What can chatbots ever do for us?

According to Gartner, 85% of customer interactions will take place without a human by 2020 and the average person will have more interactions with a bot than with their spouse! (1) I recently attended a seminar on the subject of chatbots, something which a few years ago would have seemed like gimmicky nonsense. But our profession is undoubtedly changing; we either work with technology or yield to it. And with 80% of businesses stating that they already use or plan to use chatbots by 2020, it is time to get ahead of the change curve (2).

So, what is a chatbot?

Chatbots are interactive software platforms that reside in apps, live chat, email and SMS and can behave in a human-like manner (2). They are essentially virtual assistants that are available 24/7 and the odds are you’ve already interacted with one – potentially without even knowing it (1).

They enable both users and businesses to transition away from complicated and time-consuming processes towards something more natural, quick and efficient – providing information at our finger tips (1).

And what can it ever do for us?

Well its quite easy to think of the benefits chatbots offer for general HR functions; more self-service functions, qualifying, and to a certain extent solving, employee requests, improving information flow, more efficiency and unlocking more time to focus on doing strategic work (2).

But what does this mean for payroll specifically, given the more technical nature of our role? Well there are already a number of automated technologies out there to streamline processes (I’m a particularly big advocate of Pensionsync), and chatbots could easily take up onerous tasks such as updating employee information, tax/payroll details and offering a user friendly interface for employees, to triage requests for agents (3).

Just like employees, intelligent chatbots built on machine learning and natural language processing can also learn on the job – the more interactions they have, the more effective their understanding and interpretation. Over time, this could be of a huge support to our function as we continue to juggle business as usual, alongside implementing and adhering to constant new swathes of payroll and pension legislation. Bots could therefore assist with sense checking company processes against latest legislation, flagging any risks or opportunities, rather than the burden lying solely with agents.

Perhaps HMRC could also take a leaf out of the ‘fit-for-purpose-and-robust-technologies’ and utilise bots to support our enquiries, so that we unlock significant time savings from no longer sitting on hold to an advisor who unfortunately only knows half the answers to our enquiry…but that would be a Christmas miracle.

I wouldn’t profess that chatbots and automated technologies will ever fully take over our roles and render us redundant. Far from it, how are technologies going to learn the intricacies of our profession in the first place? But I do think tides are slowly changing and the future ahead does look very interesting indeed. Who knows how our role will evolve over the next 5 years, but I hope to see greater recognition for our industry as business areas ultimately shift.

Sources

What is a chatbot? A guide for business leaders – Talk Suite

80% of businesses want chatbots by 2020 – Business Insider

How Chatbots Can Solve the Most Annoying HR Problems – HR Gazette