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Three ways AI can help you work smarter and faster in the office

Hope or hype? Ricoh looks at how artificial intelligence can help to increase productivity in the office

With the growth of new technologies, this conversation is rapidly moving into the topic of artificial intelligence and what the workplace of the future will look like. It’s perhaps easier to drive innovation in a manufacturing process, where you can develop an electronic solution or robot to speed up the production line. But what about in an office environment? How can you increase productivity and effectively measure that?

A lot has been written recently about the unstoppable march of the machine and I am a big fan of the opportunities this will open up for us all. Everything we see today convinces me that the outcomes will be overwhelmingly positive.

41 per cent of European employees are seeking a reduction in repetitive tasks and more than a third (36 per cent) call for the automation of admin tasks

These were the findings from a piece of Ricoh-commissioned research, where the manufacturer spoke to 3,500 employees on the topic of a digital workplace. It shows there is a real hunger to embrace new technology and integrate it better into everyday working practices.

Technology can put employees at the centre of an organisation, enabling and empowering them to do more.

When looking at AI through this lens, you can see some of the real-life business benefits. Here are three areas where I see a form of AI making a big impact in the workplace.

1. The AI-powered customer contact centre

One key advantage the human brain still has over machines is empathy. That’s why humans will always have the most crucial role when it comes to interacting with customers.

However, we can use the machine to better equip our customer service team. The advantages it brings to the processing of massive amounts of data, or searching records immediately are obvious and great. A decision-making process (which mimics human intelligence) means incoming calls can be prioritised and a customer directed to where they need to go without the annoying sequence of “press 1 for…”.

In an inbound call centre, the machine processes the initial customer phone call (or email) and can ascertain where the customer needs to be referred to, thereby speeding up the process of speaking to a service agent. What if you arrive at the reception desk of a company and are greeted by a robot? This doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea anymore as the field of robotics is becoming more advanced every day..

2. The AI chatbot salesman

Chatbots have already been making waves in the customer service spheres, but what about sales?

If you’re not familiar with the term, chatbots mimic human conversations through websites and social media platforms. Think of the little pop-up on your screen that appears when you are booking a holiday that says: “Hi, I’m Charlie, I see you have been here for a while. How can I help?”. Charlie is sadly not a person. A handful of brands are experimenting with how they can be used to handle non-urgent customer queries.

In consumer spheres, a useful application could be something as simple as ordering a pizza through a chat service and having it delivered to your door.

Staples is using machine learning to automate its ordering process for customers, teaching an army of chatbots to learn from the conversations it has with its customers. If the request is too complex, the system will pass it on to a human.

What’s the value in doing this? You free up your sales team to focus on more complex problems and add greater value to your customer.

3. The AI collaboration aid

Collaborative workforces sit at the heart of successful businesses. As interactions get more complex, keeping an effective paper trail and organising workflows get increasingly more difficult. We work in an ever-growing global world, where the reliance on technology to hold meetings and collaborate in shared workspaces is paramount.

This is where AI can come in to do the heavy lifting, making that experience seamless for all users, enabling them to more be productive.

Interactive whiteboards are a great example of this in action. Cognitively-enabled and highly-interactive, it uses IBM’s Watson intelligence to be an active meeting participant. Real-time analytics help guide discussions so teams can work smarter by making faster, better and more informed decisions.

Use of these AI applications are a way of empowering digital workplaces. Technology should be seen as a tool to help us, not hold us back, or replace us.

This article was originally written by EDWARD GOWER-ISAAC, Vice President & General Manager, Business Process Services at Ricoh Europe