Chatbots are improving customer service and simplifying work – all at lightning speed! But bots can do more than just recognize text and generate answers based on data. SmartBots pave the way for automating entire working areas. But what are SmartBots? And what are they used for in companies like Henkel? Birgit Stroeckens, Head of Innovation and Application Strategy and Jasmin Chadha, Project Manager, are the founders of Henkel’s very own SmartBot Factory. A few years ago, they identified the chatbot and digital assistant megatrend and in this interview, they reveal the business benefits of bots.
What exactly is the SmartBot Factory?
Birgit: The SmartBot Factory is a group of experts we established to be able to design, build and train customized chatbots for various internal fields of application. Here, we can work out an efficient solution based on the individual needs of our colleagues. Chatbots, digital assistants, artificial intelligence and other similar technologies serve future trends and ensure that routine tasks and frequent user requests are addressed as efficiently as possible.
How is the SmartBot Factory used today?
Jasmin: We started off with a simple Q&A chatbot named ‘Eno’. It can answer questions such as “Where can I book my travel expenses?” Other bots we built are ‘Margaret’ – our Source to Pay chatbot – and ‘Jarvis’ the assistant for new apprentices at Henkel. Now, we are developing chatbots for other internal departments, like HR, the IT-Helpdesk, Governance and Security, Marketing, and Sales. The HR chatbot will answer simple questions like "Where can I see my unused vacation days?” and complete queries like “Please submit a leave request for next Friday!” Fast, automated answers to basic and common questions will significantly help save time.
What is the future of Chatbots at Henkel?
Birgit: If you think about it, many chatbots are already in use such as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. With time, these will have a more integral part of our professional and private lives. With phrases like "Hey Alexa, book me a flight" or "I want to order a pizza," you would only need to talk to the bot, instead of going on the internet or using various apps. At Henkel, we are also working hard to further professionalize digital assistance. It is our aim to upgrade the SmartBot Factory and make the chatbots even smarter by integrating additional services such as artificial intelligence. This means that if I want to set up a meeting in the future, I would only have to say, "Hey, digital assistant, please schedule a meeting at 10 am with the following attendees and room.”
How are you driving change in this area?
Birgit: When I look at our Corporate Culture, there is one aspect that sticks with me: the call for entrepreneurial spirit. I think it’s very important for a company to give employees autonomy to bring such innovative ideas to life.
Jasmin: From day one, I had the freedom to be innovative and drive the development of the SmartBot Factory. I appreciate this and it motivates me every day to solve problems with the same curiosity.