Let’s Talk Chatbots: Can They Build a Better Benefits Experience?

Just a few years ago, it was predicted that the average person would have more conversations with bots than with their spouse by 2020.

Whether or not this prediction is on track to pan out, it’s undeniable that chatbots have permeated the consumer experience. They help online shoppers fill their carts, assist with website navigation, and provide general customer support. And it would seem they’re around for a good reason, as nearly half of surveyed consumers indicate they’d prefer to interact with a chatbot over a human being.

But how are employers taking advantage of chatbots? Compelling examples abound throughout the employee experience. The opportunity begins with recruitment and administrative tasksand quickly expands into the benefits realm.

From onboarding to daily routines

The average employer spends $4,000 and 24 days hiring an employee. Given that a negative recruitment experience is linked to turnover, it makes good sense that employers are making efforts to qualify candidates (and delight them along the way) through automated recruitment flows, with examples as diverse as Marriott’s Career Concierge Chatbot and the U.S. Army’s SGT STAR Virtual GuideBeyond recruitment, chatbots can also streamline onboarding. They can offer up new-hire FAQs, communicate training schedules, deliver LMS course assignments, and even administer paperwork. West Monroe Partners’ chatbot Rosie is one HR automation tool that cuts new hire paperwork from more than thirty minutes down to five.

The potential for chatbot intervention in everyday employee transactions is just as rich. Overstock.com’s Mila has transformed how employees request sick days (and how the employer processes those requests). The bot checks all the boxes, first offering some words of sympathy to the employee, then collecting all the right details about their schedule and responsibilities in order to plan for their absence.

Other activities in the HR sphere can be automated to save hours and contribute to a more satisfying employee experience as well. Inbound employee inquiries or requests (such as PTO balances or approvals) can be instantly processed by an intelligent bot that integrates with the right systems in the background. Similarly, outbound requests from managers or HRthink routine company policy reviews or quarterly engagement surveyscan be pushed to the employee by the same friendly messenger.

The next frontier: proactive benefits engagement

By supporting key moments in the employee experience, the corporate chatbot is nurturing user trustand building an impressive résumé of skills along the way. But what could be next for her? In rich benefits ecosystems, where digital and telephonic resources abound, the chatbot can play a role of triage, pointing each employee to the right resource at the right time, based on the flow of conversation.

What’s even more exciting is the prospect that, equipped with the right data, the chatbot can proactively recommend benefits to usersanticipating their needs before they’re even expressed. Imagine, for example, an employee who has just received a significant raise, but has yet to start a 401(k)or a new mom returning to work who might not be aware of available childcare discounts and onsite mother’s rooms. 

At work and elsewhere, chatbots are an effective vehicle for delivering content and resources that are bound to resonate. The opportunities are vast. They’re high impact. And they’re worth talking about.


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