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How to use voice commands and automation in the workplace

Martand Srivastava
Martand SrivastavaRegional Manager - APAC , Global Accounts at Lenovo
Martand is a seasoned business leader with over a decade of leadership experience in driving top and bottom line for leading consulting and technology firms in various sales and strategy roles. Martand has successfully set up new business streams for multiple fortune 500 firms (Dun & Bradstreet, Agilent Technologies, Lenovo) across Asia Pacific and helped them expand with new products. Martand also used to head global growth strategy for a USD 4 Billion technology major. Currently he is based in Hong Kong and leads the financial services vertical across Asia Pacific for the fortune 500 clientele of Lenovo Data Centre group

Standing at the cutting edge of business technology, the future isn’t quite what we thought it would be. Media for decades has guessed that we would be in space, assisted by humanoid robots, or driving flying cars right now. This was all flashy to put on a screen but, as it turns out, the future is even sleeker than we imagined. Smartphones, mobile apps, IoT devices, and the voice-activated smart home are all much more subtle and automation-focused than the futurists of the past predicted. And while the vast majority of public focus is on how much fun these innovations make our personal lives, the place where their utility is truly undeniable is in the workplace where automation is the key to productivity and growth.

With a wealth of technological options spread before you, the challenge most modern businesses face is deciding which new technologies will best serve their company and customers. CRM software, marketing automation, cloud-based document management, IoT devices, the list is both dizzying and exciting. Any problem you have or task you need to accomplish, there is likely already technology ready and waiting to integrate into your business stack. One of the latest innovations was initially introduced as a novelty service for residences: voice commands through smart home hubs. Through a combination of voice recognition, IoT wifi devices, and “skills” which allow you to integrate other online apps and services, a homeowner or, more importantly, a business can start to control almost anything with voice commands.

If this still sounds like a novelty, take a moment to think a little in-detail about what you can do with this sort of thing. How many things could technicians do without putting down their tools or walking away from an unfinished process? How many times would it be useful to have an informational page read out loud while you work? What the smart home introduced as an amusing convenience is about to revolutionise modern business. Let’s explore just a few ways that voice commands can be used to improve workflow, shorten task times, and altogether make things easier.


Hands-Free Control of Appliances and Power Switches

While the vast majority of B2B marketing seems to assume that all business happens on the third floor of an office building where every employee sits at a desk an equal distance from the break room, the truth is that professionals often have their hands full. Whether your team is regularly juggling paperwork, chopping raw meat, or are elbow-deep in equipment installations, there is always a certain amount of time lost if they have to, even briefly, put down the work to do something else.

It’s important to understand that modern voice command services, often disguised as smart-home hubs, integrate perfectly with IoT devices and wifi-controlled switch outlets. This means that not only can you use ‘smart’ devices built to respond to an IoT infrastructure, you can also put anything with simple on/off controls onto the voice-controlled network. You can control fans and vacuums, diagnostic machines, lights in sizes and wattages that aren’t ‘smart’ yet, lasers, security systems. Anything that runs on power can now be controlled by voice without needing someone to walk over and press a button or flip a switch. Needless to say, the opportunities for saving time and streamlining processes is enormous.


Dictating Messages to an Automated Assistant

There are two sides of business when it comes to writing. On one hand, business runs on paperwork and messages. Communication is constant and is often in the written form and the logistics of business have always run on contracts, order forms, and record keeping. On the other hand, you don’t have to be a great writer to be a successful professional. While it would be fantastic if everyone in business was also perfect for composition, the truth is that even CEOs can be terrible at writing. While businesses continue to get along with the help of secretaries and guessing, automatic dictation software has improved astronomically in the last decade.

In fact, the modern smart home setup is perfectly capable of not only recording dictated messages but it can also read the messages back to you and then send them via chat, email, or even SMS text to anyone on your contacts list. If employees on every level are given access to this technology, reports will become clearer (and much better spelt), memos will be better composed, and professionals might even be able to write their own blog posts about their industry by explaining it to the friendly digital assistant.


Voice Recognition for Hospitality and Security

One of the major aspects of a voice command system is voice recognition. This occurs when the computer gets used to the specific tone, volume, and accent of each user’s voice. You can even make individual ‘accounts’ for each employee so that the computer learns to recognise them one at a time rather than trying to adapt to the group as a whole. Individual voice recognition is convenient for being understood while giving commands but it can also be used in more creative and effective ways.

On the fun side of voice recognition is hospitality. While it may take some time to get precise results, you could design a system that recognised both employees and customers by name based on who was speaking to it. This can lead to personalised greetings, preference profiles, and, of course, improved communication. On the more serious side is security. You can use voice as a secondary security check and program your system to know the individual voices of people who have access. Anyone with the wrong voice, keycard or no, is denied.


Trigger Automated Tasks with Voice Commands

We mentioned that automation is the key to productivity in modern business. There are hundreds of ways to automate. On the facility level, you can group all your smart lights by room or floor and turn them on and off at once. You could run a pre-arranged maintenance sequence with a voice command or even boot up an entire room of computers together.

Developers can use voice controls to quickly run scripts and the endless copy-pasting tasks of managing business paperwork can be done in almost a casual conversation with the computer rather than causing carpal tunnel syndrome in your best technicians. Anything you can automate to run on the press of a button or click of a mouse can also be triggered by voice. If, for instance, you designed a presentation to automatically lower your projector screen, fire up the projector, and start a little mood music at the same time, you could also arrange to start this impressive show with a keyword worked into your speech.


Better Automated Phone Assistants

One of the most disliked aspects of business is the automated phone tree, those robot assistants that ask you to “Press one if you’d like to hear your account balance”. These systems are notoriously inhuman and frustrating to work with because they so often mishear clearly stated answers. However, most companies that currently have an automated phone assistant in use are using outdated software which is a large part of the problem.

Modern voice recognition and response, especially if combined with the latest conversational AIs, can increase the effectiveness of your phone robot significantly, helping them to hear customers clearly, make the right decisions, and even keep up a little friendly conversation while the customer is waiting for a live assistant.


Voice Command Working While Driving

Voice Commands and Automation

Of course, when talking about the possibilities opened up by voice commands in business, there’s no way you can forget all the people who drive professionally. Whether you have a fleet of delivery vehicles, field services that send teams out to customer locations, or you simply want your employees to be able to get some work done while their hands are on the wheel, voice commands are incredibly powerful.

Cellphone and GPS producers have been working on the idea of ‘hands-free’ technology for drivers for about two decades now but with the recent bound into AI and voice commands for the general public, drivers are now enabled than ever to work on the road. With a high-end mobile device or laptop mounted nearby, they can use voice commands not only to make and receive calls, they can also request audio directions for hard-to-navigate areas and even get office-like work done like making records, sorting files, and brainstorming for a project.


Conversational Research

Of course, not all business is paperwork and equipment. For some professionals, work is almost nothing but meetings, negotiations, and working with ideas. When your business is the conversation and the natural flow of a social interaction, stopping to look something up in order to verify a fact or pull on more precise information is tedious and possibly even damaging to a delicate situation. You are required to look away, lean over a keyboard, and take a few moments to search for and read the information that the conversation required. Rather than sacrificing either data precision or the flow of conversation, with a voice commanded computer assistant, you can ask for information and get it back in a conversational manner. You can even invite your guests and business partners to do the same. This will not only make research more enjoyable, it can also increase the data precision in your business meetings.

The new wave of modern business appliances and mobile devices is wonderful, but they are by no means the end of what is possible for a business looking to be on the cutting-edge of technology, automation, and efficiency. Whether you run an auto repair shop or a software development company, there are innovative ways to use voice commands to improve the productivity and impressiveness of your business. For more news on modern business technology and more exciting automation tools – especially for IT Managers, we invite you to download our list below:

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