Virtual Receptionists

Written by Andrew Kozlov
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Maintaining a full-time secretary can be costly and ineffective, particularly if you don't have a home office. Instead of routing all your calls through a live assistant, you might want to think about using a virtual receptionist. VR technology employs state-of-the-art voice recognition algorithms to anticipate caller responses and sort out important callers from unimportant callers.

For instance, if you're in a meeting and you get a phone call, your virtual receptionist can decide whether to interrupt you at your meeting or to wait to deliver the message. Conversely, your receptionist can be trained to block solicitors from interrupting your business day. It can take practice to train your receptionist, but anecdotal evidence suggests that customer satisfaction ratings for VR are high.

Discovering Virtual Receptionists

Of course, even the most sophisticated voice recognition algorithms can get tangled up from time to time. The reason for this is that cultural nuances are surprisingly difficult to encapsulate using algorithms. Idiomatic speech--particularly local or dialectic speech--can confuse even the most sophisticated voice recognition software out there and thus lead to call misassignment.

Will voice recognition technology ever get to the point where virtual receptionists will be as competent as live receptionists? There's a huge debate in the academic linguistic community over this subject. The prevailing view is that, since language acquisition is an historical process, it may never be possible to capture all the nuances, flavors, and idioms of a human speaker. That said, more accurate VR will likely be possible.

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