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A multitude of technologies can be classed as AI. Two major ones – which are also likely to make their way into the world of business pretty soon – are virtual assistants and bots. Bots, or chatbots, are designed to answer questions, to perform searches and to interact with people in a very simple way. In fact, they represent a new, text-based user interface providing access to a service. The more you ask bots to help you, the smarter they get and, ultimately, they should be able to anticipate your needs to help you even better. And the good news is, bots are not a scenario for the distant future – they’re already here!
Imagine you’re a sales rep. To input a new sales opportunity in the CRM system, you have to open the app, scroll through it, enter the details of the new opportunity manually and save it. In the case of a chatbot, you just send him (or her!) a text message with a request to create the new sales opportunity for you. If your chatbot lacks information to complete your request, he will reply to you with a text message asking for the missing information. No downloads needed, no user names and passwords, no manual input in applications – just simple and efficient.
In a similar way, virtual assistants are designed to make our jobs easier in some way. Unlike with a bot, you interact with your virtual assistant through speech rather than by text message. In the case of field technicians, that gives them much quicker and easier access to information. Upon arrival at a customer’s premises for a repair job, they can simply use their headset to ask for help. If they request a specific product manual, the virtual assistant will talk them through how to proceed. No need for paper manuals or tablets, no time wasted, plus they can work hands-free. And just like bots, your personal assistants also get smarter along the way. Siri, who has much more contextual awareness now, is able to make suggestions even before you ask a question. For example, ‘Traffic to home is 20 minutes right now.’ It’s up to you then to decide whether to follow that advice…