Digital Themes

Virtual Agent

What is a virtual agent?

A virtual agent is an artificial intelligence (AI) governed software program that can have automated conversations with customers, depending on the context of the inquiry. Not all customer issues can be resolved with automated virtual agents, but simple issues such as order status, account balance, and standard FAQ inquiries can be addressed without requiring a human agent.  

Using a combination of AI, analytics, and natural language understanding (NLU), virtual agents can create the ideal customer experience with an instant resolution, reduced friction, and a 24/7 available contact center. Intelligent virtual agents are programmed with hundreds of context-based automated responses and alerts to specific departments. This also improves the employee experience by vetting calls, getting any necessary preliminary information, and ensuring the issue is directed to the correct department.

This is especially valuable for call centers, as live agents are inundated with calls and service requests. Allowing for automated chat agents to take over the initial round of calls and questions reduces the volume of unnecessary calls fielded by human customer service agents and enables them to appropriately address inquiries at a higher level.

Other industries benefiting from this technology include e-commerce, financial institutions, medical, and insurance companies. E-commerce companies utilize virtual agents to address order status, transaction information, and availability requests. Banks and financial institutions have virtual agents available to focus on balance inquiries and minor account checks. Medical and insurance companies use virtual agents to answer inquiries regarding appointment times and claims status.

Virtual agents can also be used in organizations to handle employee-driven desk-type IT services and even guide employees through work tasks or processes. These virtual agent platforms can also connect with back-end systems to provide more personalized customer or employee responses. Moreover, the AI capabilities built into these platforms enable these agents to learn to become more efficient, effective as they work and develop the capacity to handle a broader range of tasks.

Virtual agents can improve customer relationships, reduce overall time wasted, reduce the number of live agents and associated costs, quicken service times, and provide personalized insight into cross-selling opportunities.

What are the business benefits of using a virtual agent?

  • Reduce downtime - Appropriately automating the specific issues and requests to the correct department, and even fielding the FAQs and minor issues that don't require a human agent, significantly reduces the amount of wasted time.

  • Improve workflow - As virtual agents can automate the preliminary round of questioning, customers get to the department they need without being bounced around.

  • Stronger customer relationships - Customers expect on-demand service and resolutions. Having 24/7 available virtual agents allows for that level of instant gratification. Connecting virtual agents with a customer relationship management (CRM) system and analytics can also ensure that every interaction with your customer is aligned to their needs.

  • Cross-selling - Using data analytics across various platforms to interpret the best products and services for a customer's needs is an added benefit to virtual agents. Collected data on purchase preferences and customer buying potential can be used to upsell, cross-sell, and bundle goods and services based on specific customer needs and values.

  • Quicker service time - Getting customers to the appropriate departments as quickly as possible also allows for their issues to be resolved, their goods to be delivered, and their services to be completed in a much quicker turnaround time.
  • Reduce staff costs - Unlike hiring a full-time employee to handle customer queries, virtual assistants drastically bring down operational costs related to compensation, health benefits, and leave.
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