In the age of customer experience, where customers want more opportunities to serve themselves and find solutions to their own problems at a rapid pace, AI is paving the way to a new future. At a fundamental level, disruptive technologies like automation and artificial intelligence can give customers access to more streamlined buyer journeys through the use of things like chatbots. However, chatbots are very limited in what they can do.
Chatbots can only respond to queries that they have already been trained to understand. Something as small as a basic spelling mistake could lead to confusion for these bots. On the other hand, virtual agents are the next step in in artificial intelligence for the contact centre. These tools are equipped with things like natural language processing, machine learning techniques, and more, making them a valuable addition to the contact centre.
Indeed, according to Gartner, 25% of customer support and service strategies will be carried out by virtual customer assistants and chatbot technology by 2020.
The Rise of Virtual Agents in Contact Centres
As customers continue to demand more from their favourite companies, often engaging with service teams on various digital channels, VCAs are becoming the go-to solution for handling requests on everything from mobile apps to websites and social networks. This growth is increasingly underpinned by the improvements that are taking place in natural language processing, intent-matching strategies, and machine learning.
According to the Gartner report mentioned above, organisations can achieve a reduction of up to 70% in messages, and calls when implementing a VCA. This is because customers have an easier and more streamlined way to serve themselves.
The rise of virtual agents in the contact centre is driven by various things. One crucial step forward is that today’s customers are increasingly comfortable with the presence of virtual agents in the contact centre, because they already feel familiar with the technology that they use on their smartphones and smart speakers each day. The market for intelligent speakers alone is set to reach a value of 17 billion by 2022. Virtual agents can respond just as naturally as smart speakers like Alexa or Google Home when dealing with consumer problems.
What’s more, leading vendors are also building virtual agents that support both customers and agents simultaneously. For instance, an AI system can analyse a conversation for a call centre agent and offer helpful tips from the company’s knowledge base to help that agent close a sale.
The Power of Virtual Agents
Virtual agents can be equipped with a range of crucial machine learning and artificial intelligence tools that make them more effective and engaging. For instance, businesses can apply natural language processing skills to virtual agents to help them process human speech. This means that your agent can understand different dialects and sounds in a human voice, to help them route calls more effectively. Virtual agents can also make sure that your customers are directed to the right person on your team, by supporting your intelligent routing strategies.
The work that a chatbot does on your agent’s behalf can help them to thrive in several different ways. For instance, an agent can take some of the pressure off human agents by answering common questions for customers before they need to be passed onto a human adviser. This means that your agent can spend more of their time working on complex and creative problems that demand their unique skills.
When a call is passed to an agent, your virtual assistant can make sure that your human employee has all the guidance and support they need to make the right decisions with that customer. For instance, the agent could pull up relevant information about the customer’s previous interactions with the brand or provide data taken from your CRM.
Virtual agents also come with the benefit of being inherently scalable. Companies are free to add more bandwidth and functionality to their agents as and when they see fit. Although these agents will never be able to replace the empathetic and immersive experiences that can be offered by a human adviser, they offer some significant values to the modern contact centre. Even in their most basic form, a virtual agent may be used to encourage compliance, by asking for permission to record a call before a conversation with a client begins. This can reduce your risk of falling victim to GDPR issues.
However, you use them; virtual agents are a great way to boost the value of your contact centre.