The Bot Revolution: How Advanced Virtual Assistants are Transforming the Customer Experience

By Raghu Ravinutala, CEO and Co-Founder, Yellow.ai

“Did I answer your question?” How many times have you read that in a chatbot message window and thought, “not even close”?

An ever-increasing number of businesses use chat- or voicebots for customer support, and yet, you’d be hard-pressed to find any consumer or business owner who thinks these bots couldn’t be improved. At best they might answer FAQs, complete basic transactions, or, after a laborious back and forth, connect you with a person who can actually help. At worst the customer is made to feel like Alice desperately seeking out help from the residents of Wonderland. Quite often, customers simply leave the webpage or end the call in frustration.

Clearly, if chat- and voicebots are to survive, they need to get much better at their jobs. That’s where Advanced Virtual Assistants or what we refer to as “Dynamic AI agents” enter the picture.

Why bots?

Before we get into what “Advanced Virtual Assistants” means, it’s worth asking why we use bots in the first place if they’re often so ineffective. Well, cost, for one. Every year, businesses spend $1.3 trillion on customer support. Then there are customer considerations. Today’s consumers are connected across numerous channels — web, apps, social, etc. — and expect to be able to reach out to companies to resolve issues on demand.

Current interactive voice response (IVR) technology (pre-recorded prompts that take you through a series of narrowing options to arrive at what issue you’re calling about) is not well liked among consumers. Of the 400+ billion yearly calls made, only 3% of customers reported a satisfying IVR outcome. In the modern, connected world, traditional customer support is inefficient, doesn’t recognize consumers’ preferred ways to communicate, and is, ultimately, just not that helpful.

Sufficiently sophisticated bots, however, could go a long way in remedying those shortcomings by eliminating wait times and streamlining transactions. But an Advanced Virtual Assistant could go even further than that, improving every aspect of the customer experience from start to finish.

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What are Advanced Virtual Assistants?

Powered by a combination of NLP, semantic and deep learning techniques, Advanced Virtual Assistants have far-reaching implications for global brands, opening up new avenues to deliver hyper-personalized engagements with a much wider consumer base. Having the ability to meet international customers’ myriad communication preferences, what channel they wish to interact on and in what language, will give those brands a competitive advantage. And the consumer will benefit in other ways: as internet adoption continues to grow across the world, advances in voice technology will allow those who aren’t proficient typists or readers to not be left behind.

The goal is for Advanced Virtual Assistants to eventually be able to perform more cognitive functions — those currently reserved for flesh and blood sales and support personnel. Today, if a traveler wished to reschedule their flight, a bot could handle that transaction. But if that traveler wanted assurances about an airline’s COVID protocols, then a more empathetic response might be called for, something current bots could not provide.

Instead, that bot might simply rattle off a list of mask and vaccine requirements, whereas an advanced virtual assistant could recognize that this is an area better suited for human-to-human interaction and seamlessly connect the customer to a person.

Nurturing Advanced Virtual Assistants for elevated CX

This hybrid approach became an asset for many businesses during the pandemic, when stores closed and consumers turned to shopping online. Several large companies were quick to adapt with messaging channels, including beauty product retailer Sephora, a brand known for providing a personalized experience in its stores. Drawing on its existing customer data, Sephora equipped Dynamic AI agents to give product recommendations based on customers’ needs. However, when shoppers required an extra level of expertise, a live beauty consultant was able to step in.

Some businesses have discovered an additional benefit of incorporating a messaging channel. Brands like Domino’s found that engagement was higher in this medium than on their websites or apps. Additionally, brands are now using these assistants on channels such as Instagram to effectively re-engage with customers who visited their page but didn’t convert. Surveys, quizzes and polls are some other ways brands are leveraging Advanced Virtual Assistants to generate and convert relevant leads. Not only that, but they were gleaning much more useful data about their customers’ interests in order to better serve them.

That data is really the key to improving the customer experience. All those billions of traditional customer support calls that are leaving customers unsatisfied aren’t digital and therefore are not especially useful in fine-tuning the support that’s offered. With Advanced Virtual Assistants, however, every interaction is a learning opportunity. A continuous feedback loop of testing and refining will steadily lead to an exponentially smoother customer experience, even one where the Dynamic AI agent can offer those empathetic responses that are sometimes called for.

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The next CX frontier for brands

Offering security, convenience, and intuitive, even empathetic, assistance, Advanced Virtual Assistants are poised to revolutionize the customer experience as it becomes an integral part of doing business in the connected age. They will bring in next-level hyper-personalized engagements with customers, scaling it across modalities and channels. The brands that can leverage it to offer a frictionless customer experience will win out.

In order to do that, brands must move a step ahead and deploy Advanced Virtual Assistants across customer-facing functions to begin the learning process. It is not only imperative to train these assistants to steer the customer correctly but also give them a voice that is friendly, dynamic and not just another robotic impersonation. Through this, customers will encounter a seamless experience from their interactions with brands, leading to a win for the customers and business as a whole.

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