Today’s Virtual Agent: What You Should Expect

April 6, 2020
Today’s Virtual Agent: What You Should Expect Today’s Virtual Agent: What You Should Expect

I am fascinated by how technology in the artificial intelligence space is evolving. Some concepts are still in the ideation phase, while others are productized and available today. The steady rise of chatbots and virtual agents demonstrates how technology is playing a larger role than ever in the world of service and support.

As a marketer, it is interesting to see how companies are promoting and positioning these technologies and products. There are many different approaches out there. One company promotes the human likeness and appeal of their virtual agent across all their marketing channels. The image is very lifelike, and considered desirable by many. Building the perfect virtual agent, and personification, reminds me of 2013 when the movie “Her” debuted. If you don’t remember, this was a movie starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson, about a man who develops a relationship with an artificially intelligent virtual assistant, personified through a female voice. The relationship progresses beyond the point of a work assistant. I won’t give away the ending in case you haven’t seen it.

Interestingly, the idea for the movie was conceived in the early 2000’s as Spike Jonze read about a website utilizing an artificial intelligence program that allowed for instant messaging. He was at the forefront of imagining what could be, although his vision is darker than the productive view that we see and support here at Serviceaide.

In 2014, a company in the AI space wrote a partner piece for Wired Magazine. It was a reaction to the movie, and featured some valid points on what is needed. Below is an excerpt from the article:

“In contrast, today’s virtual assistants engage in simple dialogs and produce scripted “chat.” They are capable of limited predictive and proactive behavior, but learn relatively slowly, and mostly automate “one-shot” commands — placing or directing calls, making appointments, finding directions, sending messages, and performing searches.

What will it take for today’s virtual assistants to become more like even the ‘out-of-the-box’ Samantha, the hyper-efficient aide?”

How things have changed in a few, short years.

First, the market has evolved significantly around the functionality and types of virtual assistants. Back in the mid 2000’s, the breadth of functionality was very narrow. Today, there is a wide spectrum of chatbots. At the most limited end, we start with a “dumb” chatbot that answers only the most basic and scripted questions. This can result in frustration when you have service questions about your invoice or product problems. They are great for basic questions but often leave users stranded. At the other end of the spectrum is what we call “intelligent virtual agents”. At Serviceaide, this is our focus. To truly deliver an innovative service and support solution, you require a Virtual Agent (ours is named Luma), that leverages natural language processing (NLP) to provide a contextually driven, natural language question and answer dialog to guide users to an actionable result. AI-driven VA’s are profoundly reshaping how businesses connect with employees and customers by augmenting digital communication channels with human-like interactions, which provide faster and more accurate support.

Second, we feel that many advances have been made to address the question of when will the hyper-efficient aide be available. Depending on your definition, an efficient VA is available today. In fact, many companies consider their virtual assistant to be a meaningful and productive part of their service and support team.

Let’s take a look at a few things that stand out and what you should be looking for in your VA team member:

  1. A scalable, digital member of the team. One that just happens to be virtual that can interact across different user and administrative groups.
  2. A VA that can handle BOTH inbound and outbound queries.
  3. A VA that can either interact with other systems, or can even perform the work itself.
  4. Open architecture. Your VA should work seamlessly across your organization’s infrastructure and processes.
  5. A VA with strong automation functionality.
  6. Look for out-of-the-box products. For quick return on investment and productivity, look for a VA that is easy to implement. There are solutions which require significant customization and services but they will be costly and take a long time to get up and running.
  7. Your VA should serve as a single contact point for service interactions. This is critical to ensure that it is auditable and documented.

There are many options out there. Serviceaide’s Luma Virtual Agent meets the requirements we see for an effective team member. If you are interested in leveraging technology to improve your service and support; providing continuity when analysts are not available; implementing quickly to begin reducing costs; we have the product for you.

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