CRM: Robo Reps
Online consumers are demanding more sophisticated self- service support options. To that end, companies such as eBay and H&R Block are looking to improve service accessibility and provide the best possible customer experience value by turning to intelligent virtual agent solutions.
Intelligent virtual agents are programs designed to respond quickly and consistently to online customer service needs and interactively guide customers through a personalized conversation. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) allow virtual agents to interact with customers in a natural conversational style, interpret requests, and then respond appropriately. This customer experience is provided, typically, at one-tenth the cost of traditional human-serviced channels, which makes virtual agent technology a viable option for customer support and service.
Virtual agents are relatively new in online customer support. However, a July 2010 report from Gartner, "Key Considerations for Virtual Assistant Selection," stated that virtual agents provide a competitive advantage to companies that deploy them, and predicted they would be the standard technology for customer interactions in three to five years. A 2009 Forrester Research report also concluded that it was time to give virtual agents another look, citing that 57 percent of online customers are likely to abandon a sale if their questions are not answered immediately.
Beyond resolving simple customer issues, today's virtual agent technology can not only offload typical high-volume requests—such as changing a customer's billing address—but it can also address more complex or high-risk service and support issues, such as cancellation of services. Today, virtual agents typically have an 80 percent or higher resolution success rate. But to ensure 100 percent resolution, the virtual agent also can escalate an issue to the call center, passing along the conversational context with the virtual agent if the user's request is outside the virtual agent's span of knowledge. The result is a more efficient call center that is able to deflect issues that don't require human intervention by an average of 22 percent, improve live customer service representative resolution time by 16 percent, and accelerate call center recovery time up to four times faster when major issues arise.