“Without a clear understanding of NLP requirements and the long-term investments required for success, chatbot initiatives will fail,” says Pat Calhoun, CEO, Espressive, in an exclusive interview with EnterpriseTalk.
ET Bureau: According to you, why are enterprises still unable to deliver the required self-service experience to their employees?
Pat Calhoun: The deployment rate of employee self-help tools is increasing, but 90% of businesses still predominantly use email to address questions from employees. Portals are simply not working. Additionally, when tickets are submitted, it can take up to a day for the first email to be sent from an agent to an employee to fix the issues.
With an industry average of 3 days and 10 hours to reach a resolution, enterprises are challenged with both low productivity and low employee satisfaction. Some enterprises have tried to take matters into their own hands by building their own in-house self-help solutions. However, in reality, this requires large amounts of data and resources to create a language model that delivers true consumer-like self-help experiences for employees. Even with significant investments in time and resources, not much progress is made.
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Without advanced NLP and a robust language model, chatbots will not meet employees’ expectations set from their consumer lives (e.g., Amazon Alexa and Google Home). Without a clear understanding of NLP requirements and the long-term investments required for success, chatbot initiatives will fail. Employees are looking for frictionless self-help that is designed to get them the answers they need.
ET Bureau: What steps can enterprises take to reduce manual and redundant help desk work for employees?
Pat Calhoun: According to Gartner, humans (i.e., agents or outsourced help desks) comprise 92% of the help desk budget. The irony is that 76% of tickets are resolved in one contact and the vast majority of those could be automated.
In addition, employees are demanding a self-help experience at work that emulates what they expect and receive from virtual assistants in their personal lives. Intelligent automation of employee self-help needs to become the new imperative for IT to reduce manual and redundant help desk work.
ET Bureau: How can enterprises successfully integrate technologies such as NLP, chatbots and AI into their ITSM strategy to transform employee self-service experience?
Pat Calhoun: Consumer virtual agents like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are more accurate than ever-improving every day with millions of user interactions and back-end work from engineers and data scientists. Modern enterprises do not have the data, resources and usage to replicate this, which is why so many current employee-facing virtual support agent solutions have not had success. A VSA must be able to accurately understand what an employee is saying in order to transform the employee self-service experience and guarantee adoption.
A VSA’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities must be able to understand the semantics of human language and the true meaning of every phrase.
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An NLP stack should be pre-built with enough employee language data to successfully understand all possible permutations of any phrase (e.g., don’t make me hire expensive skills). It should also be able to provide answers without a lengthy training process and democratize content management by allowing subject matter experts to seamlessly manage their content using existing tools.
An NLP engine should have the ability to understand employee language across the enterprise, so the self-help tool can respond to multiple teams within IT and beyond (e.g., HR, facilities). Finally, it needs to be able to test in a dev environment versus a live production environment.
ET Bureau: What trends do you see will transform the self-service experience in a hybrid work environment?
Pat Calhoun: One of the obvious trends associated with a hybrid workforce is the increasing dependency on collaboration tools because they provide a collaborative environment in a virtual world.
Along with this, there is a new trend toward using Slack and Microsoft Teams for employee self-help – both in private and public channels. It makes sense since employees are already heavily leveraging these tools. But these same tools can lead to an increased workload for an already overworked IT help desk team as they monitor public channels to answer questions and resolve problems for employees.
Also, when IT moves self-help to a collaboration tool, there is a potential for loss of visibility and metrics, which are necessary to succeed. So instead of improving return on investment (ROI) in Slack or Teams, it can actually decrease.
IT leaders will need to focus on finding solutions that enabled them to leverage collaboration tools for employee self-help without creating additional work for the help desk team or creating frustration and lost productivity for employees.
Pat Calhoun is a visionary leader with an intense focus on user experience and customer adoption. He has founded two companies – Airespace and Espressive. As CEO at Espressive, Pat is set to transform enterprise self-service as we know it now to a consumer-like experience that drives employee adoption and significantly reduces help desk calls.
Most recently, Pat served as senior vice president of product at ServiceNow where he was responsible for ServiceNow applications. Prior to that, he was general manager of the McAfee network security business. Pat also served as both CTO for the Cisco $14B switching, routing, wireless, and security access business and GM of the Cisco identity business. Pat holds 35 patents and has been published in more than 16 publications.