You have less of a commute these days, but you’re still feeling pressed for time. 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 by virtual agents.
With these new customer expectations, contact centers are turning to virtual agents to solve this frequent business challenge.
What is a virtual agent?
A virtual agent is a software platform that utilizes a set of rules and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to interact with customers. Businesses implement virtual agents as a stand-in for, or first interaction with, customer service.
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. Virtual agents, on the other hand, can reply with pertinent questions to solve a customers’ concerns or gather additional information to escalate to human interaction.
Why do you need one?
Virtual agents provide the first level of engagement with a customer. 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 at the very start, and improves the customer experience. According to MIT Sloan Management Review, “the most significant gains from virtual customer service agents are from improvements in customer experience, not cost savings.”
A virtual agent provides:
- Automation: Virtual agents are always available and, with the correct rule implementations, can get routine questions answered without escalating to a human agent. If a virtual agent can predict and navigate the intentions of a customer, it can more quickly and efficiently answer a customer query. Customer wait times can be reduced to nearly zero as a virtual agent’s capacity is only determined by server capacity, not the number of human agents.
- Easy transactions: Artificial intelligence capabilities provide businesses with a platform to handle transactions or easily programmable information such as tracking a package or scheduling a meeting.
- Consistency: Conversations with the customer use the same terminology and mode of communication. The level of experience, personal motivation, and the current mood of human agents are no longer variables. It also reduces the potential for human errors in customer interaction. Customers are frustrated when they have to speak to more than one agent and explain their problem over and over. Virtual agents help solve for this by collecting the pertinent information collection and then referring to the correct human agent.
- Generate leads and aid in cross-selling initiatives: Virtual agents can collect relevant information to lead to further communication between the business and customer.
Virtual agents provide value for both the business and the customer. If the customer is happy, likely the business is too. Businesses want customers happy. It is 6-7X more expensive for companies to attract new customers than to keep existing customers.
Okay so you’ve decided to implement a virtual agent into your customer service model. Now what?
How to measure success
To determine the effectiveness of your virtual agent implementation, it is important to track the performance. 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: 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 virtual agents, translating to fewer live agent escalations.
Contact centers that use artificial intelligence technologies to deploy virtual agents to complement their existing human agents are able to automate service tasks. Virtual agents help deliver both a better customer and agent experience because they create efficiency, increase capacity, and increase productivity overall.
LiveVox is a next-generation contact center platform that powers more than 14 Billion interactions a year. We seamlessly integrate omnichannel communications, CRM, and WFO capabilities to deliver an exceptional agent and customer experience, while reducing compliance risk. Our reliable, easy-to-use technology enables effective engagement strategies on communication channels of choice to drive performance in your contact center. Our battle-tested risk mitigation and security tools help clients maximize their potential in an ever-changing business environment. With 20 years of pure cloud expertise LiveVox is at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. Our more than 450 global employees are headquartered in San Francisco; with offices in Atlanta, Denver, New York City, St. Louis, Medellin, Colombia, and Bangalore, India.