Bring Me Your Robot Leaders: Automation Tools That Change Everything / Technology / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Robots have made the factory floor more cost-efficient by automating repetitive functions. We examine some of the latest automation tools.

“If you’d like to talk to a customer service representative, please press pound. We’re sorry all customer service reps are busy. Your call is important to us and we’ll take your call in the order it was received.”

Which might be sometime today.

As frustrating to customers as automated voice systems are, SMBs in particular have little choice but to rely on them. Staffing customer support is expensive, and  outsourcing to call centers not much more affordable. SMBs have had to weigh these costs against the potential for frustrating customers, if not losing them altogether, by forcing them to wait on hold to resolve an issue.

Until, that is, the whole customer support function can be performed by robots. That day is almost here.

Nuance’s conversational IVR (interactive voice recognition) takes automated voice response systems to the next level by mimicking intelligent conversation. Statistical models and best design practices enable AI (artificial intelligence) response systems to engage real people in dialog as if they were themselves real. The next time you hear “someone” say, “Welcome back (insert your first name). Are you calling about the order you placed yesterday?” you may actually be talking to a robotic system. More importantly, you might not realize you aren’t talking to an actual human being.

According to YouTheEntrepreneur, AI algorithims are likely to become a more affordable alternative to actual human customer service representatives. AI systems can potentially provide both faster access to relevant data on a 24/7 basis with no added labor costs, and can actually “learn” from thousands of customer interactions to improve the customer service experience. Thanks to AI, small business and solo entrepreneurs will be able to offer customer service capabilities that once only large corporations could afford.

Related Article: The Full-Time Funnel: Improving B2B Lead Nurturing with Marketing Automation

Robots Are Already Here

Robots are generally thought of as mechanical people. While there are machines that perform physical functions on manufacturing lines, and some that will even automatically clean your apartment, it’s the ones emulating how we think that promise significant cost and time savings to SMBs. Truly thinking machines may be a way off, but artificial intelligence systems are already vital tools for improved operational efficiency. They won’t do the thinking for us, but they do automate repetitive tasks that allow us to think about other things.

A new start-up called The Grid offers AI software that designs and updates your website automatically. The robotic webmaster analyzes your content and then employs an algorithm to select the best design updates. This all takes about three minutes, considerably faster than the typical 18 hours to produce a comparable website using Wordpress.

Related Article: Question and Answer In Real Time

Apps That Automate


Zapier automates tedious tasks among multiple web apps. The AI software currently supports over 400 apps, including Dropbox, Twitter, MailChimp and LinkedIn, among others. For example, a Zap will send you an SMS notification whenever you have a new Gmail message. Or the app will generate a new lead automatically when you get a new entry from a Wufoo form. There are no coding skills required to create these robotic Zap apps, and once created they run automatically without any additional user intervention.


Similarly, with IFFTT you apply if/then actions that the software then performs as effortlessly as any robotic arm welding the same joint on an assembly line over and over again without tiring. If you post a picture on Instagram, the photo is automatically saved to Dropbox. If you enter a conference room, your iPhone triggers the air conditioning on to a preset temperature so everyone in your meeting can be comfortable. And then turns it off when you leave. is a voice version of IFTTT. The app lets you ask a question or issue a command and you’ll get the desired result without having to lift a finger. Send an email or perform a Google search or even shop online, all without touching a keyboard.

Nobody expects robots to completely replace human beings. But they can make us a lot smarter and more efficient, allowing us to concentrate on tasks that actually do require human brainpower.

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