We are probably all used to the idea of chatbots being beneficial for customer communications. We know that they can be used via telephone or online chat, and are particularly useful for handling simple queries. Their use has revolutionised customer service approaches in service industries from banking to retail by shortening customer wait times and freeing up call centre staff time to deal with difficult queries.
This extensive use with customers work makes it all the more surprising that chatbots have not yet caught on in internal communications. Many companies start their AI and automation journeys by focusing on internal processes—so why has internal comms been an exception?
A historical pattern
This may be because internal comms has not been seen as an area for conversations. Instead, it is very much about management getting messages out to employees. However, that overlooks an important aspect of internal comms: it may be top-down, but it needs to be interactive. In other words, the information must be searchable and enable people to find answers to their queries.
As electronic communications have replaced company manuals, organisations have often shifted to an intranet approach. However, this has disadvantages. An intranet needs maintenance and editing to ensure that information is up-to-date. This job tends to default to low-level employees, who simply do not have the necessary knowledge to manage the intranet as a source of information for the whole business. Search functions are not always efficient or effective.
These problems have often led employees to rely on their own networks for information, both on social media and in person. This works reasonably well for established employees, but is much harder for new team members. Chatbots can overcome many of these disadvantages, and provide some useful additional advantages.
They allow on-demand access to information
Chatbots allow access to information at any time. Unlike HR departments, they are not open only during working hours. Instead, they can be used at any time, meaning that employees can work more flexibly without worrying about not having access to information about company policies or procedures. This can be a huge advantage in multinational companies, where the HR or payroll teams may be centrally located—and accessible only outside other teams’ working day.
Employees can use their preferred means of communication
Over the last five to ten years, there has been a definite change in how we communicate. Few of us now like to pick up a phone without first checking that it will be convenient for the other person to speak. However, it is always convenient for a chatbot to talk—and if you don’t want to phone, you can use online chat or text instead.
Chatbots don’t judge you for not knowing already
We all know that there’s no such thing as a stupid question—except that there is, isn’t there? And nobody wants to be the laughing stock of the organisation because they asked something very basic. Chatbots, however, don’t judge, and they don’t gossip to your coworkers about your question, either. You can therefore ask any question, secure in the knowledge that you will be given the right answer. This is particularly helpful for new team members, who often don’t want to bother their colleagues with all their questions—but still need the answers.
Chatbots can help to populate basic forms
Chatbots can be integrated with company documentation like expenses claims or helpdesk requests. They can therefore supply the right form on request. However, you can take this further. Many chatbots can also use your answers to questions to populate the form, then send it to you electronically for approval, speeding up the submission process.
Chatbots can be used to schedule meetings with HR advisers
One of the big advantages of chatbots in customer-facing interactions is that they can hand over to a person when necessary. The same applies in internal communications. Chatbots can hand over to an HR or payroll adviser, or to a supervisor, if the question is too complicated. And if it’s out of hours, they can schedule a conversation at a mutually convenient time by being able to see and compare electronic calendars.
Is it time to get serious about internal conversations?
It follows that chatbots can also be used for all the standard internal communications issues, such as sending ‘all company’ emails or messages, and scheduling major meetings. With all these advantages, it really is hard to understand why so few businesses are using chatbots for internal comms.