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CommunityThought Leadership

Guest Blog – Why Voice User Interfaces Will Revolutionize the Workplace

By February 6, 2019 No Comments
Guest author Jason Cottrell discusses voice in the workplace

Creating user-centered designs and building seamless user experiences is not a novel or revolutionary idea. But it is best practice. Voice user interfaces are poised to be the most user-friendly, access-anywhere user experiences available. They won’t just change how we turn on our stereos or adjust lighting in our living rooms. They are going to completely shift how we interact – and your workplace will be one of the most dramatic examples of this.

End-to-end interactions

The impact of voice interfaces will not be limited to narrow use cases. The trend will impact a broad range of areas from sales, to customer support, and even to HR.

Take HR as a quick example. Imagine you’re starting a new job. There are a million forms to fill out, a host of questions about everything from “How can I book a meeting room?” to “What is covered by the dental plan?”. Usually, this is nothing more than a chaotic series of channels to get lost in trying to unearth the answers. But what if you could spend all your time for the first few months with HR by your side, ready to answer those questions as they arise? You’d be fine. Unfortunately, that’s not presently a feasible option.

Enter voice interfaces.

Having an AI-powered voice assistant available to address HR questions will make the onboarding process smoother, easier, and more cost-effective than any other options currently available.

At Myplanet we recently worked with an HR team at a major enterprise organization to begin pulling out parts of the employee journey. We were then able to identify key areas where this type of technology could be deployed to enhance the employee HR experience.

But that’s just one area of work that will be shifted. HR use cases, though a major opportunity area, are just the tip of the iceberg. We anticipate seeing voice interfaces creating important change for a wide variety of workplace scenarios.

Voice interfaces can be applied to other areas of business as well: Sales. Customer Service. Reporting. Marketing. The list goes on and on.

CEO’s and stakeholders will initially need to assess different areas of their business looking for opportunities to leverage and improve business process. This is the critical first step in assessing where new and emerging technologies like voice interfaces make sense to deploy.

Overcoming the legacy system and sunk-cost bias

We’re also going to see an opening up of accessibility, both in terms of software that has been previously inaccessible due to centralization and in terms of accessibility for people facing barriers to access.

As an example, much of the legacy software being used today in enterprise organizations is too costly to replace outright. Additionally, it is often inaccessible to large groups of people (low vision and blind users is an oft-cited group facing massive barriers to software use).

Exploring the use of voice interfaces to access those inaccessible systems can offer CEOs a much lower cost option than total legacy system replacement.

Office of the future

Of course, when we take information and make it accessible via voice protocols, we change the nature of offices themselves.

Everyone speaking to a voice device in an open-plan office might sound like total chaos, and there’s certainly the chance for that to be the case, but it will force leaders to rethink everything – from how we design our floor-plans and office layouts, to whether we even need a centralized office to begin with.

Already, we’re seeing a shift towards more remote workforces and greater flexibility in the ways people work, and voice interfaces will push the dial even further on that. More people will find themselves working from home and from spaces that accommodate their lifestyles, as voice interfaces mean information is more easily accessed and the need to be physically near specific groups of people becomes less important.

Black-box AI: Understanding the algorithms

There’s one more factor that needs to be considered before we bring AI voice devices (or AI of any kind) into our workplaces. And if we don’t, they simply won’t succeed.

When we introduce AI into our workspaces, we need to be considered and measured in our approach. We always recommend that organizations start small and iterate, bringing in feedback directly from the people using the new technology. Because if the team is going to trust in and ultimately engage with an assistive or agentive AI device, they need to have a solid understanding of what exactly they’re being asked to trust.

They need to know where their data is going, what it’s being used for, who has access to it, why it’s necessary to collect and assess, and so on. Whether it’s through an AI partner or the capabilities have been developed at the org, it’s important to have a deep understanding of what exactly the AI is being used for and why. And it’s equally important to have a clear communication strategy to the org as a whole for why this is a worthwhile use of tech.

Conclusion

It’s impossible to predict all the ways voice interfaces will change our lives. But, there is no doubt that CEOs should be aware of the coming changes care of AI voice interfaces, if not actively planning for how they could be leveraged to impact their own organizations.


Jason Cotrell is the CEO of Myplanet, the company many of the biggest brands turn to for software implementation. Their specialty is in Smarter Interfaces – the intersection of people, software and AI. He’s passionate about AI and loves sharing his thought leadership with the tech community.

Guest Blogger
From time to time, Mycroft invites experts and thought leaders to publish articles of relevance to our open-source voice and machine learning community.