Professional Services Firms: Innovating At Low Risk With Cognitive Technologies

Catherine Lynch

Professional services firms are facing challenges to their traditional business models due to new digitally enabled business models. Opportunities to innovate at low risk are arising with the emergence of cognitive technologies such as machine learning and conversational UI and are helping to drive significant efficiencies and higher employee engagement.

How mature are professional services firms in terms of adopting machine learning? As is the case for cloud adoption, professional services firms are early adopters of cognitive technologies to help improve employee and customer engagement and to meet the expectations of the high percentage of millennial employees in the workplace.

According to IDC, businesses using a cloud-based travel and expense (T&E) platform spend 49% less time on travel planning and 70% less time creating expense reports. Those hours can add up and affect cash flow, especially if a business lacks visibility into employee travel. “With cloud penetration approaching 85%, travel and expense apps have become an effective first step for businesses to digitally transform. Businesses can expect more automation of travel and expense processes in the coming years, thanks to integration with third-party applications and embedded machine learning capabilities.” says Jordan Jewell, senior research analyst IDC, Enterprise Applications and Digital Commerce.

Embedding a chatbot into a time and expense application

A leading global professional services firm has deployed a preconfigured cloud-based Time and Expenses solution to more than 90,000 users worldwide and is reaping benefits including enforcement of travel policies, eliminating duplicate payments and fraud. To assist with the global deployment and to provide a responsive support service to new users, the firm embedded a chatbot within the T&E application to help resolve frequent questions with the application. The return on investment in the chatbot was achieved in months.

By leveraging machine learning, user questions and problems are accumulated in a Frequently Asked Questions database to ensure that optimal and consistent answers are provided. Chatbots reduce the need for service desk calls and most commonly asked questions are easily resolved using natural language with direct interaction to chatbots.

Improving the onboarding experience with chatbots and virtual reality

EY is putting people at the center of its talent management program and harnessing digital tools such as VR and cognitive technologies to enhance the employee experience and engage differently with an increasingly diverse workforce. 

EY is intensely focused on employee engagement and hires hundreds of millennials straight out of college every year. The firm has invested significant resources in improving the onboarding process for new hires (and return hires) to improve the onboarding experience for an increasingly diverse workforce.

By combining virtual reality techniques to simulate a visit to the office and adopting conversational UI, the firm has increased employee engagement levels significantly. The 1,000 most commonly asked questions by new hires have been captured in an FAQ database and are managed by the chatbot. New employees can engage via their mobile phone interactive voice response chatbot to guide them through the new hire process. Significant cost savings can be achieved by reducing the onboarding process, even by a single day, by leveraging cognitive technologies.

Interestingly, the three most common questions from the new hires are related to payment of their first paycheck and expense payments. An average of 5.58 questions are asked by the new hire in the first few weeks.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of all customer interactions will be handled by chatbots.

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Catherine Lynch

About Catherine Lynch

Catherine Lynch is a Senior Director of Industry Cloud Marketing at SAP. She is a content marketing specialist with a particular focus on the professional services and media industries globally. Catherine has a wide international experience of working with enterprise application vendors in global roles, creating thought leadership and is a social media practitioner.