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5 Ways Chatbots Improve Employee Experience

November 09, 2020 Employee Experience
scott clark
By Scott Clark

Many companies use AI chatbots on their websites to give customers a way to instantly access information about products and services. More businesses are discovering that chatbots can be used to improve the employee experience, too. 

Oracle and Future Workplace’s annual AI at Work report revealed that 64% of employees would trust an AI chatbot more than their manager and half of them have used an AI chatbot rather than go to their manager for advice. When asked what AI bots can do better than their managers, 26% of respondents said bots are better at providing unbiased information and 34% said they were better at maintaining work schedules. Other answers included problem-solving (29%) and managing a budget (26%).

The majority of employees (65%) said that they are optimistic, excited and grateful about having AI bot “co-workers” and nearly 25% said that they have a gratifying relationship with AI it their workplace. Here are several ways chatbots can be used to increase employee satisfaction, productivity, engagement, loyalty and retention.

Chatbots Enhance Employee Self Service and Human Resources

AI chatbots are being used to accomplish many of the complex processes, policies and frameworks that are part of the human resources (HR) department’s daily tasks. An AI chatbot is available for employees 24 hours a day, and allows HR, through the chatbot, to answer common employee questions relating to employee benefits, scheduling, insurance, vacation and sick time. AI can also provide fast, personalized replies to their queries. This saves HR time and effort while providing the employee with a positive, satisfying experience. 

Elizabeth Ebert, North America Advisory IT Lead at Avanade said that human resources professionals are using AI chatbots in many different ways to engage employees, especially with the recent focus on the remote workplace. “As new ways of working emerge, employees are more frequently in virtual locations using a variety of collaboration platforms that can be leveraged for chatbot technology,” she said. “Chatbots provide 24/7 access for employees and can span most of the collaboration methods that organizations are using to build their virtual organization.”  

Mirroring the results of the Oracle and Future Workplace report, Ebert said employees have found AI chatbots to be effective at providing answers to their questions and enhancing employee engagement. “As AI supporting chatbots have become more effective in creating more conversational engagement, which drives great satisfaction in those interactions, chatbots also provide more consistent responses to HR inquiries,” she said.

Related Article: How Automation Is Removing Workplace Roadblocks

Personalizing and Streamlining the Recruiting Process

It's not just the nuts and bolts of HR where chatbots are having an effect. Many companies are embracing AI to improve the recruitment process. The aim is to enhance the candidate experience of the potential employee while allowing HR professionals to focus on more pressing issues.

Irvine, Calif.-based Alorica Inc. is one example of a company that uses recruiting chatbots to find talent. Potential employees apply at their convenience while the chatbot conducts the initial candidate screening process. The result is that Alorica, a customer management company that provides call center services and support, saves time and reduces hiring costs, decreases manual outreach to candidates, and saves in-person follow-ups for pre-qualified applicants, thereby increasing the productivity of hiring teams.

Another benefit of AI-driven chatbots is that when they have been trained using an appropriate dataset, they can help reach a more diverse group of candidates. Human bias remains a significant barrier for many hiring teams. While AI doesn't eliminate bias, it can be useful to bring in a broader set of candidates. 

Brad Snedeker, product marketing director at Calabrio, a customer experience software company, said the move to the remote workplace has removed the barriers of hiring geographically diverse employees but has increased the level of competition for top talent. "As a first touchpoint, companies need to smooth the application process for agents," he said. "Bots can assist during applications to offer a better self-service experience to applicants and ease the process by helping manage some of the steps for them."

Streamlining New Employee Onboarding

Chatbots can be used to notify applicants about interview procedures, significant dates, the completion of documentation, information about the position itself, and once they're hired, help new employees get acquainted with the brand, its culture, rules and basic information. 

Along with easing the new employee into the company, chatbots can also gather required information from the new employee and walk them through the onboarding process as they fill out the required forms and learn what is expected of them in the critical first few days. Onboarding chatbots are also able to take the new employee through a post-onboarding survey or provide instant access to mundane questions such as software, services, network and Intranet access, and other details about the company, all without the interaction of an HR professional.

"A new employee who has simple onboarding questions can consult with the bot and get their answers quickly, all without having to loop in the HR team," said Devin Pickell, growth marketer at Nextiva. "These bots can also integrate with internal communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, which adds to the convenience of using these bots."

Related Article: How to Build a Virtual Onboarding Program for Remote Workers

Chatbots for Learning and Skill Development

report from TalentLMS revealed that since the COVID-19 crisis began, 42% of companies have increased their reskilling and upskilling efforts and 74% of employees that did not have the opportunity for additional skill training said they would prefer to work for a company that offered it. Ongoing learning initiatives are more important than other perks and benefits to millennials and Gen Z, the fastest growing segments of the workforce. A 2020 survey from getAbstract indicated that over 50% of members of those two groups believe a successful career depends on frequently updating their skills and knowledge. 

AI chatbots offer companies an opportunity to provide employees with personalized learning and skill development content. By integrating chatbots that use natural language processing and machine learning abilities with existing learning platforms, employees can be guided through the training initiative without requiring the intervention of HR staff. 

With so many employees working remotely, companies often have a difficult time knowing which workers are struggling and this is where AI chatbots can make a difference. This is useful for employees that interact with customers in real time, like call center agents. "Connecting bots with the stream of insights coming from interaction analytics and quality evaluations can be a mainline to see exactly which agents need what kind of training and when," Snedeker said. "The virtual assistant can then at the right-time, based on staffing levels and customer demand, offer agents opportunities to take time for an e-learning break for a dedicated topic or offer up future training slots that can be added to their schedule."

Related Article: Raise Your Organization's Digital IQ: The Timing Has Never Been Better

Making Customer Service More Responsive

Chatbots can also enhance customer service by putting data and tools in the hands of employees when they can make the biggest difference. Most chatbots are able to answer typical questions customers ask and tap into a customer’s prior purchasing history in order to provide personalized customer service. 

"It's hard to land on a SaaS website today without seeing a chatbot pop up and greet you," said Nextiva's Pickell. "Chatbots play an increasingly important role in customer service, support and sales." He said 95% of customer interactions are expected to take place via an AI chatbot or live chat by 2025.

But chatbots do not eliminate the need for human staff and must be balanced with the ability to know when to refer a customer to a customer service representative for more detailed or complicated inquiries. By having chatbots provide a personalized response to basic inquiries such as providing a tracking number or noting when an order shipped, customer service staff are better able to tackle more serious issues.

One of the most efficient and powerful uses of AI chatbots is for front-end call support, said Andy Bird, director of product management at Lifesize, a telecommunications company in Austin, Texas. “AI voice bots can resolve the majority of customer requests and problems upfront in the call," he said. "It’s not always necessary for customers to speak to an agent to receive service—and agents can reserve their time and skills for more strategic customer tasks that require intuitive, human reasoning that AI can’t replicate.”

Make Sure Users Are Aware They Are Talking to a Bot

It's important to note that the use of AI and machine learning is not to fool the customer or employee into believing they are talking to a real human. Rather, it's to provide a human-like experience that provides a personalized solution in real time. There are still obstacles to overcome. For example, it's a fine line between a quick response and an inhumanly quick response.

Chatbots work best when they operate at roughly the same speed as a human operator, said Todd Greene, CEO of PubNub, a real-time communication platform provider.

"While there are certainly circumstances where they need to be decelerated — a 100-word response to a complicated question appearing in half a second is disconcerting — the reality is that the sophistication required to get the interaction right demands a level of system speed and direct response that can be tricky to deliver on a traditional infrastructure,” he said. “As with any technology that enables remote interactions, chat users need an experience that is well-designed, feels familiar, and feels as seamless as an in-person (or real person) conversation.” 

Chatbots of today are no longer the clunky, often intolerable bots that initially appeared on websites. Increasingly, AI chatbots use artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the experience of employees as they go through the recruitment process, interact with human resources, continue to improve their skillset through learning initiatives, and provide optimized customer service to customers. 

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