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Chatbots Are the Link Between Customer and Employee Experience

June 29, 2022 Employee Experience
Mark Feffer
By Mark Feffer

For several years now, we’ve heard organizations refer to their employees as customers. This idea is at the root of employee experience and has become a significant area of focus for business leaders.

There are obvious reasons for this. On one hand, a positive employee experience tends to lead to greater engagement and productivity and, consequently, better results overall, from increased product innovation to better customer service. On the other, we're in a tight labor market, businesses are struggling to recruit and retain employees, and the idea of long-term company loyalty is pretty much dead.

Organizations that improve their employee experience should see a resulting improvement in retention, engagement and productivity. They should also see a customer engagement boost, too. How can companies do this? AI-fueled chatbots play a key role, if they're deployed effectively.

The Customer-Employee Relationship

Most companies recognize that poor customer service leads to unhappy customers, negative reviews and potentially lower sales. Data shows most US consumers are quick to cut ties with a brand if they receive poor customer support. But the reverse is also true: Customers are quick to become advocates for organizations that treat them well.

The Sitel Group's CX Index Report, which analyzes consumer sentiment about customer experiences, shows that 75% of customers would stop doing business with a company if they had a bad experience or received poor support. In fact, 50% said they had cut ties with a business in the past year because of a negative experience.

Turns out, the same is true of employees — and that is essentially what's driving HR these days. The idea of “recruitment marketing” and encouraging workers to hype their company over social media is gaining traction among talent acquisition professionals.  

“The link between employee experiences and customer experiences is undeniable,” said Dan Gizzi, vice president of business development at Sitel Group's parent company Learning Tribes. “Research continues to show that companies with highly engaged employees consistently outperform their competitors and yield higher customer ratings.” 

Related Article: What's Next for Employee Experience: New Platforms and New Paradigms

Train Staff to Work Alongside Chatbots

Employee experience and customer experience are two intertwined concepts. One feeds off the other in a perpetual circle. Ultimately, the goal is the same: drive growth and engagement.

Understanding what customers want and what employees need to deliver the value proposition is key to getting this balance right. For example, the research shows that consumers would rather talk to a real person than engage with a chatbot or other digital type of communication. Seventy percent say they would prefer to interact with a live person over a digital tool or chatbot, and 28% would rather speak to someone on the phone rather that communicate via email.

“What this means for businesses is a greater responsibility to training and developing staff to not only work alongside new technology like chatbots but to help them refine their soft skills when they engage with a consumer over the phone,” Gizzi said.

A similar scenario can be applied to HR and its support of employee self-service tools and core HR queries. Earlier this year, a Nucleus Research report found that high turnover is often traced to challenges with basic systems such as payroll and scheduling. Problems in those areas have a notable impact on employee experience.

This is especially true at large companies, where attempts to get an error fixed can be a bureaucratic hassle. Improvements in payroll alone can reduce turnover by 30%, the Nucleus report indicated, while improvements and a corresponding reduction of turnover can result in 60% dollar savings.

Related Article: How Chatbots Can Enhance Candidate and Employee Experience

AI-Based Recruiting in Employee Experience

The market for chatbots as a recruiting tool has been heating up for some time now. In May 2017, Allegis Global Solutions reported that more than half of the job seekers it surveyed were comfortable interacting with chatbots and other AI-based applications. This no doubt prompted many companies to tap into the technology to gain efficiencies. This year, 80% of businesses are expected to integrate some form of chatbot system into their recruiting, according to Linchpin SEO in Raleigh, N.C.

"These apps can really make a difference in sourcing, screening and moving our candidates through the process of becoming our new employees,” Craig Fisher, marketing and communications director for talent acquisition at Allegis, told SHRM. “And, for now, job seekers seem mostly OK with it.”

According to SHRM, while not every recruiter is smitten with the use of chatbots, many hope they’ll appeal to younger, more technology-inclined candidates.

What’s not clear is how all of this squares with Korn Ferry’s finding that efforts to incorporate AI solutions into recruiting technology isn’t impressing the people who matter most: candidates. Seventy-six percent of those surveyed by the global management consultancy said they trusted people more than AI systems to guide them through a job search, and 41% said they were flat out uncomfortable dealing with advanced technology during the process.

One could argue that Korn Ferry simply asked the wrong question: There’s a propensity in human capital management to focus on technological processes in and of themselves, rather than view tools in the same context as users do. Ask someone how they feel about AI’s role in the recruitment process and they may be skittish at the idea of giving machines too much influence. Ask the same person if chatting via an employer’s website simplified the application process and they may be enthusiastic.

Employers need to keep in mind that as far as candidates and employees go, it’s the experience that matters most — not the technology behind it.

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