What is a Virtual Agent?

Virtual agents rely on AI to deliver online customer service options

What is a Virtual Agent?

Also known as Interactive Virtual Agents, Virtual Agents are similar to chatbots but go a step further by performing advanced customer service functions like giving customers recommendations. They can even answer FAQs, and help them find information needed to satisfy the reason they contacted support in the first place.

Virtual Agents work in any customer service environment, particularly in contact centers that endure high call volumes. If contact center management wants to extend convenient customer service options to relieve the stress felt by agents, they’re likely already sold on VAs. And when you think about the future of CX, Virtual Agents play a major role but don’t worry. Developers who create Intelligent Virtual Assistants aren’t on a quest to replace humans.

Artificial Intelligence in the contact center is intended to heighten customer experiences and attempts to free up agents for tasks that require a human to complete. A sale, for instance, might start with a Virtual Agent, but finish with a human agent who can relate to customers and offer what AI can’t. Something as valuable as an emotional appeal cannot be replaced by technology, as it is often a crucial component of the sales process.

Gartner Forecasts Rise of Virtual Agents

Back in 2018, Gartner predicted 25 percent of customer service options will include the use of Virtual Customer Assistants by 2020. Further Gartner research suggests, organizations that implement Virtual Agents see a reduction of up to 70 percent in call, chat and/or email volume. The good news is, these companies also ‘report an increase in customer satisfaction, and save 33 percent per voice engagement.’

Analysts at Gartner also say, by 2020, 30 percent of all B2B companies will use AI ‘to augment at least one of its primary sales processes.’ They anticipate, by 2020, an additional 20 percent of large enterprises will adopt Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Mixed Reality solutions. They will do so as a part of their Digital Transformation strategies.

Forward-thinking enterprise leadership who recognize the value Virtual Assistants deliver, such as self-service, have already taken the plunge and invested in VAs. Speaking at Gartner’s Customer Experience Summit in Tokyo, Gene Alvarez, Managing Vice President at Gartner said:

“As more customers engage on digital channels, VAs are implemented to handle customer requests on websites, mobile apps, consumer messaging apps, and social networks”

Alvarez accredits this to improvements in natural-language processing, machine learning, and intent-matching capabilities.

Virtual Agents in Action

Companies like Microsoft have put Virtual Agents to good use for conversational commence and engagement purposes. A few months ago, Microsoft unveiled its Dynamics 365 Customer Service Insights feature and Virtual Agent for customer service.

In this capacity, Virtual Agents help enhance CX by asking questions that identify customer intent, and they make product recommendations. Microsoft, realizing a paradigm shift in customer behavior, engineered a response that meets today’s consumer demands for more immediate and intelligent responses.

Google, Microsoft, Apple, and several other major vendors lead the Virtual Agent market, an area poised to ‘Flourish by 2027,’ according to a 2019 market overview.

How does your organization make use of Virtual Agents? Let us know in the comments below.

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