August 20, 2022

Intelligent Virtual Agents: IVA Software & Service Guide

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definition of virtual agent, what is a Virtual Agent? What is a Virtual Phone Systems?

Learn more about virtual agent software and services for your call center and customer support team. In this post you learn what a virtual agent is, how an intelligent virtual agent can help your business, how to measure IVA success over time.

We may have less of a commute these days, but we’re still feeling pressed for time. As a customer service agent, the last thing you want to do is toggle between multiple screens adding minutes to your average handle time. As a customer, the last thing you want to do is wait on the phone for the answers you need. 

Recognize this feeling? This is what most customers are feeling these days. According to a recent study by MIT, 80% of initial customer inquiries can be handled successfully during virtual events conducted by virtual assistants, intelligent virtual agents, and conversational AI. 

With these new customer expectations, contact centers are turning to tools that utilize robotic process automation and natural language processing via intelligent virtual assistance to boost agent productivity and solve their most frequent customer engagement challenges.

What is an intelligent virtual agent?

What is an IVA, you ask? 

An intelligent virtual agent, also known as an IVA, is a software platform that utilizes a set of rules and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to interact with customers. Businesses implement intelligent virtual agents as a stand-in for, or first interaction with, customer service. 

Intelligent virtual agents are similar to the commonly used chatbot. The difference lies in the capabilities. Chatbots search for keywords and provide standardized responses, answering a finite set of possible questions. intelligent virtual agents, on the other hand, can reply with pertinent questions to solve a customers’ concerns or gather additional information to escalate to a live agent.

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Why do you need one?

Intelligent virtual agents let live agents automate the first level of engagement with a customer while still providing real-time service that has omnichannel routing built-in. 

Intelligent virtual agents allow the quick response time customers expect, while also helping to escalate issues that need to be solved quickly. This type of interaction cuts down on the need for human agents online at the very start and improves the customer journey. According to MIT Sloan Management Review, “the most significant gains from virtual customer service agents are from improvements in customer experience, not cost savings.”

But there are significant cost savings to be found, too. Call centers with unified communications that include workflow automation and omnichannel routing with intelligent virtual agents have seen as much as a 239% increase in ROI over a 3 year period as this Forrester white paper found.  

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Call centers can benefit from intelligent virtual agents.

What are some IVA software benefits?

Intelligent virtual agent benefits include:

Automation

Intelligent virtual agents are always available and, with the correct workflow automations, can get routine questions answered seamlessly. If an intelligent  virtual agent can predict and navigate the intentions of a customer, it can more quickly and efficiently answer a customer query. The benefits here are twofold: you can deduce customer intent faster and eliminate wait times to nearly zero as an IVA’s capacity is only determined by server capacity, not the number of human agents available in real-time. 

Eliminate wait time

Intelligent virtual agents provide capabilities that let call centers handle transactions with easily programmable information such as tracking a package or scheduling a meeting.Removing this type of low hanging fruit frees up significant time and slims service queues for more in-depth inquiries. 

Consistency

Conversations with the customer use the same terminology and mode of communication. Level of experience, personal motivation, and current mood of human agents are no longer variables. It also reduces the potential for human errors in a customer interaction. Customers are frustrated when they have to speak to more than one agent and explain their problem over and over. Intelligent virtual agents help solve for this by collecting the pertinent information and then referring to the correct human agent. For example. In a live chat scenario, customer intent is captured upfront by the intelligent virtual agent and passed to a live chat agent when necessary. 

Generate leads and aid in cross selling initiatives

Because you’re collecting massive data sheets via the IVA, you can analyze and begin to curate customer stories according to repeat issues and ultimately  improve the customer journey to drive more engagement and leads. Intelligent virtual agents can also collect relevant information to lead to further communication between the business and customer.

Using an intelligent virtual agent can reduce costs and increase long-term customer satisfaction. It's a big win for your call center.

Intelligent virtual agents provide value for both the business and the customer. It is 6-7X more expensive for companies to attract new customers than to keep existing customers.

Okay, so you’ve decided to implement an intelligent virtual agent into your customer service model. Now what? 

Industry use cases for interactive virtual agent solutions

Below are a few ways interactive and intelligent virtual agents can be deployed in various industries.

Financial services

AI-powered conversational virtual agents and chatbots make it easy for customers to manage their personal finances by offering 24/7 availability and convenience. Interactive virtual agent solutions can handle individual queries at mass scale, freeing up live agents to focus on higher priority or more in-depth customer requests. As they get smarter over time, many financial services firms use digital interaction data to upskill their interactive virtual agents and offer more personalized support. 

Payments can be quickly and securely handled via virtual agents at credit card companies, and balance transfers or statement lookups are also prime example use cases for interactive virtual agents in financial services.

Healthcare

Interactive virtual agents can be used in healthcare settings to assist provider’s in answering patient queries about FAQs in a conversational manner and provide rapid responses when staffing shortages are at play. Patients can call in and receive updates on hospital or office protocols, get directions, schedule appointments, or receive test results in exactly the same way they would communicate with a live agent. With natural language processing, interactive virtual agents can be programmed to engage patients in an empathetic tone, accommodate different languages, and even dialects for smooth, human-like touches.

Lead generation

Interactive virtual agents are efficient tools for lead qualification in lead generation use cases. They can help filter prospects through outbound calls and streamline sales processes by letting live agents handle the hottest leads on the list first.

How to measure IVA success in your call center

To determine the effectiveness of your intelligent virtual agent implementation, it is important to track the performance at different stages of use. Here are a few metrics to consider:

Customer satisfaction

Are your customers receiving the answers they need through the virtual agent? And if not, are they being correctly routed to human agents to get their issues resolved?

Improvement in answer speed

Are customers receiving answers in a timely manner? If the virtual agent cannot solve a customer’s concerns, it should still be able to help reduce call wait times, blocked calls, and more, which ultimately improves answer speed. 

Conversions

Can you create a conversation path that helps customers, not only solve issues and get questions answered, but make further transactions with your business?

Reduction in average handle time

intelligent virtual agents can help to assimilate information for live agents faster. Especially on complicated calls where multiple account lookups might be needed, this can save a lot of time and reduce your overall call handle time. 

Reduction in escalations

80% of initial inquiries are successfully handled by intelligent virtual agents, translating to fewer live agent escalations. 

Contact centers that use machine learning and conversational AI technologies to deploy intelligent virtual agents complement their existing human agent productivity and are able to automate service tasks.

Intelligent virtual agents help deliver both a better customer and agent experience because they create efficiency, increase capacity, and increase productivity overall.
Check out this white paper to learn more.

Virtual Agent FAQs

What is an intelligent virtual agent?

An intelligent virtual agent, also known as an IVA, is a software platform that utilizes a set of rules and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to interact with customers. Businesses implement intelligent virtual agents as a stand-in for, or first interaction with, customer service. 

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About LiveVox

LiveVox (Nasdaq: LVOX) is a next generation contact center platform that powers more than 14 billion omnichannel interactions a year. By seamlessly unifying blended omnichannel communications, CRM, AI, and WEM capabilities, the Company’s technology delivers exceptional agent and customer experiences, while helping to mitigate compliance risk. With 20 years of cloud experience and expertise, LiveVox’s CCaaS 2.0 platform is at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. The Company has more than 650 global employees and is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Atlanta; Columbus; Denver; St. Louis; Medellin, Colombia; and Bangalore, India. To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox or visit livevox.com.

To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox, visit www.livevox.com or call one of our specialists at (844) 207-6663.

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