A Richland company has a solution for businesses who can’t hire an employee to serve as a receptionist, or a company sharing a building with multiple tenants.
Her name is ALICE and she’s a virtual receptionist.
Abadan Tri-Cities is offering ALICE’s service to area businesses. ALICE, which stands for A Live Interactive Customer Experience, helps to manage customers virtually.
Among ALICE’s benefits are allowing users to display and communicate important information, event news and maps, and to check in visitors. It also can remotely turn on a camera to monitor a lobby area.
For companies on a tight budget, it can save money by not using an employee who might be needed elsewhere in the company.
Tyler Best, president and general manager of the printing and copy machine company, said staying on top of the latest technology is critical to his company’s success.
Abadan discovered ALICE at a recent print expo.
“We saw this last year at the Konica Minolta Convention,” Best said. “This year, we decided to pursue it. We’re one of the first companies to start playing with it.”
Josh Smith, Abadan’s solutions analyst, has led the way with ALICE.
“This is a perfect solution for a multi-tenant building, or companies with multiple buildings across a city or the country,” Smith said.
In Abadan’s case, it owns its own building, with Elevate Tri-Cities as a tenant.
Abadan plans to install ALICE in the lobby so when customers come in, the virtual receptionist can greet them. They’ll then be asked to type in their name.
The customer will find Abadan Tri-Cities or Elevate on a touch screen and then the employee they are looking for.
Meanwhile, Best said, someone in the office – while working on a regular project – may be assigned to answer the lobby “calls.”
“Say the customer is looking for one of our salespeople,” Best said. “This way, they can get in contact with our salespeople. Our salespeople are always mobile. About 90 percent of the time they’ll be out of the office because that’s the job.”
The employee assigned to reception duties that day would have an app on their computer tied to ALICE. Her camera would kick on when customers approach, and the employee would be alerted.
Because of the camera, ALICE also can act as a security device.
Some naysayers may think ALICE is another step in replacing humans in the work force.
“I saw that also when it was introduced,” Smith said. “But it’s a solution for people who don’t have receptionists.”
Konica Minolta calls ALICE the “Workplace of the Future” on its website, saying it’s technology that empowers professionals to work smarter, increase productivity, maximize efficiency and enhance collaboration.
By 2020, Konica Minolta said, five billion more people will be online and 25 billion will be connected to some type of device. A third of the global work force will be working as freelancers.
The hardware for ALICE comes in desktop, wall-mounted and kiosk designs.
“The hardware can be a couple thousand dollars to $15,000, based on your needs,” said Best, who hopes to sell a few ALICEs this year.
Then there is the monthly expense for the software. That can run from $200 to under $1,000 a month, depending on the company’s needs.
The software comes via a subscription (basic, premium and enterprise), and the length of the subscription can run from one to five years. For companies which deal with many cultures, a multilingual feature is available.
“The printing industry is really opening up to this,” said Best of ALICE.
And the device complements Abadan Tri-Cities’ goal “to provide our customers with the latest technologies and products, while providing the kind of service they need, expect and deserve.”
Best is realistic about it.
“I don’t think (ALICE will) increase sales,” he said.
But it might maintain the company’s current sales level by not missing out on helping current customers.
“It’s another level of customer service,” he said. “It’s building our brand. We’re trying to add another level of customer service and at the same time help our sales.”
Abadan Tri-Cities: 79 Aaron Drive, Richland; 509-946-7693; abadantc.com.
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