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  • Prakash Y

Increasing your competitive advantage with conversational AI



How a virtual agent can help you stay ahead of the curve in customer engagement


Delivering a great customer experience is often cited as the most important goal for companies, and it’s no secret why — in its ‘Future of CX’ report, PwC found that after just one bad experience, one-third of customers said that they would leave a brand they love for the competition. A further 92% said they would completely abandon a company after just two or three negative interactions.

With these kinds of statistics, it’s understandable why 88% of companies now prioritize customer experience above all else in their contact centers. As artificial intelligence begins to play an ever-increasing role in customer service, banks, telcos and insurers will look to find new ways in which to use the technology to gain a competitive advantage. Conversational AI and virtual agents offer one such opportunity by providing a diverse new channel to boost customer engagement with their brand, whether it’s through support, sales or service.



Cutting expenditure

One of the immediate advantages of conversational AI for customer service is its ability to dramatically reduce costs for a company. As your business grows, so will the requirement for additional customer support, which can be costly. A virtual agent is infinitely scalable and can work 24/7, any day of the year, negating the need to hire additional staff to keep up with the demands of increasing support traffic.

This is similarly true of any unexpected spikes in traffic due to system outages, for example — ramping up support staff quickly in these cases can be expensive (and possibly ineffective). With a virtual agent, it’s as easy as modifying its welcome message to acknowledge the situation and pointing customers towards the relevant information. The versatility of a virtual agent in being able to automate customer service and support queries at scale also has a crucial knock-on effect that can help cut expenditure further. By taking over the bulk of mundane and repetitive queries that were previously handled by human support staff, a virtual agent helps those same employees work happier, harder and smarter and, critically, stick around longer reducing overall employee turnover.



Driving revenue

It’s common knowledge that a happy customer is a loyal customer. And what do loyal customers typically like to do more of? Spend money, of course. Through conversational AI, you can deliver an experience that helps to foster this strong bond by increasing self-service rates and breaking down the barriers between consumers and your brand. Integrating a virtual agent with your backend systems only further increases its capacity to help drive revenue. Not only can you streamline the purchasing processes, making it more convenient for your customers, but by personalizing recommendations based on their account data you can steer them towards products and services that they may have otherwise missed through traditional service channels.



Augmenting humans

Conversational AI is great at delivering consistently correct information at scale. This is ideal in a customer-facing scenario, but it can be equally as powerful for a business to turn this advantage inwards. A virtual agent can be a useful tool to help existing customer service and support staff be even better at their jobs, thus benefiting your business overall. This human ‘augmentation’ can take a number of forms, such as an HR or IT virtual agent that assists employees with questions related to their jobs. This has proved to be an effective method for streamlining internal processes. A more novel approach is to use an internal virtual agent that customer service staff can refer to as a source of instant information and advice. Employees can query the virtual agent to get immediate answers about products and services without needing to scan through complex policy documents or navigate confusing additional systems. Where conversational AI can further elevate this behind-the-scenes customer service approach is by analyzing incoming queries in real-time and offer up helpful suggestions and responses that customer service staff can then relay back to customers. This method, that allows a company to keep humans on the customer service front lines but with a virtual agent backing them up, has seen exceptional success with automation rates of up to 95%.



Pushing technology forward

Customer service and support are increasingly moving online and conversational AI presents the perfect channel for which to engage consumers where they spend their time most — on their phones. The latest advances in natural language understanding are, today, making it easier than ever for a virtual agent to accurately understand what customers want, and to respond in a manner not entirely dissimilar to a typical human-to-human interaction. Proprietary language understanding algorithms are a key differentiator in distinguishing between the countless conversational AI solutions currently flooding the market. They offer everything from advanced language understanding capabilities to self-learning AI that can analyze conversation data and suggest new intents and topics that can be used to continuously improve the model. Humans also play a vital role as the technologies themselves become easier to implement. Whereas previously it might require a team of data scientists months (or even years) to deploy a virtual agent, today, a company is able to up-skill its non-technical customer support staff into AI trainers and, with the help of self-learning AI, build a working virtual agent that is ready to deploy in a matter of weeks.

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