Are Virtual Assistants Part of Your Workforce?
Contributed Article by Klaus Failenschmid, Head of UX at Sabio Group
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
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 is already routing 70% of its total call traffic through its 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 customer's
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
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
coordinated 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.
Find out more about AI & Automation by watching this key
session from Sabio’s Disrupt 2022 conference on ‘Everything
you need to know about AI & Automation’, or download our AI
& Automation white paper here.