What is a digital workforce? Five essentials you’ll need to know

Today's brands are blending their digital and human channels. Here's how they're creating successful digital workforces.

August 21, 2020
What is a digital workforce? Five essentials you’ll need to know

A digital workforce is a virtually active team designed to support and augment the capabilities of human staff. Sounds obvious, right? The name is a bit of a giveaway, we’ll admit.

But scratch beneath the surface of any quick summary and you’ll often find a vast spectrum of possibilities, and this is no exception. Everything ranging from standard chatbots through to digital assistants and sophisticated, AI-based digital humans can be considered part of the digital workforce.

In fact, given the mass movement towards non-office working in recent years, a digital workforce may refer to humans who work and collaborate online, as much as it can relate to digital technologies helping by doing humanlike jobs. For clarity, we mean the latter. And with huge advances in AI, machine learning and robotic process automation (RPA), digital employees have more potential than ever before.

Perhaps the real question is: what is the best type of digital workforce for my brand? It all starts by determining what you want out of your digital employees.

First, let’s take a look at some of the parts that make up a digital workforce, and some advantages of investing in digital workers. Then, we’ll give you an idea of how to build an AI workforce that achieves your goals.

The ingredients of a digital workforce

What is a digital workforce – the ingredients | UneeQ Blog

Your digital workforce combines both human and automated digital resources. For the latter, think interactive voice response telephone systems, virtual assistants, voice assistants, chatbots and – yes – digital humans.

The mix is key here. It’s not a case of having fast but soulless automation or slow but friendly human support. A digital workforce fit for 2021 and beyond includes a middle ground – humanized conversational AI that can provide both speed and a valuable semblance to human interaction.

It means customers don’t have to choose between convenience and being seen and heard; they can choose a bit of both when they see fit.

The benefits of a digital workforce

Businesses use digital workers in many ways, but the underlying reasons for automating any process are often the same.  

  • Free up human workers: Living, breathing staff are the heart of any company. Bogging them down with time-consuming, repetitive tasks that a machine can do automatically is letting their talents go to waste.  
  • Speed and accuracy: Digital workers are more than just a convenient backup; they can perform business processes faster and more reliably than regular employees.
  • Availability and scalability: Digital workers can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It’s also far easier to scale up a digital workforce than a traditional one.
  • Reduce costs and grow revenues: Co-ordinate your digital and physical workforces the right way you’ll be doing business more efficiently and to a higher standard. A more productive brand is usually a more profitable one.
  • Brand embodiment: And while we’re on the subject of brands, a digital workforce can be designed to embody the best of your brand – so you can employ your type of people, both physically and digitally.

These may be some of the benefits, but there are some cons to go along with those pros. PwC revealed that 70% of consumers believe a company’s employees have a big impact on their experience. And only 28% of respondents to a Drift survey think they’ll get a good customer experience when communicating with bots.

That doesn’t mean digital workers should be lumped solely with automating back-end business processes. Or only be trusted to shepherd customers towards a human employee. If you give your digital workforce the same care, attention and development opportunities as the rest of your staff, it’s possible to enjoy the benefits of a 24/7, automated, virtual employee and deliver a fantastic customer experience.

Here’s how.

1. Give them a personality

Digital workers like chatbots and RPA systems may be fast and convenient in a pinch, but your customers will rarely walk away from these interactions with an affinity for your brand. After all, when was the last time a chatbot made you genuinely smile, laugh or feel validated?

Talking to real employees, who can answer difficult questions and build rapport, is what helps people feel connected with your business. That’s why you need a digital workforce with a personality; one that reflects your values and is on the same wavelength as your customers. But give your digital worker more than just a name and a script. Give them a face, a voice and a smile.

To get an idea of what this persona-building process might look like, check out what Southern Cross Health Society did when making Aimee, their UneeQ digital human.

2. Give them autonomy

One of the great things about automated workers is they do their jobs… well … automatically. That doesn’t mean they should be left completely unsupervised – you’ll still want to make sure they’re performing well and providing the big productivity gains you expect from scalable, 24/7 employees.

But digital workers can (and should) be given greater autonomy. Many AI digital workforce solutions are given supervised learning, meaning they have a human hand in building their conversation and the ways they show emotions.

As the timeless allegory goes: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. Similarly, teach your AI once, and it can repeat that task for – well, forever. Or until you tell it not to, whichever comes first.

So what we mean by autonomy is there’s no need to micromanage machines. A light-touch approach to digital workforce management also frees up a lot of time for your staff, who can focus on more growth-oriented tasks.

3. Give them training and onboarding

As with any employee, digital workers need time to learn. The good news is (as we mentioned above) once they’ve learned something, they never forget it. And they can learn things a lot faster than human employees.

What does training and onboarding look like with a digital workforce? Regularly update their natural language processing (NLP) to answer the most common questions consumers ask. Supervise them in action and find out where they’re really adding value or falling short of expectations, and then fine-tune them accordingly.

Also, make sure the necessary employees are across how to utilize the AI and what value it adds to their workflows.

4. Give them a specific job

When hiring someone new, you’ll no doubt have a very good idea of what role they’ll fulfil, what you expect from them and where they’ll sit within the workforce. You don’t hire for the sake of hiring.  

Bringing new technology into a business isn’t always approached with the same mindset. But you shouldn’t simply build another bot or automate a function because it’s what your competitors are doing.

Outline early what you want YOUR digital workforce to do. Some popular options for a digital human workforce include jobs in demand generation, branding, customer support, customer experience, concierge and triaging essential services.

You can start by creating a use case, a set of goals and clear metrics to measure their success. And then monitor how they perform – just like any other employee. These are some of the experiments you can do on your UneeQ Creator free trial – just as an FYI

5. But give them room to grow

With the right training and onboarding, as well as strong goals and use case in place, your digital workforce is in a good position to start upskilling.

How does that happen? The most obvious answer is by integrating new skills into their tech stack. Why not add multilingual capabilities? A digital human on the UneeQ platform can learn a new language instantly, for example. If they’re trained as an in-store concierge, you might want to pivot that experience into an online and mobile experience, to bring a consistent, omnichannel customer experience.

There are also broader opportunities within your organisation for a digital workforce. A digital human product expert can also become a HR solution, without the massive overhaul in training that a regular employee would need.

The beauty of this is you’ll learn what works, and you can scale that with the power of AI. It might take six months to grow a physical team to meet the demands of your customers, but a digital workforce can upskill in a fraction of the time.

To get the creative juices flowing, you can check out our UneeQ case studies page to see the wide range of jobs digital humans are already doing worldwide. Or just get in touch and we’ll be happy to help you make strong decisions when building your very own digital workforce.

The building a digital workforce eBook is yours for free

This only just scratches the surface. In our free digital workforce eBook, we unpack all this and more. Discover:

  • the actual customer problems a complete digital workforce solves;
  • how brands are planning to improve their chatbot strategies for the coming years;
  • an interview with a brand that has built a digital workforce, and is reaping the rewards;
  • and how you can get started today (more easily than you may think, particularly if you already have a chatbot).

Just hit the link below and grab your copy. We’d love to hear your thoughts.