Virtual Assistants

28, February 2017

Are AI-powered Virtual Assistants here to stay?

Ever since it was coined in 1956 by John McCarthy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the term Artificial Intelligence (AI) was only associated with hubris and disappointment. In its early days, AI research was mostly attributed for promising much more than what could be delivered. However, the last couple of years has turned the tables and there is a growing interest in the field of AI.

AI refers to the technology that enables machines to perform tasks that could previously be done only by humans. According to New IDC spending guide, Worldwide Cognitive Systems and Artificial Intelligence revenues are forecasted to surge past $47 Billion in 2020. Dramatic advances in AI and machine learning capabilities is now shaping the future of customer experience. Virtual assistants, chatbots, virtual concierge and cognitive computing are all set to impact the customer experience.


What are virtual assistants?

Virtual assistants utilize AI to help users with questions or commands. They now understand what you say and even interpret the different ways you say it. For example, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana that offer digital assistants on smartphones have a deep knowledge of their user’s habits and schedules. Apple’s Siri can search for information, send text messages by voice, play music, and book restaurant tables. Amazon’s Echo has a strong understanding of voice commands from a distance and makes placing orders on items from Amazon easy and convenient. Gartner has estimated that by the end of 2016, two-thirds of consumers in developed markets will use virtual assistant services on their smartphones.

Artifical Intelligence


What are the benefits?

In addition to revenue increase and cost savings, virtual assistants

a) Extend the reach of customer interactions

b) Reduce live agent workforce need

c) Boost agent productivity

d) Reduce average handle time

e) Optimize digital performance and provide rich visibility into self-service improvement opportunities


Is it easy to implement AI-powered virtual assistants?

Though virtual assistants serve as a hands-free way to look for information, implementing virtual assistants are not without challenges. First of all, virtual assistants struggle at times to complete actions that require complex steps. They aren’t able to answer questions accurately because they lack proper context or don’t understand the intent of the question. The ability for them to answer questions relevantly can happen only with constant optimization, involving both human and machine learning. Secondly, virtual assistants should not be implemented with the mindset that they can be everything to everyone. With sophisticated business rules and analytics, they can help organizations understand customer intent. Lastly, virtual assistants are implemented with flawed design choices. Humanizing and personalizing it with the right content will increase the success rate and customer satisfaction.

Organizations that have overcome the challenges of automated customer experience integration saw an increase in virtual assistant use. They are here to stay and the market for it is expected to grow. There is a huge potential for organizations to capitalize on AI in order to create more personalized experiences. But they have to be careful not to cross the line when it comes to customer privacy. It is time now for businesses to start using AI-powered virtual assistants to remain competitive.


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