Key takeaways

  • Chatbots provide superior customer service with their quick answers, complexity of knowledge and consistent messaging.
  • Enterprise chatbots may be used in the same way to eliminate mundane or repetitive tasks and free staff up for higher value work.
  • The analytics capability of bots will allow companies to make strategic business decisions contextually and as easily as asking a question.

 

Hands up if your resourcing team sends you a timesheet meme each week? Usually a goat or a sad puppy, perhaps even a crying Dawson’s Creek star? Thought so.

The internet is awash with timesheet memes that are regularly downloaded by frazzled HR staff, at their wits end trying to compel employees to do. their. darn. timesheets.

It’s the bane of many employees’ existence too. And it’s only one mundane task of many that take up valuable time and contribute to the slow torturous drip that is administration.

If only there was a way to legitimately do less of it and concentrate on the good stuff.

Say hello
to your chatbot

It’s pretty well established, if not universally adopted, that chatbots can enhance customer service experiences. If implemented well, they are a seamless way for customers to interact with a brand to give instantaneous and consistent advice.

This could equally be used to improve the employee experience.

A new range of enterprise level chatbots, among them, PwC’s Virtu, provide staff with a better employee experience in the workplace, make life easier, more productive and even improve work life balance.

The ease
factor

The team that worked together to build Virtu, a virtual assistant that allows users to easily access analytics for business insight, came up with the idea in a way that will sound familiar to many. Starting a new job, each team member found that their onboarding experience varied and the wealth of information available was at times overwhelming.

What they wanted was to ask a simple question and get a quick, informative answer. So they built it. Virtu works using natural language input, meaning, like with Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, asking a plain-English question will result in a plain-English answer. Artificial intelligence enables the machine to understand the human, not the other way around.

Chatbots like this are starting to be used in all sorts of ways to make life easier for staff, much as they do in the home. A recent survey found that 92% of HR leaders thought chatbots would form part of offering an enhanced level of customer service¹. Their use in onboarding, recruitment, and employee learning makes sense given the repetitive nature of the processes and level of one-way detail required by the employee.

People and culture teams won’t be the only area that will benefit from chatbots though. With the right one, employees will be able to learn the processes, systems and tasks of their role, as well as being able to log and fix IT issues via bots – rather than taking up the time of IT staff troubleshooting routine issues, such as lost passwords. Customer service reps could work with chatbots in order to provide the correct answers to customers quicker, without the need to rifle through a policy manual or disparate data systems.

Routine
rewards 

As well as making life easier for all involved, chatbots will provide an end to ‘menial madness’. PwC’s 2017 report Bot.Me: A revolutionary partnership – How AI is pushing man and machine closer together, surveyed business executives on the potential of AI to alleviate repetitive, mundane tasks. More than a third of the executives said that chatbots and digital assistants were already freeing up their time and allowing them to focus on deeper thinking.

Not only can these chatbots provide a human-like interface to access information easily, they can also be used to do many of the jobs that employees find excruciating. Like timesheets. In fact, nearly 80% of those surveyed thought that timesheets would be one of the things that chatbots would alleviate, along with paperwork (85%) and scheduling (79%).

But it isn’t just the executives that will benefit from the bots, with 78% agreeing that chatbots would free employees from such tasks no matter what level they were at. With no need for staff to answer routine customer service enquiries (again, those lost passwords), and less time spent in email answering ‘just one quick question’ from colleagues, having more time to devote to real value suddenly becomes quite possible.

Additionally, two-thirds of leaders believe that the use of chatbots will offer staff new types of roles in bot management and collaboration. As the report elucidates, “Operating as a new type of augmented intelligence, such positions would oversee and coordinate partnerships between man and machine.” This in turn will allow for a combination of both digital and human intelligences – and be more powerful than either alone.

Demanding
decisions

Indeed, these ways of thinking, and the use of bots to access data could lead to a strategic shift in an organisation. With bots providing real-time analytics to augment human-made decision making, the level of operational maturity is lifted.

According to the report, the majority of executives believe that artificial intelligence will provide more information during decision-making. The combination of big data, and being able to access it easily, puts a business in an enviable place when it comes to being able to capitalise and pivot as needed.

The team working on Virtu took this on as one of their main goals, wanting to leverage big data products in a way that was different from the traditional static dashboard platforms already in existence. By coupling data with interaction methods, such as voice, they were able to build a different kind of platform, where users can interact and explore data in a natural way by asking questions.

Considering the alternative, a set of tools that have been built to extract specific data from defined parameters, the flexibility is obvious.

Now, board members, marketers or employees on the ground can simply ask questions, such as “What is the revenue forecast for next quarter?” or “How many customer support calls did we have this quarter versus last?” instead of finding the numbers in a spreadsheet and assuming their context.

Doing strategic work has never been easier.

Work-life
balance

This makes life at work potentially much more interesting and easier to accomplish. In turn, this could lead to better work-life balance. One of the numerous benefits to employing chatbots alongside employees, is the access it would allow staff (with the proper security) to the same thought leadership and data they would have in the office in order to do their jobs.

In the Bot.me survey, the majority believed that staff would  also accept working with an artificially intelligent manager if it meant that they had more flexibility and freedom to work from home, particularly if it meant they experienced a more balanced workload.

This is an important point to make, given the natural worry that automation will lead to job loss. Instead, that automation may instead lead to jobs of more value, and greater job satisfaction as people are freed from tasks more suited to machines.

And there will always be a place for people, as “humans will lean on their ability to navigate complex situations, motivate teams, understand rich social contexts, act with empathy and diplomacy, and influence others to move towards their vision – while machines automate the rest.”

A better employee
experience with bots

Enterprise chatbots will allow staff to work smarter on multiple levels.

The assistance of a virtual know-it-all colleague who can help an employee do their job, complete their administration and provide HR, IT or other services, will be a boon to those struggling to fit high value work in amongst day-to-day business.

This focus on value-adding and strategic business, aided by the easily accessible and timely data analytics provided by a chatbot such as Virtu, could potentially lead to employees who need to claim less overtime, can work easily externally, and generally enjoy a more balanced life. These staff will be happier in the work and as a result, more loyal to your business and its direction.

Meme that.

 

Contributor

Greg Buresch

Greg is a manager in the Strategy and Transformation team at PwC Australia.

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