smiling woman working on a laptop
PHOTO: Brooke Cagle

Next time you book an Uber and are irritated when the driver takes more than 3 minutes to arrive, take a moment to remember those precarious days before the tech giant took over the streets. There we would stand, peering hopefully down the road for the taxi we booked 20 minutes ago, accepting that our transportation fate was entirely in the hands of the gods. What a difference 18 months makes.

The 'Accidental Narcissist' Goes to Work

As consumers, services like Uber and Foodora and Asos have trained us to expect increasing personalization and convenience. We can get from point A to point B in 5 minutes, eat restaurant-quality meals in our PJs or have a new dress delivered in 3 hours. We can design our own Nikes and set up sniper bots to bid for us on eBay. Everyone cares what we think and wants our feedback. According to a recent Harvard Business Review report, 57% of consumers expect personalized product recommendations and 54% expect individualized online experiences.

With each new ultra-convenient service and tailored push notification, we are placed more firmly at the centre of our own universe and our expectations adjust to the new normal where anything less is an imposition. Brian Solis describes the consumer thus created as an “accidental narcissist.”

Then we get to work.

Leave requests must be submitted four weeks in advance and cannot be altered once approved. Overworked IT helpdesk is not interested in your deadlines or need for huge video files in today’s sales presentation. There is a fixed supply of meeting rooms and willingness to accept surge pricing does not enhance the ability to secure one.

No longer a special consumer snowflake, you are now a system user, a cost center, a cog in the machine where KPIs are king and any deviation from process is a threat to productivity.

Related Article: Sound Familiar? 4 Phrases That Show Your Employee Experience Needs Work

Bring on the Bots

One response might be “toughen up precious” followed by tales of hardships past: filling out paper HR forms and waiting while they mouldered in someone’s in-tray.  Another approach, however, can bring the enterprise experience closer to consumer expectations, bringing together required business processes with a personalized interface to keep the even the most particular person happy. And it doesn’t have to involve four analysts and a petabyte of data.

A personalized workplace experience can be achieved with an enterprise bot using an existing artificial intelligence service like Microsoft’s Azure Bot Framework. These services are democratizing AI by allowing companies with smaller budgets to deliver a bespoke interface at scale, essentially providing a personal assistant for everyone, not just the C-suite.

  • Want to take a holiday in the second week of May but don’t know if you have enough leave? Ask the digital assistant and book it in one chat.
  • Need to share the latest contract template with the team? Your bot can do it.
  • Booking a meeting room for five with skype set-up and lunch? It’s just a Q&A away.

"According to Gartner, by 2021 the daily use of virtual assistants in the workplace will climb to 25% … up from less than 2% this year."

Do you want to be part of the 25% that attracts engaged, innovative talent? Do you want to allow people to focus on creating and implementing innovative solutions rather than completing forms? It’s time to consider a digital assistant.

Related Article: 6 Success Factors for Workplace Chatbots

Getting Started With Digital Assistants

Sometimes it can be a challenge to get started with a digital assistant project. The use cases are so many and varied that it can be difficult to form a clear picture and build a business case, not to mention clearly communicate the new features to users.

Like any element of digital transformation, it’s best to define a clear functional area and do that well, rather than trying to be all things to all people in the first iteration. What are the two or three biggest frustrations and time-wasters that this technology can address? Work within boundaries that can be easily understood to manage expectations and avoid the disillusionment that came with early chatbot experiences. Ensure there are logical human escalation points where the bot cannot progress or the user is obviously struggling.

Your vendor should guide you through these points and ensure your expectations are realistic. Ideally they should have a strong background in digital transformation and not have simply jumped on the bot bandwagon in the last few years. Implemented thoughtfully and communicated effectively, a relatively inexpensive tool can provide close to consumer-grade experience in the enterprise and make your organization a better place to work.