पोस्ट

An Employee Self-Service Strategy for Evolving Workforce Realities

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Raise your hand if you are working from home for the first time in your current role.

I’m guessing a lot of hands are up, and along with those raised hands have come lots of fresh challenges for companies struggling to support the new reality of a remote workforce. Digital strategies are evolving as organisations address the immediate needs of their employees and also look to the possibility of a more permanent switch to remote work. Twitter was in the news this week when they notified employees that they could continue working from home even when offices begin re-opening. It’s likely that other companies will offer employees similar options to continue to work from home on a full or part-time basis long after stay-at-home orders are lifted.

Whether your workforce is home-based, office-based or a combination of the two, having the right digital tools in place allows you to not only provide essential support for employees but also improve productivity and efficiency. Just as customers are increasingly adopting self-service channels, employees are also increasingly open to using self-help options. In particular, AI-enhanced virtual agents and chatbots empower employees to self-serve when and where they need help, reducing support costs while at the same time improving the employee experience.

The flexibility of this conversational AI technology lends itself to a wide range of successful employee support use cases across areas such as IT Service Management (ITSM), human resources (HR) and staff training. Depending on the size of your workforce and nature of your business, it’s likely that your company could benefit from implementing self-service options in multiple areas.

When it comes to creating a successful employee self-service strategy, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The brand new guide Creating a 20/20 Vision for Your Employee Self-Service Strategy will help you get started on your unique strategy with:

  • Three steps for creating and implementing a customised digital self-service strategy
  • Successful use cases for employee-facing virtual agents and chatbots
  • Questions to ask when selecting self-service technologies
  • Advantages to starting with a proof of concept (POC)

There are lots of benefits to improving your employee experience, from increased staff retention to the knock-on effect on your customer experience. Whether your workforce ends up adopting a permanent work-from-home option or everyone returns to your office or place of business, having the right digital tools in place to support them is a necessity. Download this employee self-service guide for insights on how to make your vision a reality.

Delivering Self-Service During the COVID-19 Uncertainty, Part 3: Supporting Employees

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

So far in this series we have discussed using chatbots, virtual agents and conversational AI to offer easy-to-use customer self-service (Part 1) and as an Agent Assist tool to support contact centre agents (Part 2). In this third and final instalment, let’s explore how this technology can be used to deliver a positive employee support experience.

Organisations of all sizes and across all industries are being faced with difficult decisions as they work to keep employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporting employees has become more important than ever before and, at the same time, more challenging than ever before. With new regulations and policies around social distancing and quarantines, companies are suddenly faced with entire workforces working from home, reductions to just essential employees and the temporary suspension of in-person interactions.

Luckily there are digital tools organisations can put in place that will help employees navigate this ‘new normal’ and improve productivity and efficiency. AI-enhanced chatbots and virtual agents empower employees to self-serve when and where they need support. This both improves the experience for employees and reduces the pressure of staffing human-assisted channels, such as internal support desks and helplines, to deal with increased demand.

The flexibility of conversational virtual agent technology lends itself to a wide range of successful employee support use cases. Here are a few that are especially relevant to support employees in the current uncertain situation:

  • IT supporthelp desk requests, system access and password resets, application support – Employees transitioning to working from home will inevitably have questions, especially if they are using technologies with which they are unfamiliar. There are lots of entertaining stories about technical fails circling the internet, like this story of a boss accidently changing herself into a potato during a videoconference. Finding the humour in these very relatable situations brings us together and is important during such a stressful time. What is not funny for employees is when they can’t get the technical support they need to do their jobs. A chatbot or virtual agent gives them 24/7 access to self-service so regardless of when they run into problems, they can find information and step-by-step troubleshooting guides to help resolve their issues.
  • HR support company policies/procedures support, time-off requests, payroll questions, expense report assistance – In response to the coronavirus pandemic, many companies have put new policies and procedures in place for employees or made updates to existing ones. With so much new information – combined with new working and family routines – employees can benefit from a way to easily get their questions answered. Virtual agents remove the need for employees to search through an entire policy document for a specific piece of information by instantly pulling out the relevant content for them. The technology can also be set up with a handhold feature to guide employees through the completion of forms and HR-related requests.
  • Staff support documentation support, staff training, product guides, device/machine support – This third category covers a wide range of specialised use cases. Organisations are being faced with the challenge of supporting employees digitally – in some cases for the first time ever – and should explore how an internal-facing virtual agent may be able to help them do that. Everything from training programmes to product guides to documentation assistance lend themselves well to intelligent automated support. With options to integrate with Single Sign-On (SSO), employee profiles, knowledge management platforms and other backend systems, these tools can provide an extremely personalised experience for employees.

Take a look at this Customer Success Story from a large government department that has been reducing their internal service desks costs and improving employee productivity with a virtual agent for several years.

I mentioned in Part 1 that chatbots and virtual agents are not only cost-effective tools for providing digital self-service, but that they can also be deployed quickly with a high-level of performance. That quick timeline is hugely important for organisations now as they rise to the challenge of delivering quality service and support. Here are a few recommendations to keep in mind:

  • Do your homework – It’s natural during stressful, uncertain times to act on feelings of panic. Unfortunately, that can lead to decisions that aren’t thought out and ultimately compound the problem. Even if you are moving forward with a virtual agent project quickly, still take the time to do your homework. Make sure the solution you are selecting will work for your organisation’s goals and internal structure. A basic or off-the-shelf chatbot may sound good because it’s super fast to deploy, but will it be able to accurately and consistently answer the questions your customers, agents and/or employees are going to ask? A DIY solution may have an attractive price tag, but do you have the internal expertise and time to build a tool that will provide a positive experience for users?
  • Look at the bigger picture – Even if you’re starting with a small, very specific chatbot deployment you still need to consider how it fits into your larger digital strategy. Select a solution that you will be able to expand and can be integrated with other channels and systems (such as live chat, voice technology, personalised account information, ticketing systems, etc.). Even if you aren’t looking to create a scalable and robust tool right now, you want to have the ability to easily do that down the road. Failure to identify the role of a virtual agent in the overall customer or employee experience often leads to organisations wasting time and money on a project that they end up replacing. If you have an existing tool that isn’t performing well in the current situation or doesn’t fit with the new digital reality of your company, now is the time to upgrade it. The good news is, you won’t have to start a new project from scratch. And that brings me to my third tip. . .
  • Use what you already have – The best way to jumpstart the development of a new chatbot or virtual agent is to use data that you already have as initial training data. This may be live chat transcripts, call centre transcripts or existing chatbot projects. When you are selecting a vendor to work with on your project, make sure to ask if and how they can leverage your existing data to fast-track the development process and give the virtual agent a high level of accuracy from day 1.

If you are looking for industry research to help you with your business case or strategy, be sure to download the recently released ContactBabel report The Inner Circle Guide to AI-Enabled Self-Service. It is a long report but provides valuable insights from consumers on their preferences and usage of self-service channels as well as use cases and results from organisations currently offering self-service options.

When you’re ready to get started on your own chatbot or virtual agent project, the team at Creative Virtual is available and prepared to help you meet your self-service goals – request a personalised demo here.

Employee Engagement, Employee Experience and Employee Self-Service

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Over the past several years companies have begun to place more importance on their employee experience and to make more strategic investments in employee engagement initiatives. There are lots of benefits to improving your employee experience, from increased staff retention to the knock-on effect on your customer experience. However, companies need to be careful not to mistake high engagement for a positive experience.

According to Caroline Walsh, Director and Team Manager at Gartner:

“Employee engagement remains a valuable baseline measure for any organization. But engagement is an outcome of experience; it doesn’t necessarily signal the expectations employees have for their work experience or help you identify their priorities.”

A Gartner survey found that of highly engaged employees, only 21% report having a high-quality experience. This highlights the fact that engagement must be viewed as part of your overall experience and not as the sole measurement of the success or failure of your employee initiatives. It also highlights the need to make strategic investments in experience improvements.

One way companies can easily improve the experience of employees is by offering personalised self-service options for routine support. Just as virtual agents and chatbots are ideal tools for customer self-service, they also lend themselves well to supporting employees in areas such as IT Service Management (ITSM), human resources (HR) and staff training. They give employees a way to easily access the information they need.

To really be effective though, the virtual agent needs to be integrated with the right backend systems to provide an extremely personalised experience. That could be Single Sign-On (SSO), ticketing systems, knowledge management platforms, employee profiles, voice systems, live chat systems, call back and/or third-party databases depending on your organisation and the use case for your virtual agent. Selecting a technology that allows for the right integrations and customisation is key.

Giving employees an easy way to self-serve and troubleshoot common problems is impactful because it improves their day-to-day experience. When used for IT support, employees can easily self-serve for things like application support, system access and password resets and other help desk requests. A HR virtual agent can provide instant support on company policies and procedures, payroll questions, time-off requests and expense report assistance. The technology can also be used for staff training, customer-facing employee support and product guides. They are an efficient way for employees to find information and get answers to their questions as they go about their daily jobs.

It was predicted last year that by 2020, 20% of organisations would include employee engagement improvement as a performance objective for HR and IT. And with the business benefits associated with higher employee engagement, that’s no surprise. Just as companies are working to better serve digitally-savvy, highly connected customers, they also need to do the same for digitally-savvy, highly connected employees if they want to create a better experience and improved engagement.

Check out Creative Virtual’s V-Person™ for Employee Support overview for a more detailed look at how our chatbot and virtual agent technology is currently being used by organisations around the world – from large government departments to international financial brands – to improve the employee experience.

The Digital Workplace in 2019

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

In the survey results published by HR.com at the end of 2018, 79% of Human Resources (HR) professionals responded that chatbots and virtual assistants will become an increasingly viable way for employees to get real-time answers to their HR-related questions. Yet that same report identified that only about 10% of organisations are currently making use of artificial intelligence (AI) for HR purposes now.

One of the main takeaways from the recent Digital Workplace Directors Forum in London reflected the findings published in that report. While many organisations understand the benefits of using this technology, only a limited number of forward-thinking companies have done anything about it yet. That’s changing though as organisations add AI, chatbots and virtual agents to their 2019 roadmaps and digital workplace initiatives.

The agenda for the forum included a variety of speakers covering current workplace case studies and predictions for the future of the digital workplace. Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, was one of the expert speakers and shared insights and live demonstrations of conversational AI solutions for employee engagement. He showed how our virtual agents and chatbots are being used by organisations in a variety of sectors to provide a quick and easy self-service solution for HR and IT service desk support. He also showed how these automated solutions can be seamlessly integrated with human-assisted channels, such as live chat, as well as other existing backend systems, such as ticketing systems and third-party databases. One success story he shared was how a large government department is using our technology to reduce internal service desk costs and improve employee productivity.

Many of the discussions I had with other forum attendees reflected conversations I had at a customer and employee engagement event a couple of months ago. Organisations are coming to understand the benefits of providing better and easier support for employees and are placing an increased focus on improving employee engagement in 2019. Chatbots and virtual agents are proven tools in the digital workplace for everything from onboarding new employees to helping troubleshoot common IT issues to training contact centre agents.

If you weren’t at the event or missed Chris’ presentation, be sure to request a live demo to see our chatbot, virtual agent and live chat technology in action for yourself.

Our thanks to Engage Employee for inviting Creative Virtual to sponsor your first event of the year.

A Complete Omnichannel Experience for Those at a Desk and on the Move

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

In my nearly 11 years with Creative Virtual, I’ve worked with organisations across all sectors looking to implement successful virtual agent solutions and have seen the industry and the technology change massively. As the number of communication channels have grown and customers have become more digitally savvy, virtual agent technology has also become more advanced and sophisticated. Today companies are using these solutions to increase engagement through natural language conversations and are seeing all the usual benefits that you’ve heard associated with chatbots and virtual agents for years – an enhanced user experience, improvement in CSAT scores, reductions in calls to the contact centre and lower customer service costs.

Yet, as I explain in my recent Executive Interview with CRMXchange, the benefits go beyond that with today’s solutions. Chatbots and virtual agents can now provide a complete omnichannel experience for those at a desk and on the move. By being able to linkup channels – web, mobile, Facebook, messenger apps (like Facebook Messenger and WeChat), voice assistants (like Google Home and Amazon Alexa), etc. – companies are benefiting from delivering a consistent, accurate and seamless experience that’s available to customers 24/7.

It’s important that companies looking to implement a virtual agent fully explore the benefits of deploying the solution across multiple contact channels using a single knowledgebase. This then needs to be a central consideration during their selection process. Many virtual agent and chatbot solutions on the market today don’t have this capability which means you end up with a stand-alone tool on a single communication channel and an even more disjointed customer experience.

In my interview I also talk about the benefits of using self-service virtual agents for employee support, particularly for internal service desk and HR support, and how working with an experienced vendor like Creative Virtual can help an organisation get the most from their virtual agent. I discuss why human moderation of the machine learning component of chatbots is essential and the effect the explosion of media hype and buzz around artificial intelligence and chatbots has had on the industry.

Read my full interview for more and request a live demo to see Creative Virtual’s technology in action. My thanks to CRMXchange for the opportunity to participate in their Executive Interview series!

Supporting Customers and Employees in the Digital Age

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

Every organisation is going through a digital transformation, particularly in regard to their customer and employee experiences. Virtual agents and chatbots are ideal for supporting both digital customers and employees with a reliable and consistent self-service option that also helps reduce support costs and improve efficiency.

At Creative Virtual self-service solutions are our specialty, and we’re honoured to be named ‘Best Self-Service Solutions Provider 2017’ by Corporate Vision Magazine’s UK Corporate Excellence Awards 2017. For over 14 years we’ve delivered bespoke virtual agents and chatbots designed to provide a quick, easy way for users to get information and troubleshoot issues.

Once viewed as a novelty or ‘cool’ thing to have, virtual agents are now a key component of many customer engagement strategies. Smartphones, social media and a variety of other technological advancements have changed how we communicate with each other and how we want to communicate with brands. The traditional ways of providing customer service are no longer meeting the expectations of digital customers. As a society, we’re more inclined to seek out self-help options and are becoming increasingly more comfortable with using chatbots and virtual agents.

Despite most organisations being focused on improving their customer experience for a while now, an emphasis on improving the employee experience is relatively new for many. Yet organisations are starting to feel more pressure to make internal changes to better engage a digital workforce and lower costs. Virtual agents are proving to be a great fit for internal service desk and HR departments, giving employees an easy way to self-serve in a variety of situations. By giving employees the tools to troubleshoot and solve common problems anytime, anywhere on their preferred device, organisations can reduce costs and improve productivity.

Check out this recent webinar AI, Chatbots & Live Chat: Separating Truth from Myth, now available to watch on-demand, for a look at how organisations are already using virtual agents and chatbots to improve engagement with digital customers and employees.

Our thanks to Corporate Vision Magazine and the UK Corporate Excellence Awards for this honour!

It’s Time to Talk About the End-to-End Digital Employee Experience

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Talking about the end-to-end digital customer experience is nothing new. Over the past several years we’ve seen organisations take on the challenge of how to serve highly connected, always on customers. While this has certainly not been an easy undertaking, companies are now understanding the importance and necessity of providing customers with a complete digital experience and are embracing it throughout the organisation as a key part of their overall customer experience strategy.

What has been missing from this conversation for many organisations has been the end-to-end digital employee experience. The good news is that recently this has started to change, and I’m seeing a real maturity happening within organisations. Companies are now looking internally as well as externally and considering the employee point of view. They are recognising that employees needing support don’t want to find a phone to call the service desk or be constrained by the working hours of live agents any more than customers want to have that disjointed support experience. They are also realising that forcing employees to make a phone call or rely on the availability of live agents for every service desk contact is having a negative impact on overall productivity. In today’s increasingly digital workplace, the employee experience is something that organisations can’t afford to ignore.

Today we officially launched the newest addition to Creative Virtual’s suite of Smart Help solutions: V-Person Service Desk™. Our development of this self-service solution was in response to the growing need we saw for organisations to deliver quicker, easier service desk support for their employees without incurring the extra cost of additional live agents. In the service desk space there is a focus on shifting work left, and that’s exactly what V-Person Service Desk is designed to do. By giving employees the proper tools to troubleshoot instantly, they are empowered to self-serve, when and where they require support, without needing to contact a live service desk agent. This reduces service desk support costs while improving productivity.

Like our other V-Person solutions, the virtual agent understands questions asked in natural language and provides an instant, consistent answer every time. V-Person Service Desk is also designed to be complementary to the systems and processes organisations already have in place. It can be easily integrated with existing Single Sign-On (SSO) and ticketing systems, third party databases and live chat systems. By integrating with your SSO system, the virtual agent is able to provide employees with an extremely personalised experience based on pieces of information unique to each user, such as their name and location, which devices they have, the system they run on, and applications to which they subscribe, with no extra effort needed from the employee seeking support.

You can learn more about this service desk solution and download a product overview on our V-Person Service Desk page. We’d also love to schedule a live demo to show you how our Smart Help solution can help you improve productivity and reduce growing service desk support costs.