What Is a Digital Assistant? (With Benefits of Hiring One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Digital programs equipped with advanced artificial intelligence can perform a range of workplace tasks on your behalf. One type of advanced computer program is a digital assistant, which is an advanced computer program that communicates with you verbally and executes orders on command. If you're considering using a digital assistant, knowing what one is and how it can assist you at work can help you take steps to procure one. In this article, we answer the question 'What is a digital assistant?', explore five benefits of using one, explain how they function and outline what areas you can operate one.

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What is a digital assistant?

A digital assistant is an online program that processes language and uses machine learning to personalise its responses and actions. It translates questions and commands into actions and executes them and stores information about your interactions with it so that it can learn to anticipate your future needs.

Digital assistants are different from chatbots and virtual assistants. Chatbots are a technical feature that you can interact with that offers predetermined answers to a range of questions. Virtual assistants are individuals that work as personal assistants but operate remotely, using the internet to communicate with you.

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5 digital assistant benefits with examples

Here are five benefits you can experience when using a digital assistant:

1. Improved efficiency

A digital assistant can improve your efficiency by being accessible when and where you require its services. As they operate online, you can also contact them through a range of devices. By being able to communicate with them at any time or place, you can reduce or eliminate delays. This can free you up to take on more responsibilities as your assistant has taken on your routine tasks, helping you to use your time more efficiently. The longer they work with you, the more efficiently they can operate as they become familiar with your needs and work to anticipate them.

An example of this can be having your digital assistant take on your incoming calls or calls coming to the business. You can provide the assistant with a set of responses to provide in response to a range of common prompts people can pose. This can alert customers to your operating hours or information on which departments can best assist them with a specific query. It can give callers an option to be transferred to you directly, which can mean that you only manage serious queries.

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2. Scalable

A digital assistant can scale its services up or down to meet your evolving needs while still offering a personalised service when interacting with you and your customers. When you use a digital assistant, you can also maintain a consistent service despite how many customers you assist and you can assist multiple customers at the same time.

An example of this is offering your services in another country where customers speak another language and operate in a different time zone. You can program your digital assistant to operate at different times and detect and respond to the language they hear.

3. Easier integration

A digital assistant is an online tool that can integrate into many of your existing onsite or cloud-based operating systems or its back-end software. Many digital assistants have application programming interface (API) that allows them to integrate into your existing infrastructure. An API is an intermediary that allows different applications to communicate and share their information and functionalities. This also allows you to customise your digital assistant more quickly and with less time taken to manage the integration. This can save you the costs and effort of having a developer or programmer execute the integration for you.

An example of this is integrating your digital assistant into your existing content collaboration and management platform. This can help you automatically have your digital assistant share your business's current stock and price of a product you offer when a customer makes a specific verbal request. It can pull this information from an existing content document that lists your products and their pricing data in columns and rows.

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4. Reduced training costs

When you use a digital assistant, it can gather insights from its interactions with you and what requests you make of it at what place and at what time. Over time, your assistant can learn to make educated predictions that better assist you as you work. The longer you work with it and the more information you provide your virtual assistant with, the more accurate it can become. For example, if you usually send reminders for outstanding invoices a month after first sending them, your assistant can prompt you to automate sending them reminders at the same time.

5. Fewer errors

You can program your digital assistant to take certain steps or follow certain processes every time they receive a certain prompt or request. This can reduce errors that can take place because of typing or miscalculation errors. You can also program it to repeat certain tasks well into the future to avoid forgetting to do them or making a request that someone has already completed. Sophisticated digital assistants can also identify and self-correct their own errors before you become aware something is amiss. This can help keep customers engaged when an error occurs so the assistant can make changes.

An example of this can be your digital assistant dictating incoming data or a scanned document into a typed and printable format. The assistant can share this document with the person sending it to ensure the information is accurate. If the assistant doesn't understand the incoming information, they can request clarification from the person submitting the request. They can then share this information with you, avoiding you encountering issues with legibility when reviewing someone's handwriting or challenges understanding a person's voice because of connectivity issues or a strong accent.

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How does a digital assistant function?

Digital assistants are available in standalone devices or as part of smart computers, tablets or phones. They use microphones, software, hardware and computer chips to communicate with you and perform tasks. Different digital assistants can have different levels of advanced natural language understanding, so the more advanced their capabilities are, the more complex tasks they can assist with and the more tasks they can complete simultaneously. Once you use a digital assistant, it records and notes your responses and uses machine learning to make educated predictions. The longer you use it, the faster it can anticipate and fulfil your requests.

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Digital assistant business applications

Digital assistants can assist you with activities in the following areas:

  • Marketing: Digital assistants can help perform a range of marketing functions on your behalf by taking on repetitive tasks. For example, they can qualify incoming leads by automatically following up with an incoming email query with a text message requesting more information you can use to better help a customer.

  • Accounting: Digital assistants can help you perform time-consuming repetitive accounting, payroll and finance-related tasks. For example, it can follow up on outstanding invoices with an email, based on your prompts or thank clients for making prompt payments.

  • Sales: You can personalise your business's sales experience by using a digital assistant to handle preliminary contact with customers and then follow up with them using the information you've gathered. For example, you can schedule reminders to contact prospects or check in on outstanding ones to see if they need any assistance.

  • Human resources: You can use a digital assistant to help onboard new employees and address their basic queries. For example, a digital assistant can alert them to shortcuts for contacting different departments or tell them what the WiFi password is.

  • Customer service: You can use a digital assistant to help customers resolve basic issues or answer simple queries concerning your products or services. For complex queries, they can gather and record important information to prevent the customer from repeating themselves in the future.

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