Are Virtual Assistants part of your workforce?
According to analysis from Research and Markets, the global market for Intelligent Virtual Assistants (also referred to as “bots”) is set to be worth almost $41 billion by 2027 – that’s a 6x increase on 2021 numbers. Driving this anticipated growth are the tangible customer service and operational efficiency benefits achievable through the deployment of AI-enabled Intelligent Virtual Assistants.
IBM’s Institute for Business Value looked at organisations from over 30 countries and the conclusions echoed this. When examining the value of Virtual Assistant technology, they identified significant financial benefits and increases in both customer and employee satisfaction scores. IBM reported average improvements of 12 and 9 percentage points in customer and agent satisfaction, 15% reductions in handling times, and average containment rates of 64%.
A recent Forrester Consulting study also suggested that the deployment of Virtual Assistant technology can ‘achieve $5.50 cost savings per contained conversation’, while Nuance reports real-world business outcomes of 50% CSAT increases and 80% increases in NPS.
At Sabio we refer to bots as Virtual Agents, and not Assistants and we’re clearly aware of the value that intelligent Virtual Agent projects can unlock for our clients. Take HomeServe, the leading home emergency repairs and improvements business, as an example. Having worked closely with Sabio to deploy an AI-driven conversational self-service platform, HomeServe is already seeing impressive results. The company’s CX team originally targeted automating 50% of its telephone call minutes, but are already routing 70% of their total call traffic through their bot – handling around 6,000 calls a day with an intent accuracy of some 94%.
A key factor behind Sabio’s success at HomeServe has been its ability to recognise up to 150 different customer intents - previously HomeServe only mapped interactions against five different contact centre skills. Being able to track customer intent at a much more granular level has provided the HomeServe team with greater insight into why customers were getting in touch with the company, allowing them to keep on refining and optimising the customers journeys in their conversational self-service platform.
Virtual Agents need coaching and training too
What the HomeServe example shows is the importance – and benefits – that can come from continually refining their AI & Automation solutions. Drawing on the depth of new data and customer journey insights that result from handling millions of interactions a year, the value that can be unlocked through ongoing optimisation is significant.
CX-focused enterprises, particularly those with large contact centres that handle large volumes of customer interactions, also need to recognise the evolving role that Virtual Agents must play as part of the broader CX team. The Virtual Agent can’t just be an AI tool that operates within an IT project infrastructure – it needs to operate as an integral part of the contact centre workforce.
And just as today’s contact centres advisors (agents) have a role that is possibly one of the most monitored, scrutinised and analysed anywhere, it’s also important to track Virtual Agent performance so that continuous performance improvement becomes a reality. In doing this however, it’s important that we don’t fall into the trap of some contact centre teams, where the workforce management focus is often on what advisors have been doing rather than identifying what it is that people actually need to do their job better.
So when it comes to optimising Virtual Agent performance, it’s essential that customer conversations are reviewed to make sure that the service offered matches the best of brand CX aspirations. The good news is that once you know what it is that you want to achieve through your Virtual Agent strategy you can create customer first journeys supported by Virtual Agents.
It’s a sure thing that you won’t get this process 100% right on day one, so that’s why you have to keep on optimising each part of the journey. Improvements can be rolled out as often as necessary – much like Microsoft does with its Teams enhancements. With each additional feature that gets rolled out, your ongoing analysis can track how it has performed in terms of value and User Experience. And just as contact centre agents can have dips in their customer engagement, it’s quite likely that the same can happen with your Virtual Agent if new features don’t work as planned or if callers use it differently from what we thought.
Tracking the customer experience
Treating AI-powered Virtual Agents as part of your broader customer engagement team, highlights the importance of building this kind of customer experience management into the heart of every customer journey – whether that’s chatbots, Virtual Agents, websites or telephony.
Adopting this broader approach helps brands to develop consistency across their multiple channels. This will also require a similar reporting and performance management ecosystem that already exists for contact centre agents, with co-ordinated measurement supporting analysis that leverages AI and data for continuous improvement across all journeys.
The good news is that there’s a wealth of information and insight that can be brought together from across the business to support these goals. And by using the latest customer journey design tools to manage interaction flows, knowledge and data integration, CX teams can take on board the challenge of training and improving their Virtual Agents – just like a Human Agent.