Companies have moved past traditional forms of self-service, like knowledge bases and forums, to more enhanced and intelligent applications, like intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) software. Opus predicts that companies will invest approximately $700 million in IVA technology by 2016. While IVAs are not intended to replace human agents, they can take some of the pressure off the contact center by gathering in-depth information about the customer and transaction.
In the past, IVA software users were financial institutions, telecommunication companies and utility companies. More recently, the retail, travel and hospitality industries have jumped on board. Big name companies that use IVA software include Yale University, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, USAA and Domino’s. Nina or Siri are probably the most well-known and widely-used virtual agents, whose accuracy and functionality have only improved with iOS upgrades. Hyatt Hotels began using an IVA system as a reservation agent in 2011. Their software collects customer information, handles sales and confirms payments. Hyatt reported a 15% savings on new reservations and over 94% in savings on automated interactions.
There are a number of economic benefits to diverting customers to automated systems. Providing customers with 24-hour mobile and web self-service options results in higher first call resolution, lower call volume and reduced waiting times. IVAs can take food orders, provide tech support and act as a brand ambassador. On a mobile app or a website, IVAs can even be given a name and a face. People feel like they’re having a conversation with a real person, which improves engagement.
According to David Lloyd, CEO of IntelliResponse, customers are more likely to opt for offers from IVAs than from human interaction. Lloyd suggests that human agents can only address a portion of the opportunities that IVAs can because the software is smarter than a human. IVAs extract meaning and context to anticipate what customers want; they predict future questions from the customer and make offers based on the nature of the question; and they uncover what is relevant to the customer based on the inquiry. Additionally, the most effective aspect of IVA software is that it can learn and evolve.
Today, there’s increasing synergy between IVA software and proactive engagement. IVAs increase revenue, reduce costs and bolster brand perception, while troubleshooting and helping companies scale.