It is the age of the rise of the machines. Bots, Virtual Customer Assistants, and the likes are beginning to cover every sphere of our life. We will begin to see more and more enterprises desiring to use virtual customer assistants as they seek to increase customer satisfaction and reduce operating costs. According to Gartner by 2020, 25% of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant technology across engagement channels, up from less than 2% in 2017.
Virtual Customer Assistants (VCA) act on behalf of the enterprise to stimulate a conversation that delivers information and also potentially takes action on behalf of the customer to perform transactions. While buying a virtual assistant may be easy, enterprises must consider many factors before buying as not doing so will put the business at risk. Virtual customer assistants do not comprise of a single technology, instead, they are developed on the back of many foundational technologies, market factors, capabilities etc. A VCA consists of these four elements –
- A natural language processing engine
- A UI that receives the request and delivers the response via speech or text
- A search and knowledge engine that can traverse data repositories of knowledge and content
- A context engine that analyzes the intent of an individual and delivers personalized answers and actions
Even before you venture, first determine why you need a virtual customer assistant
It is important to first define your business objectives, and what you would like to achieve. Jot down the business problem you are trying to solve. While there are many kinds of VA, this will help you to find the right kind of VA to meet your objectives. Remember, it is always best to go with the option that best answers your needs and business growth. Consider the project size, the importance of VA, cost involved and calculated ROI.
Once you have pinpointed the goals, the problems to be solved and the business objectives, the next step is to go for a VA that delivers specific business results that you are targeting. While you go for such platforms, you must ensure to avoid spending a lot of time in customization and longer implementation times that lead to higher costs.
The next factor you should consider is how your project is to be implemented. Always determine the complexity of the task first and then look at the level of engagement. Decide if it is going to just be information dissemination or an interactive conversation. After deciding these things, start small. Use multiple steps to implement so that if there are any bottlenecks you can easily identify and then move on to the next step.
Another deciding point would be to evaluate how smart your application should be. While it is good to have a VCA that answers more than 75% of all the customer queries it is always better to start small, have some portions answered by the VCA and then perhaps passed on to a human being. As said earlier, let it be a step-by-step process.
Should you buy or build your own virtual customer assistant? While it may be easier to buy a VCA off the shelf, it may not always meet your requirements. And sometimes building a VCA from scratch may take much time and effort. It is advisable to buy a VCA that meets most of your requirements and then customize it to suit your needs. This way you can ensure that all your needs are met with the minimum possible time to construct a VCA.
The most difficult factor might be in finding the right vendor who can build/implement a virtual customer assistant according to your needs. It is always better to ask details like a product roadmap to assess the vendor’s maturity level. It would also be good to get a reference about the vendor from known circles.
The last and the most important task is to first test the VCA before putting it into live production. Extensive testing is necessary to get the technology to perform within acceptable boundaries. Thus you can ensure there are no hiccups during implementation and the solution perfectly meets customer expectations.
All the above factors will help you to critically analyze and come to a conclusion about how your business needs to go in for a virtual customer assistant to drive great experiences!
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