There is a revolution occurring in the workplace—one as dramatic and potentially far-reaching as the arrival of personal computers. As AI, machine learning, and automation take the business world by storm, the effort to streamline workflows has begun to impact companies.
Although many businesses have pledged effort towards automating work in back-of-office environments, continued advances in software and the increasing availability of new tools have opened other avenues for exploration. Is the front desk next in line?
Marriott hotel staff went on strike in 2019 to win concessions aimed at protecting their positions from unannounced automation. With 40 percent of all jobs in the United States potentially facing replacement with automated technology, many professionals are wondering: will automation make the job of a receptionist easier, or could it lead to the potential elimination of the position altogether?
A look at current and future developments offers useful insights.
Automated Callbacks Are Already Widespread
One common front desk task has already integrated with widespread automation: working the phones.
Although automated phone systems that handle incoming calls have been a standard for decades already, more advanced solutions have created new opportunities. For example, a scheduling system might automatically detect when an individual has an upcoming appointment. It then places a call to the individual’s phone number on file to play a pre-recorded reminder message.
Automated text message systems also provide hands-off notifications. Entire scheduling systems may soon undergo automation, letting visitors and clients book online, modify their reservations by text, and even check-in without interacting with another person.
Data Submission and Entry Are Prime Candidates for Automation
When fewer front office workers have phones in their hands, they can use their time more usefully elsewhere. As a result, it may not be necessary to eliminate their position due to automation.
The front desk is one of the primary areas where essential papers and documents enter an organization’s information systems. These documents could include resources from patient intake forms in a doctor’s office to sensitive insurance claim information arriving by mail. Many front offices handle the initial clerical tasks related to these papers, such as scanning, filing, and distributing them to the appropriate parties.
Strong PDF editor software solutions offer smooth automation of many of these tasks, making it easier to safely digitize, share, and storefront office paperwork.
Streamlined Check-in Procedures
When individuals arrive for appointments, they often check in directly with someone behind a desk. Tablets and other smart devices could soon replace those interactions. Some systems could even use AI-powered services to use geolocation data from a related smartphone app to inform an automated system of someone’s arrival onsite.
Businesses such as Target already use similar technologies to automate check-in for curbside pickup orders. The same principles could apply in many other industries. However, these systems are not ideal for handling exceptional cases or unusual individual requests.
A Human Element Remains Critical to Business
Are automation tools likely to replace human receptionists and front desk staff? While the potential benefits of these technologies in offices are growing, many businesses are opting to retain staff members to handle customers or visitors in person and keep a human face on their customer service and reception efforts.
The automation of clerical tasks and low-level administrative work can free up valuable employee hours to devote towards more mission-critical efforts within the office without sacrificing customer experience. For managers and tech enthusiasts considering the role of automation in business, a careful balance between AI assistance and better tools for human workers may lead to the best outcomes.