Why a Chatbot Could Be Your New Best Benefits Friend
Posted on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 by Sherri Bockhorst
Humans are social animals.
We like to communicate, even if there’s no viable human counterpart to give us feedback. I’m not shy to admit, when no one is around and I have something on my mind, sometimes I find myself chatting with my furry companion, Morgan, my healer/boxer mix. Although he is an avid listener and gives me reassuring looks, he doesn’t quite make the cut in terms of answering my pressing questions. Now, a chatbot on the other hand…
Considerable advancements have been made in leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to support individuals in managing their life through advanced chatbot technology. Like when you’re cooking dinner, “Hey Alexa, please set timer for 5 minutes.” Or, if you’re hankering for some pasta, “Hey Siri, look up an Italian restaurant near me.”
We have welcomed AI into our homes and our personal lives. But even with these significant advancements, concerns still exist about using them in business – specifically in HR departments. While recruiters have been quick to adopt AI and machine learning to find the best candidates, few HR departments are applying AI and ML to help solve the benefits puzzle. With the technology continuing to advance, intelligent applications can help HR departments become more agile, more communicative and yes, more empathetic. In fact, AI could be your new best friend.
Let’s dig into some of the details to get a better picture
Machine learning provide relative and personalized answers. Bots that leverage AI and ML to drive their interactions are able to draw upon larger datasets than any human (or dog) would ever be able to maintain and provide a response instantaneously. For example, Sofia, Businessolvers’ AI personalized benefits assistant, initially studied seven years of service center chat transcripts and benefit dictionaries to build her knowledge base. Today, she continues to expand her knowledge set by studying every ongoing interaction to learn new information and ways to communicate in an empathetic and human-centered way.
Not all chatbots are created equal. Yes, there is a hierarchy between chatbots. Not all chatbots use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to answer inquiries. Instead, some bots are built using specific rules that can’t be altered, making them less flexible and their responses limited. Bots who use NLP (like Sofia) can assess all the different ways humans ask questions and can give the right answer despite different natural language choices. Think about it, when people ask questions, they don’t ask it the same way every single time. For example, “Does my son have coverage?”, “Did my child’s insurance go through?”, or “What’s the status of my son’s benefits?” Sofia can recognize all of these questions are addressing a dependent’s information and serve up the right answer lickety-split.
Wherever you go, she goes. Despite some opinions, not all chatbots are intended to halt human interactions, but rather provide more convenient, real-time support when a human resource would not be otherwise be available. Your hard-working service center reps can’t stay awake 24/7, 365 right? AI-based applications can deliver service when and where people want or need it. For example, when I first enrolled in benefits and had to provide dependent verification information, I completed the task on the weekend when I was at home since that’s where I keep my marriage certificate and son’s birth certificate. Sofia was able to walk me through the process so I could submit my paperwork right from my phone and complete the process in short order. In fact, over 20% of Sofia’s total chats are after hours with top questions around dependent verification, ID cards, and plan details.
Just like your dog, a good chatbot can lend a friendly ear in a secure environment, at no cost. “The dog is in.” One of the more meaningful ways in which chatbots are beginning to interact with employees is to address mental health concerns. A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health found that one in five Americans have a mental illness, of which 60% went without care in the previous year. With a shortage of mental healthcare professionals, chatbots can provide an environment where people can interact whenever they are in a time of need, without having to make an appointment or fear human or employer judgement.
Additionally, sentiment analysis allows chatbots to recognize emotions in a person’s voice, in order to create an alert for a human to take over the call or chat when needed. Or, as Sofia uses it, provide more empathetic options when people are upset.
Although Morgan, will continue to be my best buddy, a chatbot’s helpfulness, convenience, and reliability may be much more useful in helping HR through some of their daily challenges.
Want to learn more about the differences between Sofia and regular chatbots? Check out our infographic below for an easy comparison.