BPO firm Sykes unveils AI chatbot for recruitment

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BPO (business process outsourcing) company Sykes has announced the launch of its new AI (artificial intelligence) chatbot to recruit and engage with its own employees.

The move is an interesting development as the BPO industry is supposedly under threat from new technologies such as AI.

In a statement, Sykes said the AI chatbot, dubbed SARAH or Sykes’ Automated Recruitment Assistant and HR Helpdesk Accessible, is available via the Sykes Philippines Facebook page and acts as an intelligent online extension of the company’s HR Helpdesk.

The new tool seeks to resolve various concerns of employees and jobseekers even while social distancing, the company said.

“We know the importance of addressing concerns promptly. Customers greatly appreciate companies that reply quickly and fully, and such conversations usually lead to the building of trust, rapport, and new opportunities ultimately. With SARAH, people can expect that all of their concerns are addressed faster than before with no relevant information missed. We are especially proud to be able to do that in this crucial period in our fight against Covid-19,” said Lia Lynn Marcos, senior director for human resources for Asia Pacific at Sykes.

The AI chatbot makes communicating hassle-free by giving direct links to common concerns. For applicants, for example, SARAH gives the option to submit their application, see current job vacancies, view answers to frequently asked questions, and check their application status.

College students can likewise apply to fulfill their internship/OJT requirements at Sykes through the same method. SARAH is being developed to understand both English and Filipino so people can also just type in their questions.

Concerns outside SARAH’s database, meanwhile, will be relayed to a live agent, who can answer more detailed questions.

SARAH wears multiple hats and also serves as an online colleague for both current and former Sykes employees. As with the physical HR department, employees can bring forward to SARAH their various issues in matters such as payroll, benefits, and other administrative concerns, including those brought about by the current pandemic.

They can also ask SARAH for more information about company events and other related activities. For former employees, meanwhile, SARAH can help facilitate back pay concerns and requests for Certificate of Employment, among others. If they want to work for Sykes again, SARAH can also assist them in processing the checking of their re-hire eligibility.

Sykes assured that employees and jobseekers alike that security is a priority with SARAH. All personal information, it said, is protected and will be shared only within HR department and will be used for assessing employment records and prospects, employee concerns, identifying training needs, and actual work placement within Sykes’ sites.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Sykes said there has been an increased demand for digital services, thus maintaining its stability amid the crisis. The growth places Sykes in the position to help curb the country’s rising unemployment rate, which hit an all-time high last April at 17.7%, equivalent to 7.3 million Filipinos without jobs in the said month alone. Through SARAH, the application process is streamlined, allowing applicants to quickly get jobs in this time of need, the company said.

“At Sykes, our mission is to help people one caring interaction at a time. We are one with those adversely affected by the Covid-19 global pandemic and hope that through SARAH, we can provide a helping hand especially to those who lost their jobs in this difficult time, so they can quickly get back on their feet,” said Marcos.

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