If you shop online and have ever had a question about or a problem with an order, you may have interacted with a customer service chatbot. Many e-commerce companies use these AI programs to conduct automated conversations with their customers. Based on machine learning algorithms programmed into the chatbot by the company, the chatbot generates responses to the customer in real time.
Some organizations are also now using chatbots in their employee training programs. “A chatbot can help employees find critical information, complete tasks and negate the need to learn how to use systems they have not encountered previously,” says Rephael Sweary, president and co-founder of enterprise technology WalkMe. “As technologies continue to change rapidly – particularly for SaaS-based systems – chatbots can provide the contextual guidance required to help users get the job done.”
The Benefits of Using Chatbots in Learning and Development
According to Vincent Han, founder and CEO of Mobile Coach, chatbots – which he describes as “a digital friend” – are also a great way to reinforce training. Chatbots, he says, are more engaging than emails, workbooks and other traditional reinforcement tools. By having learners interact with chatbots periodically for an extended period after training, they can improve retention and application of their new knowledge and skills.
The Freeman Company, for example, uses a chatbot to interact with salespeople after they take a sales fundamentals course. The company, Han says, saw a 93-percent activity rate with the chatbot, and over half of users were “power users” who “really relied on the chatbot quite a bit.” As another example, Target implemented a chatbot to help keep learners accountable to the goals they made during workshops. Three-fourths of the learners who used the chatbot followed through on their post-training commitments, as opposed to only 55 percent of the learners who did not use the chatbot.
One benefit of chatbots is that many of them can be integrated with your LMS or other platforms to provide additional data about your learners. You can use that data to improve your programs and feed that content back to the chatbot to provide more up-to-date information to users. “The type of data you can collect to analyze to know what’s going on in the hearts and minds of your learners can be very powerful,” Han says.
Many organizations have global learner populations. Han says chatbots can help companies scale training to reach their audience in multiple languages through multiple channels. “If I’m sitting in Utah,” he says, “then SMS might be a great way to interact with me. But if I’m sitting in Shanghai, people don’t SMS there, so using [a messaging app] is a great way to go.”
Han says if you’re considering implementing chatbots in your training program, the first step is to use a chatbot. Whether it’s your favorite company’s customer service bot or your company’s collaboration tool, by interacting with existing chatbots, you can learn what works well and what frustrations or limitations might come up.
Next, use chatbots in a training program “where user engagement over an extended period of time would be very, very valuable.” That value should translate into a potentially high ROI to make it easier to gain buy-in from your stakeholders. For example, Han says, if you’re trying to keep participants in a high-potential training program engaged in a conversation over one or two years, “that’s perfect for a chatbot.”
Atif Siddiqi, founder and CEO of Branch Messenger, wrote in a Shopify blog post that chatbots can be a great way to provide onboarding or other HR communications, like sexual harassment information. The first step is to gather your HR documents, frequently asked questions and training content. Then, add that content to the chatbot so it’s prepared to answer questions from employees.
Once you roll out the chatbot, Han says you may find that learners are receptive to using it – even more so than a new app or other platform. That’s because they’re convenient and easy to engage with – “just like you’re messaging a friend.” Just make sure the chatbot isn’t too invasive, he cautions; then, you might find your opt-out rate increases.