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Chatbots and Virtual Assistants

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Lesson:

Chatbots and Virtual Assistants

  • Course: AI for HR
  • Module: A New Workplace
  • Lesson Type: Video
  • Lesson Duration: 3:19

Lesson Content

A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate a conversation with a human being. Once you can combine that functionality with an AI back-end that’s hooked into an organization’s datacenter, you have a very powerful tool that can potentially complete many tasks that are currently addressed by people.

In HR, this could mean things like requesting time off, or answering an employee’s question about a benefits package or a compliance issue. These chatbots are meant to augment HR staff, serving as a first option and anything that they can’t handle will be passed through to a human being. The goal is to once again free up time that you could better spend on more complex tasks, while giving information to the person who requested it as quickly as possible.

In HR.com’s poll of HR experts, “Seventy-percent anticipate that AI interfaces such as chatbots and virtual assistants will become an increasingly viable way for employees to get real-time answers to their HR-related questions.”

If your organization hasn’t already deployed chatbots or virtual assistants, expect them to begin doing so over the coming years in the form of new software, devices, or mobile apps. They are going to become as ubiquitous as email or word processors in the typical workplace because much like those technologies, they are a way of more efficiently getting work done, a way of more quickly getting to the information you need.

To better understand how we got to this point, it is important to consider that chatbots and virtual assistants are an evolution upon the search engine. Google and others have largely perfected the essence of entering a query into a text box and delivering a text-based answer as a list on your screen. Now however, the entry and delivery dynamic has changed with the times and the support technology we have available.

There are 4 major virtual assistants that you probably have used or installed on at least one of your personal devices at this point. Apple’s iOS devices have Siri. Google’s Android devices use the “Google Assistant”. Microsoft’s Windows 10 introduced us to Cortana, named after the popular hologram companion from the Halo video game Microsoft made years ago, bringing the character full circle from science fiction to reality. And finally Amazon’s Alexa, is perhaps the most recognizable thanks to Amazon’s substantial advertising campaign.

Some of them have a personality, a sense of humor, and are gradually becoming more human, less robotic, rigid, and formulaic. As time goes on, interactions with these virtual assistants will feel more natural, less awkward, and the quality of their responses and the range of their abilities will improve. In the workplace, expect to see a rush of competition as tech companies clamor for control over what will be a very lucrative market.

Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and other familiar consumer brands will make versions of their products available to companies as an “Enterprise” version while other business-focused products will compete with them for the corporate chatbot and virtual assistant space. Early indications are that business people and organizations need to be well informed and cautious when dealing with AI products and vendors because of a tendency for these companies to overhype their capabilities and confuse what they’re actually do with a lot of jargon. If you are struggling to understand what exactly it is that a product can do for you or your organization, you definitely are not alone. The only defense is to be as well informed as you can be, and not to rush into any decisions.

Michael Wilson

Instructor:

Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson works with small businesses to build and protect their brands online. He is an IT Generalist whose primary services include: Web Design & Development, Cybersecurity Consulting & Training,...

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