7. March 2023 By Matthias Schunck and Janus Fiegen
Chatbots in practice – increased efficiency thanks to the ServiceNow Virtual Agent
Possible ways to use Virtual Agent
Currently, the ServiceNow Virtual Agent can be provided for contact with customers and users in the following three NOW modules:
- IT Service Management (ITSM)
- Customer Service Management (CSM)
- HR Service Delivery (HRSD)
The Virtual Agent is available as a component of the NOW platform, which means it can be added to other NOW modules as an extension later.
Next, we will look at two challenges from realistic customer situations in the context of ITSM and HRSD, the solutions to them and the added value of using the Virtual Agent.
NOW ITSM case study
To get started, it is worth identifying common, trivial queries to achieve quick wins. The ServiceNow NLU model for ITSM provides pre-configured topics for typical use cases to identify user intentions.
Here is an excerpt from the official manufacturer documentation:
- Topic – ‘Escalate ticket’:
- Increase ticket priority incident INC0010023
- Can you please increase the priority of my open incident?
- Topics – ‘Check for disruptions’ and ‘Service degradations’ topics:
- Are there any company-wide problems reported at the moment?
- Is there a disruption?
- Topic – ‘E-mail set-up’
- I want to set up my mobile device so that it can receive e-mails.
- How do I set up corporate e-mail on my smartphone?
The following problem is about ‘e-mail set-up’. A user wants to set up an e-mail account on their smartphone. After failing to configure their e-mail themselves, they think about where they can get some help. Their first thought is to call the IT Service Desk hotline. Then the user realises they can go through the NOW Service Portal. They open the portal with the integrated Virtual Agent. After being greeted by the Virtual Agent, the user asks their question: ‘How do I set up corporate e-mail on my smartphone?’ The Virtual Agent activates the context search, looking for keywords such as ‘smartphone’ in particular. The search returns a matching Knowledge Base article in the NOW system. The Knowledge Base article is then suggested as a link in the Virtual Agent dialogue window. The user opens the link and gets the instructions for configuring the e-mail account for their smartphone. If this assistance is still not sufficient, the Virtual Agent can pass the user on to a service employee (live chat).
NOW HRSD case study
ServiceNow has predefined a total of 18 topics (chatbot conversations) in the ‘HR Service Delivery’ NOW module. This enables the Virtual Agent to be put into operation quickly for the most common HR tasks.
The following is an excerpt of the topics:
- Update address
- Add emergency contact
- Ask a question
- Benefit overview
- Apply for leave
The HR example deals with the ‘Apply for leave’ topic. The intranet has been restructured, and a user is now unclear as to where they can find the link to the HR tool to apply for their leave. It should not take long to search for, which is why the Virtual Agent is started in the Service Portal. The question ‘how do I apply for leave?’ is entered. The Virtual Agent suggests a Knowledge Base article with the current leave policy and the link to the application form in the HR tool. The user follows the link and submits the leave request as usual.
Added value of the Virtual Agent
In general, chatbots such as the Virtual Agent have the advantage of availability. Every user can submit their queries around the clock and solve simple problems themselves (self-service). Machine learning is used to continuously improve the Virtual Agent experience to deliver better results and provide the best support it can for complex queries. In addition, with the help of a guided conversation, users can find what they are looking for quickly without the need for lengthy searches.
Using the Virtual Agent reduces the service representatives’ workload, who can instead take care of the complicated cases. And if human assistance is needed, users are directed to a service representative. The chat history is visible to this person. This allows the conversation to continue seamlessly. In the last instance, of course, making a phone call to clarify things is still an option. This shows the strength of the Virtual Agent as part of the ServiceNow platform. The omnichannel support, together with the fact that the data available in the NOW system can be used to personalise the process, lead to a unique experience for users. Everything is rounded off nicely by how simple it is to connect different messaging services such as Slack, Microsoft Teams or WhatsApp.
Improve productivity through standardisation and automation
It is crucial that companies cover a large number of standard processes with the Virtual Agent. Combining this with standardisation and automation results in a business benefit, which can be seen in the reduction in employee workloads and the increase in user satisfaction. At the same time, machine processing increases productivity. Using the Virtual Agent reduces the volume of calls, resulting in efficiency increases. The service representatives can do their work in a structured way and are not constantly interrupted by easy-to-solve tasks.
Other places where the ServiceNow platform adds values
But what about the places where value is added that are not immediately obvious? In the case of the Virtual Agent, one of these is definitely that it is a component of the ServiceNow platform, as we mentioned earlier. No additional integration is required, and the existing data (ticket information, CMDB and so on) is available, as it is integrated on the platform. The advantage of a uniform database becomes even greater if ServiceNow is used as an enterprise service management solution. ServiceNow offers a secure workflow platform on which data protection and control are ensured within the company. All conversations and AI models are securely stored on the central platform.
The low-code philosophy makes it easier to get started
The chatbot is incredibly easy to configure using the Virtual Agent Designer. The platform solution is based on the low-code philosophy, which enables people who are not familiar with coding to create their own conversations. This in turn saves time, and departments do not need immediate support from IT if processes need to be changed.
Another strong added value – especially in the international environment – is the NOW ‘Dynamic Translation’ plug-in. The plug-in translates Virtual Agent topics and NLU models into (at the moment) ten languages (including German, English and French). If a case is directed to a service representative, the chat is even translated into their preferred language in real time.
Finally, the possibility of setting up notifications for the Virtual Agent should not go unmentioned. This functionality allows notifications to be displayed, for example, if an incident is updated or a new approval is given. People could also potentially interact through buttons (such as ‘Add comment’).
In summary, using the Virtual Agent saves time and costs
It is safe to say that the features described here and the fact the Virtual Agent can be deployed quickly in ServiceNow can achieve a rapid return on investment (ROI) – and thus a significant business benefit. Success in relation to the Virtual Agent can be measured thanks to the ServiceNow analysis functions. Using the Virtual Agent saves costs and leads to shorter resolution times, which can be significant in different scenarios. The Virtual Agent forms a pillar to effectively combat the shortage of skilled workers. The productivity of the service representatives increases, and the satisfaction of the users and staff rises.
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