How One Immigration Firm’s Reluctance To Use A Virtual Assistant Bot Turned Into A Success During COVID
Most new technologies don’t instantly become smash hits. Even the tractor — which you’d think farmers would whole-heartedly support — was initially viewed as an expensive thief of horses’ jobs.
Consumers need time to understand, adjust, and, most importantly, observe other people successfully using the new technology.
This is called the Technology Adoption Curve. At one end of the curve you have the Innovators. These are risk-takers who dive right into new technology. At the other end of the curve you have the Laggards. This group will adopt technology when it’s the only remaining option to complete a task. Think: Grandma buying an iPhone just to FaceTime with the grandkids.
Right after the Innovators is the most important group: The Early Adopters.
The Early Adopters are well-connected, educated, and are considered thought leaders in their field. Turning a skeptic into an Early Adopter and ultimately a brand “evangelist” is the dream of any enterprise. For INSZoom, after we launched our virtual assistant Zoomee, we were fortunate to have a client like this: Kalpana Peddibhotla.
Kalpana is a founding partner and immigration attorney at Mathews & Peddibhotla Law Group and has been practicing law for over twenty years. She started her career in civil litigation and international tax, but early on, after getting involved in a particularly emotional pro bono case, she became passionate about immigrant rights.“One of the cases I came across early on in my career as a civil litigator was a terrible human trafficking case that happened here in the Bay area,” Kalpana recalled. “The ACLU immigrant rights group had reached out to me because the girls that had been trafficked were from the part of India that my family hails from. I met an asylum attorney and assisted her, and I saw the power of what an immigration lawyer can do to truly help people’s lives.”
It wasn’t only the trafficking case that inspired Kalpana. She is a first generation American with immigrant parents and a husband who is also an immigrant. The issues that affect immigrants and the laws that work for and against were, and still are, are important to her.
Although Kalpana and MPLG practice all areas of immigration law, they mainly focus on business immigration. “I started out wanting to be an asylum attorney and I ended up being a business immigration lawyer because that was the work we ended up getting.”
Kalpana also happens to be a skeptic-turned-admirer of INSZoom’s Zoomee.
Would you trust a bot?
Anyone in the legal field understands how paralegals or legal assistants are overworked with tedious administrative processes. These administrative headaches are even more painful for immigration lawyers, because parts of the immigration process can be repetitive and, if volumes are high, become quite time-consuming. This is where Zoomee, a virtual assistant for the immigration industry, steps in.
Zoomee is a powerful process automation bot that automates various immigration processes right in the INSZoom platform. For example, you can upload a government notices, such as a receipt or approval notice, Zoomee will read that notice using proprietary optical character recognition technology, and will then update the corresponding client’s file or create a new file if it’s a document for a new client.
When she got a call about Zoomee, Kalpana was already an INSZoom power user, but she admitted she was skeptical at first.
“We were very skeptical. The idea that a bot is going to be able to do some of the things that we have file clerks do was something I wasn’t sure made sense.” Because of this, Kalpana and her law practice actually didn’t immediately adopt Zoomee in the beginning, and put it in their back pocket as a feature they might revisit at some point in the future..
But then the Covid-19 pandemic swept the globe, and the team at MPLG suddenly faced unprecedented problems that, it turned out, only Zoomee could solve.
Covid-19 and the rush to adopt Zoomee
On Friday, March 13th, 2020 — an ominous date that Kalpana will not soon forget — the MPLG office closed swiftly and indefinitely in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Everybody grabbed their laptops and whatnot thinking we were just taking a three week break. Two months later and we were still out and working from home. That created a backlog of notices because staff wasn’t going into the office to read and process them.”
Under normal circumstances, a file clerk would read and then manually file each received government notice. MPLG had a color-coded system for each notice category – a different color of paper was assigned to each notice and the file clerk followed a checklist of tasks for each type of notice. The process was really well thought-out, but it was tedious, and the backlog of unread notices was rapidly becoming a serious issue for Kalpana and her team.
So they called INSZoom to ask about Zoomee again. Shortly after, they deployed it to handle the mounting issue. Kalpana — once uncertain about relying on a bot — was blown away.
Zoomee eliminated the entire color-coding process that they were using to track notices. And to Kalpana’s great delight, “they cleared our backlog in a day, which would have taken us at least a few weeks!”
Zoomee wasn’t sent blindly into the backlog of unread notices. It was carefully trained to do its job quickly and precisely. “We did a test run,” explains Shana Howard, Senior Paralegal at MPLG. “They would send us Zoomee’s work and then we would review it.
INSZoom assigned a specific account manager to MPLG who handles all their Zoomee-related questions and issues. “Anytime we would see something wrong or that wasn’t aligned with our internal process, we would just let them know and they’d work on it,” Shana explained.
“Going through that back-and-forth process made it really comfortable. Now, when I see something that needs to be addressed, I know I can send an email to our Zoomee support and say, ‘what’s going on with this?’ I appreciate that a lot.”
In addition to answering questions and solving problems, their account manager is always around for check-ins too. This has put Kaplana’s mind at ease.
“That’s what we were nervous about with a bot. Initially, we worried about who was overseeing what it was doing just to make sure,” noted Kalpana. “I gained a lot of confidence because INSZoom assigned somebody to make sure everything is moving regularly.”
But hands-on support is not the only benefit of using Zoomee.
Zoomee eliminates the possibility of human error
Virtual assistants are vital to the immigration industry, and that’s primarily because accurate data-gathering is crucial, and piles of paperwork are notoriously teetering. If done manually, all of this adds up to plenty of room for human error.
The file clerk position that was tasked with managing the notices had a high turnover rate, which resulted in a constant churn of people training for and then leaving the role. Tedious tasks create opportunities for boredom, turnover, and mistakes. Zoomee can handle that.
“Reading notices, it’s monotonous, it wasn’t the most exciting job,” explained Kalpana. “We’ve been able to move our current file clerk to do other, more impactful work since Zoomee is handling the notices for us now.”
Zoomee helped Kalpana, Shana, and their team cut back on human error and significantly speed up their processes. With Zoomee, there are no mistakes made by a new file clerk, no delays with paralegals signing off on work, and clients never end up with the wrong information.
But most importantly to Kalpana, Zoomee has enabled MPLG to keep their entire staff safe during the pandemic.
“We are not in the office anymore. I didn’t feel good about calling my team in, and nobody really wants to come in on a consistent basis. Our practice had to become more and more digital,” Kalpana explained, “and Zoomee has really enabled us to get there.”
Making our clients happy is why we do what we do
The coronavirus pandemic has flipped our lives and work upside down, and it was the final push Kalpana and her team needed to adopt this new technology and automate their processes.
“I do love Zoomee,” exclaimed Shana. “It takes away my everyday headaches so much. I really laughed when Kalpana told me about it, but I can actually say that I love it now that we’re using it.”
So despite admitting skepticism and worries about a bot running wild with her client’s data, Zoomee has gained its biggest fan. “I would recommend this to other law firms,” Kalpana declared.