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 support – help 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.