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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.