By Debbie Bolla
HR has seen artificial intelligence (AI) make substantial advancements in many areas of the business, but what about global mobility? The consensus shows that it is ready for takeoff.
“We see AI progressing at incredible speed in the relocation industry while organizations look to drive innovation and improve productivity, reduce costs, and improve the overall relocation experience,” says Greg Keith, CIO for NEI Global Relocation.
In fact, according to recent research from AIRINC, Perspectives on AI: What Does it Mean for Global Mobility?, around 30% of respondents use AI for relocation at least a little while 92% respondents anticipate using it in the future.
“AI in the relocation sector is just starting to gain momentum. The advantages, such as cost reductions, increased efficiency, and enhanced customer satisfaction, will likely encourage more firms in this industry to adopt these advancements,” says Anthony Horton, CEO of Corporate Relocation International (CRI).
The uptick in access to data will also push adoption rates. “We have seen great advancements in technology for relocation support services,” explains Paige Holden, president of XONEX Relocation. “Virtual household goods estimates, for example, have grown exponentially in popularity. As they have grown, they have become more reliable because there is a larger data pool to tap. Data drives AI and I expect to see some savvy relocation estimating tools in the near future.”
92% of executives anticipate using AI for relocation in the future.
While AI may still be in its infancy when it comes to global mobility, how are forward-thinking organizations currently leveraging it?
Chatbots. With 24/7 availability, Keith says chatbots help ease some of the stress that frequently comes with moving. Organizations can leverage chatbots to easily answer questions about relocation benefits and services. “AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can handle routine inquiries, provide instant responses, and guide employees through the relocation process,” says Tara Nielsen, SVP of global operations for Cornerstone Relocation Group.
AI-based chatbots are also great sources of information that can help with destination management, and they also have the potential to handle immigration questions.
Automation of expense management. Horton believes that up to 85% of employee expenses, including matching and verifying against policies, can be handled by a machine-learning robotic process. “It has dramatically increased quality and precision in that it eliminates the risk of error that comes from manual data entry or keying. At the same time, it increases productivity and enables our team to focus on true exceptions, enhancing the service experience,” Horton explains.
Financial administration. There are financial components to relocation that need to be timely and accurate or transferees and organizations can experience possible escalations, frustrations, and compliance risks. “AI can be used to replace manual steps involved in processing expense reports, paying allowances, and making supplier payments. This can lead to expedited payments, improved data integrity, and payment accuracy,” says Cathy Ronayne, vice president of information management and service optimization for Cornerstone Relocation Group.
Sam Hoey, SVP of business development at GMS predicts that organizations will incorporate AI into their relocation programs within the next 18 months. What does the future hold? Pairing AI tools with data will drive predictive analytics. Hoey says that HR will greatly benefit if they have a repository of relocation data related to fees, geographical outcomes, processes, and service cycle times. “Organizations can instantly analyze huge amounts of data to understand why things are happening and predict what may happen in the future,” she says. “Examples include predicting high-risk relocations, policy evaluations, total duration and expected costs, predictable exceptions, milestone adjustments and alerts, destination information, authorization volume, performance forecasting, and more, resulting in better planning, execution, and cost.”
Ronayne and Nielsen agree that data is key to providing comprehensive reports and insights around assessing housing markets, cost of living, and other factors that influence relocation decisions.
In what other ways will AI and technology improve the relocation experience?
Personalized recommendations. Ronayne and Nielsen say that by analyzing individual preferences, interests, and requirements, AI algorithms will be able to suggest suitable neighborhoods, schools, and other amenities based on the transferee’s profile. This level of personalization will make the transition markedly easier and elevate the overall experience.
Task automation. Horton says automation by nature can easily manage manual tasks like coordinating with movers, initiating utilities, or tracking expenses. In addition to improving productivity, it can also minimize human errors.
Improved logistics and coordination of goods. Ronayne and Nielsen report that machine learning algorithms can map out transportation routes by analyzing spend, time, and potential barriers. By taking these factors into account, employees will see an efficient and smooth transportation of household goods. AI can drive minimal delays and drop costs.
Documentation management. Instead of having relocation specialists oversee tedious paperwork, AI tools can expedite the process. Horton says technology will be able to review, fill out, and sign the paperwork associated with relocation. The benefits are twofold: freeing up associates while accelerating the entire moving process.
Future-oriented analysis. In the coming months, Horton anticipates that AI systems will have the ability to estimate the expenses, timeline, and potential hurdles involved in moving, as well forecast property prices. This will help with budgeting and simplify the planning process for individuals and companies.
Cleary AI has the potential to automate and streamline many of the processes that will always be associated with the realities of relocation along with other benefits. In fact, AIRINC’s research shows that 79% of respondents believe AI has the potential to reduce spend and 88% of respondents believe AI will improve the experience at least moderately to a great deal.
“By leveraging AI, we can drive efficiencies and improve the overall experience of mobility teams and relocating employees through the timely delivery of quality services,” says NEI’s Keith.
But with any type of AI application, HR executives should proceed with caution at first.
79% of executives believe AI has the potential to reduce spend for relocation programs.
“AI will only get more powerful as it learns and as we learn how to use it. It is still young, however, and prone to mistakes,” says Holden. “We have already heard of organizations placing too much trust in AI, which has led to crisis. Even on simple, non-emotional matters, ChatGPT has errors. For example, if you ask ChatGPT who won the Super Bowl last year, it will reply with something like, ‘As of my knowledge cutoff is September 2021, I don't have information or results that occurred after that date.’ Errors like these seem simple, but they are a big problem when you are conceptualizing service. Given the stress that comes with relocation, we need to trust that the bots will get it right every time.”
To decrease the chance of errors and improve the level of accuracy, Ronayne and Nielsen suggest conducting a thorough data scrub. “Most AI use cases require access to data in a reliable format. Organizations looking to implement AI should first tackle data integrity and establish a standard for system usage to ensure clean and reliable data,” says Nielsen.
They also recommend two other important processes: Continued “training” of bots to help them learn as things evolve and standardization of procedures to increase the likelihood of consistent data and results.