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The anatomy of a digital employee.

We've pulled out our scalpels to examine what makes a digital employee. The more and more we uncover, the more we can see their potential in delivering considerable benefits and scale to both employees and customers. (P.S. no digital employees were harmed in the writing of this article).
Michael Howard

The capabilities of digital employees are close to infinite. The ways you can upskill digital employees are growing monthly. And the effectiveness of these improvements are only getting better. 

If you’ve read some of our other articles on digital employees, you’ll know we believe digital employees should be treated just as you would a human employee. In this article we’re talking about personal development. This is because digital employees should ideally be 'hired' to satisfy a particular set of needs, which can be added to over time.

So how can digital employees undertake personal development? The following image shows what digital employees are capable of and what skills you can equip them as they grow into their role. 

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The brains of the operation

There are a number of things you need to cover off to make sure your digital employee will not just work, but give you the return on investment it’s more than capable of. With respect to this, two key things are present in the formation and the finished build of the digital employee. 

Experience and conversation design

If you view digital employees as a technology solution, you’ll have better luck winning the lottery than unlocking the true value a digital employee offers. There are many considerations you need to factor in: Understanding who your audience is, knowing their needs, how they communicate, the channels they prefer to operate on, and more. 

Once the ideal experience has been designed, you need to make sure the conversations you’re designing are conversations people are happy to have, and comfortable having with a digital employee. It’s likely these two things will happen at the same time, or at least one shortly after each other.

Machine learning
At Jade we're always striving for improvement, more ROI, better engagements, and more. So it would feel negligent in this part of the ‘anatomy’ not to mention machine learning. The key point for both digital (and human) employees here is the ability to deduct conclusions from as many data sources as possible: Pattern detection in its most basic form, which helps guide future decision-making. After all, recognising patterns is exactly what we all do instinctively. 

Speaking the truth

You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. But a digital employee can. Ingrained in every digital employee we place in companies is the ability to converse - It doesn't matter whether or not this is verbal or textual. It can get pretty technical here so we’ll keep it high level.

Natural language processing (NLP)
To be effective, digital employees need to understand what you’re saying. If they can’t, say goodbye to your investment. The definition of NLP is a process of understanding what is meant (the context and meaning behind the words) so the digital employee can respond appropriately - essentially, it’s all about semantics.

Text analytics
To the innocent bystander, text analytics and NLP look similar on the surface, but they actually vary considerably. While NLP is understanding intentions, text analytics is pulling apart conversations and, among other things, looking for patterns - sentence length, word count, frequency of words, words used or not used, and more. There are subtleties to each of these aspects, but each can have an impact on the effectiveness of the conversation.

Natural language generation (NLG)
So the digital employee can understand what you’ve said and know your intent, but what’s the point if it can’t clearly articulate a response in the way you want it to? That’s the job of NLG. Turning structured data into free-flowing sentences isn’t easy. But with well thought out NLG in place, the digital employee can turn tables of data into a short paragraph that perfectly summarises its findings. 

Text to speech and speech to text
Lumping these two things together probably doesn’t do each of them justice, but they are clearly linked. Everyone’s familiar with text to speech. After all, IVR phone systems have annoyed more than their fair share of people.

What hasn’t been as well known is speech to text. This is more of a background task that translates voice into text so the digital employee can do job of understanding what's being said or asked. Amazingly, this all happens in a fraction of a second. And what’s most exciting in this field is that the voices responding to you are becoming less and less robotic.

Seeing is believing

Digital employees have ventured into the real world not just thanks to text and audio mediums, but now through visual means as well. That’s right, it’s now possible to enable your digital employees to see and interpret the world you live in. And this brings us to...

Computer vision
Getting information through what can be seen sounds simple enough. Even toddlers can do this, right? While it’s a natural part of our development as humans, it’s incredibly complex for machines, which is why we’re only now achieving this in the computing space.

Thanks to machine learning, graphics processor improvements, camera advances, and curious developers, we’re seeing examples like diagnosing skin conditions and quickly uploading various documents to speed up client proposals.

The heart of the matter

Our experience has shown us that people are using digital employees transactionally and relationally. Typically, early ‘chatbot’ offerings were focused on the former. Organisations are moving towards more relational engagements now which is great, but often they're using the same approach they did with their transactional dealings. This really doesn’t cut it from a customer experience point of view. Experience and conversation design, as mentioned above, are great ways to address this, but there are other ways too.

Emotional connection 

This is really difficult to pull off and if anyone tells you that it’s possible, be wary. So why have we got it in here? Because you can ‘cheat’ it in some ways but it’s still not the same as the real thing.

Some ways to show emotional connection are well-timed visual expressions and well-constructed conversations that respond appropriately to certain circumstances. But they can’t cover all situations or pull it off the way humans can. Our recommendation is to build in the ability to seamless transition to a real person if the situation calls for it.

Need a hand with that?

All the examples above are really impressive, and we haven’t even scraped the surface yet. This space is where the rubber hits the road, where the practicalities and small value-adds really come into their own, offering surprise and delight. 

Automation 
Automation is one of the underlying pillars of a digital employee because it takes away a lot of the repetition that many of us simply don’t want. It’s our firm belief that this isn’t about taking away jobs but helping people focus on tasks and jobs that offer greater value, or require a higher level of emotional consideration.

Examples of the heavy lifting that digital employees can assist with are preparing personalised emails that come complete with PDFs, recommendations, and meeting invites that people can use to turn leads into prospects and then into customers.

And that’s the anatomy of a digital employee 101

To wrap things up, we’re going to leave you with the three main reasons people are engaging with Jade and our digital employee offering: Customer acquisition, customer retention, and business efficiencies. A digital employee can help in all these areas, which are issues every business faces.

If you want to explore where and how a digital employee can deliver value and scale to your operations, leave us a note below.



Talk to us about putting together a digital employee for your organisation today.



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