Ask and you shall receive. That’s the hope of developers working to create the next generation of enterprise chatbots, which promise to serve a genie-like role in employees’ lives—whether they are at the top of the org chart or far below it. What most of us have experienced with Siri and Alexa is just the tip of the iceberg, with tomorrow’s bots able to manage everything from our email and calendars to financial reports and research. In fact, if all goes as planned, we may never have to search for documents or data—or manage our own calendars—ever again.
Although chatbots are currently being used in the customer service industry to aid in creating a 24/7 customer experience (CX), many feel their potential has yet to be fully realized. In fact, some believe chatbots will soon cause apps to go the way of the dodo bird—making everything from web searches to software training completely unnecessary. Why download an app when your chatbot can manage life, work, and knowledge for you? But before we go that far, it’s important to determine the real business value in bringing bots to the enterprise. Will they improve efficiency and productivity? Decrease error and risk? Or will they simply help us keep up with the expectations that come along with digital transformation’s increasingly demanding—and customer-driven—world?
The answer, I believe, is a mix of those things—and true business value may be difficult to measure, at least for the time being. Still, chatbots do hold tremendous potential for the enterprise. The following are just a few examples.
Managing Mundane Tasks
We all know how time-consuming mundane administrative tasks can be, from checking our emails to updating meeting schedules and keeping our teams in the loop. Chatbots can help free up time spent on these menial tasks, helping to sort through emails, automatically schedule meetings, and alert you to schedule changes—without you ever looking at your computer or phone. Even more, chatbots can help run reports, perform analytical functions in Excel, and search for data without you even needing to be involved in the process. Yes, you read that right: you will no longer need to remember Excel formulas to perform complicated functions. You can simply ask a bot questions—and get the results. Wolfram Alpha—a complex calculator app—I already doing this to some degree on mobile devices.
Building Bridges in Legacy Organizations
I have a friend who worked for a mega legacy energy company in California—one ripe with siloes and territorial employees. Finding answers to any questions—including whom to contact for certain information—was almost impossible. She would have to seek out people who were in-the-know and willing to share those details to get any valuable work done. Chatbots could be especially helpful in these organizations, breaking down siloes by making organizational knowledge more widely and easily accessible. This in turn improves efficiency and productivity—both of which are increasingly important in the digital age.
Keeping Employees Looped In
Just as the amount of technology continues to grow, so does the amount of information our employees need to manage and understand. Chatbots can serve as a resource to keep employees up-to-date on the latest product developments and software updates. In fact, in the customer service industry, agents are using chatbots not just to face customers, but to help live agents find the information they need more quickly as they serve the customers themselves. On a similar note, we may soon be able to forget the infamous employee Intranet. On the internal communications side, employees can go to bots for any number of questions, from personalized benefits issues to vacation, policy issues, and training documents.
Chatbots can help keep workflows running smoothly, managing the process of obtaining approvals, registrations, and other administrative tasks. Not only do chatbots promise to make those processes faster—they promise to reduce the chance of human error within those processes, as well.
What this means, on a larger scale, is that employees will no longer be tethered to network folders, the Intranet, and email to find the information they need. They will be able to use their bot to sort, search, analyze, and process information behind the scenes, making their jobs easier and more fulfilling—and freeing up time for more advanced work. Although we aren’t quite there yet, advancements in emotional intelligence (EQ) are being made daily, and chatbots are better able to understand implied meanings of phrases, such as, “Let’s hang out” or “let’s get together” to determine the call to action in digital messaging. The development is certainly one that holds tremendous potential for changing the face of business and how we serve our customers better—which is what digital transformation is all about.
Additional Resources on This Topic:
AI and Chatbots: Getting Their Sensitivity Training
The Case for Emotionally Intelligent AI
AI is Going to be Your New BFF
AI and Automation: Predictions for the Future