Traditional Web Self-Service Databases vs. Virtual Agents


According to research from Forrester, a majority of customers prefer to use a brand’s website in order to have their questions answered before they choose to call or email customer service. Web self-service should be a component of every contact center’s customer service strategy. Virtual agents are being used by brands who want to provide a personalized self-service experience instead of simply directing customers to an extensive FAQ database.

Most companies that offer web self-service centers have something simple like a FAQ website page or the ability to search their website for a keyword or phrase. This means that the customer has to figure out where to find the answer to their question, if the answer even exists on the website at all. Then, once the customer does find information about their topic, they have to translate the information into something that they can understand and then determine if it applies to their specific situation.

While this type of self-service tells the customer where they might be able to find the answer, it doesn’t provide an actual concise answer to their specific question. Customers get frustrated with this type of online help because it can make even more work for them. Not only does it take effort to locate and translate the answer, but if they can’t find what they need, they’ll have to take even more time to contact customer service in another way.

Today’s web self-service tools aim to solve this problem. Customers can talk to a smart virtual agent who will engage in a two-way conversation with them in order to understand and answer the customer’s query. Customers get relevant, accurate and personalized responses from the online concierge.

Instead of just pointing you to where the answer might be on the website, virtual agents consider the context of the question to provide the most relevant answer. They take into account subtle differences between similar questions to determine precisely what you’re asking. For example, the question, “Where can I buy a cup of coffee?” means that the customer wants to purchase a cup of coffee from the company. The question, “Where do you get your coffee?” means that the customer wants to know where the company’s coffee is sourced. These are two very different questions, though they sound the same, and a virtual agent will be able to tell the difference between the two questions and answer yours accurately.

Virtual agents are also able to utilize customer information to further personalize an answer. For example, if a customer has recently purchased a coffeemaker and they ask the virtual agent, “What’s your return policy?” the virtual agent can answer the customer about how to return their most recent purchase. They can also determine the customer’s location to tell the customer exactly where they can return the item at the store that’s closest to them.

Online self-service goes above and beyond deflecting customer service phone calls and emails. It serves the customer in the way they want to be served. Virtual agents make it simple for customers to quickly find an answer to their question without having to scroll through a bulk of information on a FAQ page.

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