The word bot may remind you of C-3P0 from Star Wars, but it's more likely that you're thinking of an easy-to-use command on your Slack channel, or Siri making your life easier (or frustrating you because she doesn't actually have all the answers).
As technology rapidly evolves, advanced bots—complete with voices and complex “thinking" capabilities—are integrating into every aspect of your life. So it's a given that these smart tools would affect your work, too (if they haven't already).
Here are some ways bots are going to help you do your job better.
Ever Wanted an Assistant? There's a Bot for That
What do bots do? A better question is: What don't they do? Virtual digital assistants (VDIs), one of the most common types of bots, are automating everyday administrative activities—think Amazon's Alexa, but for work. These robots do everything from managing your calendar to communicating with customers on your behalf.
X.ai's assistant Amy, for example, uses artificial intelligence to schedule meetings for you. The artificial intelligence software sends emails to your colleagues and clients, skipping the back-and-forth it takes to find the perfect meeting time.
Marketing research firm Tractica suggests that by 2021, 843 million professionals will be using virtual digital assistants like Amy to become more productive at work. As the functionality of bots grows, these tools will be able to automate increasingly complex tasks across industries.
It's already happening in customer service, with chatbots popping up on most enterprise websites. Some companies even pair these bots with live customer support to create “bot-assisted agents" or “cyborgs." Robots suggest the best course of action for customer support reps, making work more efficient, effective, and affordable for companies.
So far, these artificial intelligence bots and cyborgs are having an incredible impact on customer service teams. Two companies in the space, LivePerson and DigitalGenius, both report at least 30 percent productivity gains in bot-assisted customer service.
Stop Freaking Out, Bots Aren't Going to Steal Your Job
Given the buzz about automation and its impact on unemployment, there's a lot of fear and misunderstanding about bots in the workplace. Some people think that however helpful artificial intelligence is for productivity, new technologies will inevitably make their jobs obsolete.
David Autor, an economics professor at MIT, argues that although these bots may lead to “workplace polarization" that shrinks the middle-class jobs, they also have the potential to make a positive impact on the economy. So, before you jump to a negative conclusion, consider the ways bots can help you grow your career.
Autor explains in a TED talk that when banks adopted ATM technology, it let financial institutions open up more branches at a lower cost. Meanwhile, tellers took on more complex roles, developing relationships with customers, selling financial products, and problem-solving for regular customers.
“As our tools improve, technology magnifies our leverage and increases the importance of our expertise, our judgment, and our creativity," summarizes Autor. In other words, you're freed you up to take on the more complex, challenging aspects of your role.
Embracing the Bot
There's not one way to adapt to the reality of bots. But by learning about this new technology—and how to maximize your impact with bots—you set yourself up for a bright future.
Andrew Hutchinson, who has covered bots and productivity for Social Media Today, believes that the more you know about automation, the better.
“If you look at the trends, there would be obvious value in learning how to code and how to understand these new connective processes—if you're able to demonstrate that you can create systems that will help save businesses money as bot adoption grows, you'll be well-placed to become a leader in the field and improve your prospects accordingly."
When bots enter your workplace, jump right in. Even if you work for a company that isn't using them now, odds are they will be in the future (and you can always integrate them into your own workflow now!). The more fluency you have with these emerging technologies, the more likely you are to benefit from their integration into your workflow.
If you're not so enthusiastic about robots, think about the first time you sent a work email or used a Google Hangout in a remote meeting. Just like other technology that came before, bots will likely be just another tool that makes your day go smoothly.
Photo of photo of person on computer by Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Getty Images.
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