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Receptionist, HR, or Banker? A Robot Can Do Your Work

Article January 23, 2019  |  Text by Lucie Kolomá Text by Lucie Kolomá

Already today, robots with AI are regularly doing diagnostics, medicine, and manufacturing, driving cars and trains, working at reception desks, and helping at banks. And some of them are reading your resume right now. Technology is barreling ahead, and in a few years we’ll even see robots with creative abilities such as writing original texts.

Too much work and not enough people. Sound familiar? Got the feeling there’s mainly an excess of the work that nobody wants to do? Here in the Czech Republic, that feeling is no surprise, because unemployment is at a record-low 2.8 percent.

According to one study by McKinsey, one way to increase productivity and lessen this pressure lies in digitalization. And thus robotization as well.


Interviewing With a Chatbot

Robots have a future in HR, for example. They’re already commonly reading hundreds of resumes a day. “In the big companies, you don’t have people going through 500 resumes anymore. It’s all automated,” confirms HR consultant Gordon Whyte from BIE Group. Robots themselves separate the “usable” resumes from the rest, and also evaluate the simple tests that applicants fill out.

This year, the HR firm Gi Group employed the first HR robot in the Czech Republic. Specifically, it’s a hiring chatbot from the leading Czech developers Feedyou. Not only are chatbots helping to find people for a variety of positions; they’re also skillful sales support. You can “hire” them when producing satisfaction surveys for your website or when determining public opinion.

“The job portals always see the same old faces. To get new applicants, you need to open up new communication channels. And that’s what makes a chatbot a good choice—they’re available wherever people spend their time, and whenever they’re spending it. Companies that are struggling with staffing can use chatbots to address passive candidates and approach them earlier than ever,” says Vojtěch Dlouhý, co-founder and business director of the development startup Feedyou.

Overall, the robotization of HR is become a popular and effective trend, in part thanks to how it eliminates the risk of bias at work interviews. After all, not everyone can leave the best of impressions in person, but it should be easier with chatbots.

The very first robotic receptionist (right) presented at Friendly Buildings conference in Prague.

HAL the Receptionist

You’ll also now find robots at Czech hotels. The very first one is named Pepper. It’s a pleasant, shiny white humanoid robot that helps guests at Prague’s Pyramid hotel to find their way around. It measures one meter twenty and weighs 28 kilograms. For now it just speaks English, but it’s also slowly learning Czech and other languages.

What does this new technology mean for human employees in the field? Are hoteliers planning to replace their live receptionists with artificial ones? The Orea hotel network, owners of the Pyramid hotel, says that it definitely doesn’t want to lay people off in the future. Instead, robots should help to rid its staff of routine work.

“The people who work at Pyramid are enthusiastic about their little teammate. Pepper the Robot is sociable and is constantly learning new things and new skills,” says Gorjan Lazarov, director of Orea Hotels & Resorts—which also happens to be one of the Czech Republic’s biggest hotel chains. Pepper in particular helps guests with minor questions. It advises on how to get around at the hotel and offers tourism advice and information on tourist locations and e.g. the hotel’s services. In the future it’s also expected to help get guests settled into their rooms.

But the future of receptionist robots doesn’t end with the hotel business. For example at the Visionary office building in Prague’s Holešovice district, the real estate developer Skanska Property has partially replaced its human receptionists with a machine, while another virtual receptionist is planned for the new Parkview building in the Pankrác district.

Bankers with Artificial Intelligence

McKinsey’s survey also notes financing as being one of the sectors where the Czech Republic’s digitalization is ahead of the EU average. The robot Standa (along with his new teammate Adina), employed by Sberbank CZ, plays one part in this. The Czech branch of Sberbank was among the first European banks to hire software robots for their work.

Robots are especially common in the back office, where they perform paperwork connected with clients’ utilization of approved loans. They save their human teammates up to 300 hours a month that they can then invest into more interesting work. For example, improving their customer care and doing activities that demand a more creative and thought-centered approach overall. One bit of trivia: these robots take four minutes on average for routine tasks that on average take their human colleagues 24 minutes instead.

The initial goal of robotization at Sberbank was primarily to free up the staff on their overburdened Back Office team—and now they can focus on more sophisticated work with better added value. “We see our robots as something like kitchen appliances. That is, primarily as timesavers that help us with tasks that are repeating and annoying. People are and will remain irreplaceable for us. The robot’s teammates will then become bigger experts, they’ll deepen their knowledge, and overall they’ll help us more to improve our processes. They are aware that robots aren’t taking their work, but instead making it simpler. In the future we’d also like to automate e.g. the processing of financial reports and activities at our e-shop,” says Vratislava Šestáková, Head of Operations at Sberbank CZ, on the robotization of their bank’s processes.