Meet Bharathi: Creator of virtual agents, or chatbots

  • ServiceNow Blog
  • Life at Now
  • Careers
  • 2021
June 04, 2021

Bharathi R. and her team at ServiceNow are developing chatbots, or virtual agents.

Bharathi R. is out to save your time and sanity.

Using artificial intelligence (AI) and her very real smarts, Bharathi and her team in IT digital employee experience are developing increasingly sophisticated chatbots (also known as conversational or virtual agents) that allow ServiceNow employees to rapidly get questions answered and issues resolved 24/7.

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And they’re not alone. Virtual agents are also available to customers on the Now Platform. That means no more wading through articles in knowledge bases and no more shouting into your phone, “Representative! Representative!”

Instead, by clicking an icon, you have a virtual agent at your beck and call, providing simple, friendly, and fast assistance. And, if the virtual agent can’t solve your problem or answer your question, it can transfer you to a support desk staffed by a human agent.

The you-can-count-on-me virtual agent for ServiceNow employees, called NowBot, launched in 2018. More than 20% of employees use it monthly, primarily for assistance with human resources or IT issues. To date, NowBot can assist with more than 300 topics, ranging from ordering company swag to setting up payroll direct deposit.

Collaboration sparks innovation

The employee experience team and the Virtual Agent product team collaborate closely, sharing product roadmaps and demos of planned features and swapping user experiences. Ideas for new features often emerge from these conversations. One example is the Virtual Agent automated incident resolution feature, introduced in the Quebec release. This was something Bharathi’s team tried first and is now a standard feature in NowBot.

Here’s how it works: When an employee creates a help ticket for an issue that NowBot knows something about, NowBot pings the employee internally and says, “I noticed you opened a ticket for something I can assist with. Do you want me to try to answer your question?” If the employee says, “Yes,” and afterward indicates satisfaction with NowBot’s help, the ticket is closed and never reaches a human agent.

That’s the goal of chatbots and virtual agents: resolving problems or answering questions without the need for human intervention. IT self-service helps save time, and time saved is time employees can spend on more important matters.

“We can show customers things like, ‘If you install this, it’s likely your agents will get back two hours of their time a day and can focus on bigger problems, or you’ll get a 30% productivity gain for your employees,’” Bharathi explains.

“And that’s just from the productivity side,” she continues. “From the user experience view, people don’t want to wait for an agent or listen to a monotone voice on the phone saying, ‘Press one for this, press two for that.’ They’re thinking, ‘No. I don’t have time for that. I want an answer now. I want to know how to fix the problem now. And with virtual agents, they can give their customers or their employees the experience they expect.’”

"There are so many great parts to my job. I'm learning new skills and technologies all the time. I work with young people just out of college who have all these ideas, and sometimes I think, 'That's not even possible,' and then they do it." Bharathi R., manager, conversation platform, ServiceNow


Just try and don’t worry about failing

The opportunity to think big, to try, and even to fail keeps Bharathi excited about her job and happy to be at ServiceNow. “I’ve learned that nothing is out of reach. Nothing is impossible. And something I really love—I’m allowed to fail, which says a lot about the company’s culture. I will try something that I think would be amazing, and sometimes the users go, ‘Yeah, maybe for you, but not for me.’ So, we fail and then go back and see why we failed, and then we make it better,” she says.

Bharathi’s leadership and passion for using AI to solve problems and to help people be more productive led to IBM naming her one of “40 Women Leaders Shaping the Future of AI.” (NowBot and the ServiceNow Virtual Agent initially used IBM technology as their natural language understanding (NLU) engines. Both agents’ NLU engines are transitioning to ServiceNow technology.)

She says she was “thrilled and humbled” to be selected and looks forward to collaborating with the other AI leadership winners. In the meantime, Bharathi continues to drive growth and innovation, at times even surprising herself.

“There are so many great parts to my job. I’m learning new skills and technologies all the time. I work with young people just out of college who have all these ideas, and sometimes I think, ‘That’s not even possible,’ and then they do it.”

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