• Mark Ghibril

Virtual Cyborg Assistants - A Virtual Assistant Machine with a Pulse


"Virtual assistant is a great job to help you with your family and your friend and you will have the best possible time to get to the next level of the day and the future of your life"

What the heck am I talking about?!?

This statement was created by simply choosing iPhone's automated suggestions and starting a text message with "Virtual assistant". Yes, it does not make a lot of sense but already you can notice some autonomy, some logic and may be some intelligence.

So why am I mentioning this? Well for 2 reasons:

1- I would to clarify the current confusion around what a "Virtual Assistant" is.

2- As per a previous blog, artificial intelligence in the future will be conscious and emotional, so what does it mean to you now?

In simplistic terms, currently there are two types of Virtual Assistants:

1- A Human Being that is performing executive, administrative, creative and/or supporting tasks for individual(s) remotely/virtually. I will refer to them as VAP - "Virtual Assistant with a Pulse"

2- An artificial human like service with intelligence to perform all range of tasks for people. I will refer to it as VAM - "Virtual Assistant in a Machine"

Both VAPs and VAMs have several levels of expertise, from VAPs that are doing administrative activities to complex creative activities; from VAMs that are performing simple and linear activities like Chatbots to complex process efficiency using Artificial intelligence and Machine learning. However, the interesting aspect in the digital world is that you use the same media to interact with either a VAP or a VAM: Voice, Text, Email, Chat.

So what's the main benefits & drawbacks of each?

Virtual Assistant with a Pulse (VAP):

Benefits:

  • Available, Tested and Utilized today: You can already use VAPs for your company (in case you don't already) offering efficiency and cost benefits.

  • Power of Foresight and Rationale: VAPs can anticipate risks that are not based on data, especially around emotional and change management risks.

  • Understanding & Triggering Urgency: Based on the emotional & rationale intelligence, VAPs can understand & deduce by themselves the urgency and can trigger, coordinate or even execute according to that urgency.

  • Ability of Collaboration: VAPs can collaborate with other VAPs or team members.

Drawbacks:

  • Prone to Errors: As any human being, VAPs is prone to errors and this will depend on the activity or task and their experiences.

  • Subject to Absenteeism: Sickness absence is known to be highest workplace issue and VAPs are subject to become ill.

  • Possible Emotional Impact: With emotions, VAPs could have emotional bias.

Virtual Assistant in a Machine (VAM):

Benefits:

  • Reduced probability of Errors: VAMs can almost be 100% error free and therefore always delivering the expected high level of quality & accuracy.

  • Always on: VAMs can be working 24/7 365 days a year and no absenteeism (unless a planned or unplanned downtime)

  • Unlimited Expertise: As complex VAMs start learning, they can become experts in an entire process rather than one area.

Drawbacks:

  • Time to learn: VAMs need significant more time to learn or to be configured with personal/customer preferences.

  • Maturity to-date: VAMs for complex tasks/activities are still in very early level of maturity and not enough tested implementations and solutions.

  • Lack of Relationship: VAMs will not easily identify your personal strengths, weaknesses & preferences to allow to build a relationship with you that you trust and support your crucial decisions.

What are the use cases then for a VAM or VAP?

Currently, the most known and successful use cases for VAP are:

1- Presentations Preparation: VAP can turn raw or unformatted data into a clear PowerPoint presentation or summarizing research findings in a Word document, offering huge timesaver when prepping for meetings.

2- Email & Calendar Management: VAP can sort out your most important emails, respond to the rest on your behalf and manage your calendar to all your customers, supplier and employees.

3- Content Creation, Formatting & Design: Creation of content for events, blogs, social posts or even formatting them for you is simply time that is given back to you to do other activities.

Currently, the most known use cases for VAM are:

1- Transactional Ordering & Status Checks: VAMs can take instructions from you and perform transactional ordering and provide you regular status checks.

2- Information Query & Research: VAMs can answer frequently asked questions or provide you with consistent & sufficient huge amount of data mashup of latest news about certain topic, your brand or your marketing campaign, keeping you up-to-date in real time.

3- Abnormality Detection: VAMs can very efficiently identify abnormalities in certain activities e.g. Fraud, Medical records and ensure you are informed about such abnormalities.

You might wonder why the above use cases for VAPs & VAMs seem to be simple to low complexity. Well, there is a very valid reason: In my personal point of view:

For more complex activities, Virtual Assistants are most efficient, most productive and provide the highest return on investment when you complement artificial intelligence with human intelligence. I like to call these assistants: "Virtual Cyborg Assistants - VCA".

Complex activities are activities that require to build a relationship or trust with your consumer and/or employee. Examples can be customer service, Customer Relationship Management, Human Resources, Cyber Security or even back office functions that indirectly affects your employees motivation or customer satisfaction. In those activities, you want to ensure your brand, your relationship and your interactions are trusted by your consumer and therefore full artificial automation or personal unavailability or incompetency could cause frustration to the consumer.

With VCAs, you can:

  • let the VAMs interface, speak and listen to the consumers however with quick handover to VAPs in case resolution is not possible and needs human intervention.

  • VAMs can assign it to the right VAP based on characteristic of issue and specialization of VAP.

  • VAPs can continuously train VAMs enhancing their learning, improving their knowledge and augmenting their expertise.

  • VAPs are then freer from basic/simplified queries and focus on essential factors for consumer satisfaction.

As a result, your consumer will build a relationship with your VAMs but ensured to continue and strengthen by the VAPs. That is super intelligence at its best.

So what should you do in the next 100 days:

It all comes down to your requirements:

1- If you are looking to simple to low complexity tasks, automate and/or outsource these activities to Virtual Assistants either as VAMs or VAPs based on use case.

2- If you are looking at more complex tasks/activities, chose one, pilot a VCA solution (which already some companies offer as a package or you can get a VAM and complement it with a VAP). Try it, learn from it and augment it.

#ArtificialIntelligence #Chatbot #Virtual

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