How AI-Powered Virtual Assistants Can Automate Repetitive Tasks and Free up Mental Energy

From a young age, Orville and Wilbur Wright were captivated by flying. In 1899, when they began experimenting with building the first airplane, other forms of transportation existed, including aircraft like gliders. But the brothers were determined to add power to the feat of flying. In 1903, Wilbur piloted the first flight. It was a moment that changed the future of long-distance travel, making it faster and easier than ever.

Like air travel, innovations that speed up everyday processes often seem inevitable in hindsight. Beforehand, however, they can appear superfluous, especially if the status quo is chugging along just fine. AI tools like chatbots and virtual assistants are a couple of the more controversial innovations of our time. On one hand, they offer new ways to navigate the workday. On the other hand, they may seem unnecessary at best and job-takers at worst. But I’d argue that they can be a positive, propelling force — a means to eliminate or automate your busywork and save your brain for the big stuff.

As CEO of Jotform, I’m always looking for ways to automate tedious, manual, but essential tasks. Chatbots and virtual assistants have been a welcome addition to our arsenal of automation tools.

Here’s why harnessing the power of virtual assistants can help your business soar.

Speeding up workflows

In my new book, Automate Your Busywork, I write about how our days are filled with workflows — series of interconnected steps that produce a specific result. Items on our daily to-do list are rarely isolated tasks. More often than not, they have multiple, interrelated steps. Take a common task: scheduling a status update meeting. On its face, it seems like a one-and-done item, but then you have to email your team to confirm everyone’s availability, which inevitably leads to back-and-forth between half of the team members, followed by more rounds of confirmation emails, until finally, you find a time for the meeting, and send out a calendar invite. And if one person forgot that they have a conflict, the process begins all over again.

An AI scheduling assistant, on the other hand, can step in and take this tedious task off your plate, leaving you ample time to prepare for the actual meeting.

Clara, for example, is a virtual assistant for scheduling meetings. It’s as simple as cc:ing Clara on an email to propose a meeting, and from there, Clara handles it — scheduling, rescheduling, cancellations, follow-ups, you name it.

An AI-powered virtual assistant can eliminate the need for you to handle the nitty-gritty logistics and accelerate an entire workflow.

Making workflows more effective

The first robotic vacuum cleaner enabled people to clean without getting their hands dirty. Bluetooth technology enabled us to chat on the phone or listen to music hands-free. Similarly, an AI assistant can make an entire workflow simpler and easier to complete — and might even do a better job.

As reported by Harvard Business Review, research has found that humans, unfortunately, don’t produce the best results on every task. The authors explain, 

Deloitte UK found that human-staffed contact centers are not only more expensive to run but often deliver a less consistent customer experience than automated channels — and they sometimes generate negative customer-service experiences.

Humans will always be necessary to handle certain jobs, especially those involving creativity, strategizing, and empathizing. But for many of our manual, repetitive tasks, an AI-powered assistant can get the job done, with no margin for error or distraction.

Consider the task of preparing meeting notes. Digital Domain, which created the digital characters for the Disney Marvel films, developed Zoey, a digital assistant for Zoom meetings. Activated by the phrase “Hey, Zoey,” this AI assistant answers questions and arranges schedules. HBR explains, “Zoey can translate conversations into text documents and produce meeting summaries. She also analyzes the meeting content with natural language processing, especially sentiment analysis, and responds with appropriate facial expressions and micromovements, such as nods and eye glances, demonstrating her attentiveness and engagement.”

Gone is the possibility of zoning out and missing an essential meeting exchange. An AI assistant can handle the administrative and secretarial tasks during a meeting, leaving you fully focused on the non-artificial humans you’re with.

Saving your brain for the big stuff

Big picture, automation isn’t just about shaving minutes or hours off your workday so you can clock out early. It’s about outsourcing the menial tasks that swallow up time and leave you drained, and saving your brain for tasks that feel more meaningful, for your organization, your career, and your self.

For example, when I first started Jotform, I wore all of the hats, handling everything from big-picture strategizing to customer service. Eventually, I was able to hire talented customer service professionals to take some of that off my plate. Today, we have incorporated chatbots into our customer service framework so that our employees can focus on more complex issues. These chatbots field the common questions for which we already have answers.

And that leads to another point: AI assistants and chatbots aren’t just for higher management. Incorporated throughout an organization, they can help employees at all levels to automate their busywork and focus on the big stuff. What’s more, I’ve found that encouraging all employees to take advantage of automation boosts engagement throughout the company.

There are a lot of fears surrounding AI and some of them are undoubtedly valid. But you can also leverage it, through virtual assistants and chatbots, to improve the experience of your employees and customers alike. Automation tools can empower you and your team members to outsource the menial stuff and dedicate more time to what matters most.

Aytekin Tank is the founder and CEO of Jotform and the bestselling author of Automate Your Busywork. A developer by trade but a storyteller by heart, he writes about his journey as an entrepreneur and shares advice for other startups. He loves to hear from Jotform users. You can reach Aytekin from his official website

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