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An employee chatbot is helping workers with relatives in India's Covid surge

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Key Points
  • Genpact is using an AI-powered chatbot named Amber to help employees with relatives in India's massive Covid surge.
  • Amber "asks" employees questions and captures their answers in real time.
  • The chatbot has had more than 500,000 conversations since it launched.

In this article

A family member of Covid-19 infected patient seen carrying an empty oxygen cylinder outside a shop to get it refilled, amidst the rising number of the coronavirus cases.
Manish Rajput | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

In early May, as the Covid-19 pandemic tore through India, employees of Genpact, the global professional services firm, wanted to know how they could help. Genpact has thousands of employees in India, many of whom have friends and relatives working for the company in the U.S. But it took data from Genpact's AI-powered chatbot named Amber to help the company understand precisely what kind of help employees were looking to offer.

"They wanted to make sure they were contributing to a fund to directly help their colleagues there," explains Genpact chief digital officer and CNBC Technology Executive Council Member Sanjay Srivastava. "Amber made that clear to us." In addition, the chatbot discerned that while employees were worried about their colleagues, family and friends becoming infected with the virus, they were more concerned with finding the right resources — available hospital beds, doctors, and other aid — should something happen.

"That's actionable information we were able to pull together, put in an internal database, and make available to employees," he said. "That was another piece of intelligence that came through Amber."

The ability to capture employee sentiment has never been more important. Workers are dispersed, making it harder to know what's on their minds, how they're feeling, and what problems are brewing that could cause difficulties down the road. Genpact has been helping scores of companies with their own digital transformations, but several years ago, the New York-based company decided to amplify its own digital efforts with a series of intelligent tools, including Amber.

A chatbot that asks questions

The original intent was to use Amber to map the journey of an employee through the organization, beginning with their onboarding, says Srivastava. But when the pandemic hit and employees were sent home, AI-powered technologies became crucial tools in helping to ensure employee health and safety, and help build and retain a sense of culture, he says.

Amber is a chatbot that "asks" employees questions to capture their sentiments in real time. Most other chatbots are only able to reply or "answer" questions posed by someone. Among the most important features of the chatbot is that it is interactive, with a continuity of conversation that can't be replicated in an employee survey.

"As time has gone on, the AI is trained to handle the nuances of these conversations in a way that a survey will not get to."
Sanjay Srivastava, chief digital officer, Genpact

"As time has gone on, the AI is trained to handle the nuances of these conversations in a way that a survey will not get to," Srivastava explains. For instance, if an employee working remotely says that she needs certain technology, Amber will help get what's needed. If an employee is starting to feel disengaged, Amber can ask questions in order to identify content to address the issue and recommend additional HR resources.

Amber has had more than 500,000 "conversations" with Genpact employees since it launched, Srivastava says. "There's no physical way that a set of leaders can have that many conversations and then go back and statistically track the weak links in the data," he says. "So the scale of Amber is just so much greater than anything a human manager would be able to do."

The chatbot typically reaches out to employees after specific inflection points: after onboarding, at the end of a project, or when it discerns that something is happening in a specific region or business group, for instance. "Amber is trained to know the next best question to ask based on what the employee has said," he explains.

AI is also behind the job search and onboarding process at Genpact. Advanced technology tools enabled Genpact to learn that its interviewing process needed to evolve, says Srivastava. "We discovered that the people we were hiring wanted the whole interview process to be faster, more engaged and more one-on-one," he says.

The onboarding process went through an even more radical change. "It's night and day different," he says. In the past, when individuals joined Genpact they would have to deal with a series of different colleagues to get their equipment, fill out forms, and complete the paperwork for payroll and benefits. "They would get lost in a maze of paperwork and it was very frustrating for them," Srivastava says. Through the data it's been able to glean through AI, the company now handles onboarding through a concierge-type service.

"It's a single point of contact for the employee and now one person owns the entire onboarding experience," he says. "We wouldn't have known that if we hadn't used AI to track, week by week, how an employee is progressing through the company during the onboarding process."

Srivastava says Genpact will likely use a hybrid model as employees begin to return to the office some of the time. "Pre-pandemic we learned a lot," he says, "but through the pandemic Amber has been a lifesaver for us and will continue to help us immensely." 

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