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Chatbots – One Interface to Rule Them All?

Imagine if everything your employees needed could be accessed from a single interface, and they could interact with this interface simply by talking to it. How much easier would their experience of work be? And how much more efficient would your organisation be?

With a chatbot, all of this is possible.

Once considered revolutionary, chatbots have been on the scene long enough to be considered a part of our everyday lives. Personal assistants such as Siri or Alexa are now a regular feature in the home, and chatbots are increasingly the first port of call when interacting with brands online. In the workplace, where we typically interact with multiple systems as a necessity, chatbots really come into their own.

Frictionless interactions

The beauty of chatbots is their ability to reduce complicated processes to a simple conversation. No experience or training is needed to do this; users simply ‘talk’ to the bot. You say what you need, and the bot does the rest.

Take booking annual leave, for example. Traditionally, this process involved logging into to a HR platform, clicking through various screens, and filling in a form. Chances are, new starters wouldn’t know which system to use, or where to look, so some sort of training was necessary. With a chatbot, anyone can complete the same transaction in the time it takes to say or write a couple of short sentences. No training is needed; just the ability to ‘chat’.

Another example is the recording of expenses. This was once a complicated process requiring the employee to read and understand policies, and then fill in a lengthy form. Now it is as simple as taking a picture on your smartphone. Thanks to optical character recognition (OCR) technology, the chatbot scans the expenses receipt and processes the claim automatically, in line with your company’s expense policy. All that complicated stuff that was once part of the user experience now happens behind the scenes, behind the chatbot.

Chatbots provide an unrivaled user experience when it comes to completing processes quickly and easily, allowing employees to spend less time battling against outdated technology, and more time doing productive work.

One interface to rule them all

The modern workplace is full of technological noise. We switch constantly between multiple systems – SharePoint, intranet, your HR system, and so on – each with its own unique look and feel, and each requiring a degree of knowledge to use effectively. This process is time-consuming and exhausting. Rather than simplifying our lives, this haphazard approach to technology has made it more complicated.

This is where chatbots come in. They transform the way we interact with technology by providing a single, consumer-grade interface that acts as an interactive layer over other systems. There’s no need to do away with the platforms you currently use; they carry on working as normal, but behind the chatbot. In fact, you can swap or upgrade these systems behind the scenes and the user would be none the wiser; all they experience or see is the chatbot.

What’s more, employees can access the chatbot anytime, anywhere via their smartphones. This is particularly handy for employees who spend a lot of time on the road and need to record expenses, mileage, and overtime – all of which they can do via the chatbot.

As well as providing a single interactive layer over multiple systems, chatbots can provide on-the-spot answers to work-related questions, such as ‘who are our first aiders?’ or ‘what is the procedure for calling in sick?’ This is particularly useful for new starters, who get instant answers to their questions. This way, the chatbot takes responsibility for ad hoc employee queries, giving HR staff and managers more time to focus on more strategic, proactive work. New recruits can even be given access to the bot before they start work, as part of the on-boarding process. Any questions they have can be answered ahead of time, allowing for a smoother transition into their new workplace.

As chatbot usage increases both inside and outside of work, employees will soon expect this level of user experience from their employer as standard. According to Business Insider, 80% of businesses will be using chatbots by 2020. So if you haven’t already invested in a chatbot, you should consider this in terms of when, not if. Businesses that are slow to jump on board could well be left behind.

Read our previous blog for A Brief History of Chatbots

Author

James Williams - https://people-first.com/talksuite

James is product owner of Talksuite, an enterprise-level bot-building platform from People First. James has spent the last three years working as part of the research team, helping to turn the latest technological developments into game-changing product features, and is an advocate for using bots to streamline business processes.