,000 of them. If top app developers has already developed an app to be present on smartphones, maybe it's time to plan your presence on smart speakers.
Skills or actions and some examples
What app development companies have already done it? Amazon's shopping assistant dictates the best deals of the day. Kayak helps us plan our trips with simple instructions. Uber or Lyft skills book a trip. Bedtime story tells children stories while helping them sleep. The Hyundai skill allows you to adjust the temperature of the car before leaving the house.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 has a powerful virtual assistant, Bixby, that seems to promise to gain control of all our devices through voice. Competitively, Google Assistant is in a better position since it has the advantage of access to personal data and preferences. Data from Gmail, searches, contacts, calendar, YouTube, as well as its smartphones, tablets, HomePod devices, headphones, cameras, virtual reality glasses, and others. Alexa (from Amazon) or M from Facebook is only available on some devices.
Users do not want to switch between virtual assistants. They want an assistant that is always available on their phones, watches, bicycles, televisions, refrigerators or cars.
Other applications that virtual assistants are having
AI Assist, from Conversica; this assistant seeks prospects for the financial industry and promises to increase sales but with fewer employees. Once the interested parties have been identified, they are contacted, classified, shared with them, and then try to close the agreement. If necessary, transfer them to a commercial executive. Companies like Oracle, Hewlett Packard, or IBM work with AI Assist.
Chorus.ai listens to calls made by sales executives. Then it analyzes them, and it assists them in doing a better job. In addition, it records the content of the calls and identifies mistakes made by the employee. Then it trains them on how to improve and thus close more business.
Something similar is offered by Cogito's solutions, which by using emotional intelligence, improves real-time interactions between agents and customers. For managers, Cogito includes an interface that alerts about difficult calls, or employees that have poor performance. This type of solution will allow us to offer better customer service.
In cars and refrigerators
Nissan, the car manufacturer, has pledged to incorporate Microsoft's virtual assistant, Cortana. It will be available in the control panels of your vehicles through the Connected Vehicles platform.
The latest models of LG smart refrigerators include the Alexa virtual assistant. The virtual assistant will help us prepare the shopping list for the market or give us the recipe for our favorite dishes.
Next step: incorporate them into our organizations
In addition to finding these virtual assistants in the electronic devices that we use daily, we must look for ways to incorporate them into our organizations. Currently, we see them present in smartphones, notebooks, smart speakers, or vehicles. This presence will allow us to recognize its capabilities and virtues, as well as its limitations. The limitations will be reduced while their capabilities expand due to constant technological innovation.
Artificial intelligence is receiving a lot of support from governments, private companies, and investors. It is clear that thanks to this support, many obstacles will be overcome.
Virtual assistants are ready to be part of our electronic equipment and also our organization and families. The virtual assistant can become another colleague or our next boss.
Virtually all organizations can benefit from a virtual assistant, whether for customer service, sales, support, data analysis, or secretarial tasks. New solutions are emerging, at a lower cost, and easier to implement. Many entrepreneurs or organizational leaders fear to be the first but also the last.