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.
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.
What are some IVA 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.
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?
How to measure success
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.