Ever wondered what it would be like to bring the movie “Her” to life in your own workday? To have a virtual assistant to help keep your life organised, make appointments on your behalf and save you precious time? Well our general manager Connon wondered exactly that, so he decided to take Amy Ingram, a virtual assistant created by x.ai, for a virtual test drive for a month.
So who is ‘Amy Ingram’?
Amy is a virtual assistant subscription service by x.ai that manages your appointments and books meetings between you and your business contacts. Amy (or Andrew) impersonates a real assistant to arrange a suitable time by communicating with your intended meeting person and negotiating a time that suits both parties.
Amy has access to your calendar to compare availability and can also have set locations that you commonly use. She also communicates in full sentences like an actual assistant, so it is very difficult to tell that the meetings are being setup by an artificial intelligence tool rather than a real person.
How it works
First you have to do a little training with Amy – teach your assistant which locations you prefer to meet at for different types of meetings, for example office meeting rooms for internal meetings, specific locations for coffee catchups and others for lunch meetings or after work drinks.
As an artificial intelligence tool, Amy and Andrew are learning all the time – not just from how you use them but also how they are used by the whole community of subscribers. So expect that over time they will get even smarter and more tuned into how you naturally prefer to communicate with people.
The key use is during an email conversation with your customer for example, once you have agreed to set up a meeting time, you cc Amy’s email address into and ask the question (something along the lines of):
“Amy, can you please find a time this Friday for a meeting at our office?”
Amy will then carry on the communication with other recipients of your email.
You can check the correspondence online through the platform to make sure it all makes sense and Amy or Andrew are not getting off track in their communications with the clients, staff or suppliers that you wish to meet with.
Amy also can calculate distances for travel if need be to warn you how long it will take you to get to the appointment.
The Good and the Bad
The highlights of Connon’s month with Amy included feedback from contacts who interacted with her that they hadn’t realised Amy was an AI due to the smoothness of the communication and in most instances they were impressed by the abilities of the software.
Things that Amy handled particularly well included open requests to discover a time for two people in the near future, i.e. the next few days or within the week; internal meeting requests with team members; cancelling meetings, changing times and even reinstating meetings; following up with forgetful contacts to get a meeting confirmed.
The process of adding meeting rooms and locations (such as coffee shops) is very user friendly and intelligent, and integrations with conferencing and online meeting tools like Zoom also work well.
Overall in terms of functionality and effectiveness, doing your part by ensuring your calendar is clear, setting up your preferences correctly, and practicing a few times to get the hang of the flow of a request – helps the whole process to work well.
Any downsides of the experience largely related to the setting up process and ensuring your existing meeting calendar is clean and clear. For example if you have recurring events/meetings that may no longer be relevant, or can be easily moved if client meeting has higher priority, then it’s worth reviewing these in advance and potentially removing from your calendar otherwise Amy will see those times as busy and not try to book meetings during those times. In Connon’s case he was also using his calendar to record times when different staff members were on call, which appeared to Amy that his calendar was full at those times.
If you aren’t clear in your meeting instructions, Amy will be likely to make an assumption (i.e. if you don’t specify a time period she may just go for the next day automatically). This can be slick but can also lead to a mistake, which can be embarrassing particularly if your contacts don’t realise Amy is AI and therefore think it’s a very confused (or dim) person!
If mistakes are made and you end up apologising to customers for any confusion you do end up losing the time saving the system is intended to help with.
And in the nature of AIs who don’t necessarily understand when someone is joking, Amy doesn’t really get it when being asked out for a drink! She attempted to book one between Connon and the curious colleague who made the offer.
To Wrap Up
As with any software tool, this application succeeds or fails based on the quality of the data that goes into it. If the data is clean and well communicated, the results are excellent. If your requests – and your calendar, are potentially confusing, then the result is less than ideal.
Remembering that Amy isn’t an actual person, and therefore doesn’t understand every nuance of your communication style and your relationship with contacts, should help to use her more effectively. And also keeping in mind that she is learning over time, so over time the efficiency and accuracy will continue to improve.
The free trial period is an excellent opportunity to get the hang of working with Amy or Andrew and testing exactly how well this tool can fit into your work day.
Where do I go to find my own Amy or Andrew?
Free to trial and then $17 USD per month ongoing per user.