Recently, we’ve heard a lot about chatbots and their use within the digital workplace and for internal communications. This was a recurrent theme at the recent IntraTeam conference in Copenhagen.
Many of us agree chatbots have many potential uses and their widespread deployment in the digital workplace is coming soon. So far, beyond the use of chatbots in Slack and of popular digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, there have been few examples cited of chatbots which are actively serving the needs of employees.
This post aims to bring a few of the examples of workplace chatbots that are around. Here are seven interesting examples which have emerged so far.
Overstock’s HR bot
There’s a clear case for chatbots to be able to carry out simple and repeatable work-based tasks, particularly in the HR space. Overstock is an online retailer that’s deployed an HR chatbot called Mila. Employees can let it know they are off sick (and they get a sympathetic message) and then it also messages their manager. Other simple HR tasks such as booking holiday and checking work rosters are also covered. I’m not sure whether a message from Mila would make me feel better, but it probably helps the HR department.
Intel’s virtual assistant Ivy
One of the earlier chatbot experiments was Ivy at Intel, an HR virtual assistant. Built in 2013 to answer questions about pay, benefits, stocks and related issues, the tool uses a “combination of natural language processing, artificial intelligence and optimized search” and has over 4,000 responses to different questions. A couple of years later Intel even advertised for a content editor to work on the project.
A few interesting points about Ivy – she has a human persona and image, metrics and feedback (via star ratings for the quality for the interactions) are used to make improvements and Intel emphasise the importance of artificial intelligence. Ivy learns and therefore improves.
Co-operative Bank’s virtual agent for contact centre staff
An even earlier chatbot or virtual agent is MIA (“My Interactive Adviser”) who was helping contact centre staff answer customer questions for the Co-operative Bank as far back as 2011. Staff can ask natural language queries about products, policies and services. MIA is represented by an illustration of a person. Early benefits were impressive with an estimated reduction in call times of 35 seconds and speeds of up to 65% faster responses to customer queries.
Prophets Agency’s chatbot-powered dashboard
Prophets Agency is a Belgian digital and brands agency. They’ve created an intriguing workplace dashboard that appears to have some chatbot functionality, although it could be just some cute messaging. It helps you book a seat and says happy birthday. Watch the video below to see it in action – hat tip to Ellen van Aken and her excellent collection of intranet launch and teaser videos.
Microsoft’s intranet chatbot
A chatbot which sits on top of the intranet and answers questions is an intriguing prospect. Bloomberg mentions that at Microsoft there’s a chatbot called ADBot which answers questions from the corporate directory, and the “company is also working on building a bot on top of its intranet so employees can ask a digital assistant simple questions, such as what’s for lunch at the cafe.” Sorry, the article doesn’t mention any more than that, but it was from May 2016 so this might something that’s now up and running.
Experimenting with chatbots at Publicis in Singapore
PubComms Singapore is a subsidiary of global agency Publicis Groupe. There’s a very detailed report (which is well-worth reading) on their experiments with two chatbot interfaces for HR policy information delivered to employees. One chatbot is delivered via a desktop and other via Facebook Messenger. In both cases employees were positive, rating its usefulness in improving the employee experience as 7.6 and 7.9 respectively. There are lots of other detailed insights in the report.
The beer fridge chatbot at Mando
This is a fun example of chatbots and gamification, but it also shows the potential impact and value. Mando are a UK-based digital agency which developed an app which unlocks their office fridge which is full of beer for end-of week drinks at 4pm on a Friday. However this only happens if everybody has submitted their timesheets for the week.
The app has been running since 2012 but in 2016 Mando added some chatbot and AI functionality to allow staff to interact with it. You can ask it questions, particularly about blockers (those who haven’t submitted the timesheets) via Slack or Facebook Messenger, and it also learns to refine responses. Future plans include facial and voice recognition. While this is fun, timesheet submission is very high and the chatbot has gained the agency both awards and publicity.
Chatbots are go!
I have a strong suspicion that more and more examples of successful chatbots deployed inside the digital workplace will be revealed over the coming months. There may also be examples out there which I’ve missed. Please do let me know of any you know in the comments below or by getting in touch. Eventually I may do an updated post with a new list.