Harnessing AI: How Unilever are using AI to widen the contact centre talent pool

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Part two: Widening the talent pool available for contact centre managers – a Unilever Case Study.

Ireland’s unemployment rate peaked at 16 per cent during the recession, a bleak time that has seen the country spend the best part of a decade fighting its way back. But fight it has. And while many challenges still exist, the current unemployment rate of just 4.5 per cent is a strong indication of the vast progress we’ve made.

Organisations are at war when it comes to recruitment

However, as we conquer one challenge another looms. We’ve moved on from employees fighting for jobs, to companies fighting for employees. We’re in the midst of a talent war. HR and recruitment teams are working overtime all around the country, as they try to fill the never ending lists of vacancies.

Contact centres can find recruitment more challenging than most

These challenges are even more pronounced in the contact centre industry, where high churn is a regular occurrence - either due to employee dissatisfaction or a poor organisation-employee fit. The consequences have contact centre managers firmly focused on recruitment, where recruiters will tell you the hardest part of the job is shortlisting suitable candidates. To help crack this painstaking task, organisations are beginning to turn to artificial intelligence as a solution.

Unilever rolls out AI supported recruitment process

Unilever had a challenge. They were eager to diversify their workforce so invested their time and resource into widening the pool of people who applied for entry-level roles. To achieve this, they introduced a new recruitment process where candidates were asked to play online neuroscience games in the first interview to assess personality traits such as risk aversion. In the second round, candidates were videoed answering specific role-based questions.

The volume of applicants doubled across Unilever regions

AI examined the recording, assessing content, intonation and body language. The AI selected the best candidates from the second round and they were invited to attend an interview at Unilever offices with people who made the final decision. As prospective candidates could easily access the system, even via a smartphone, applications in the US alone rose from 15,000 in the previous year to 30,000, with employee diversity broadening too.

Hiring process lead times dropped dramatically for Unilever

Increasing applicants wasn’t just the only benefit, and more applicants didn’t mean more time spent assessing them. In addition to more applications, the average hiring time went down from four months to four weeks. Recruiters who no longer had to sift through the first round freed up 75 per cent of their time in the hiring process which they could use elsewhere, such as with helping the new hires settle into Unilever.

Improve the hiring experience and the employee experience

Aside from hiring the right agents, the other ongoing challenge for contact centre leaders is to manage a limited pool of human resources. Service agents are often over-worked by routine mind-numbing tasks which could easily be handled by AI. For instance, answers to customer questions can often be found on the FAQ page of the website. A virtual agent could find and provide the customer with the correct information through links on their phone or via an automated voice. If the customer is still not satisfied, then the digital assistant can route them to a human advisor who has clear knowledge of what’s already been provided to the customer.

To keep reading about how artificial intelligence can augment humans in the workplace and bring more meaning to our professional lives, download our latest whitepaper here. 


Joseph Walsh