What's an Intelligent Virtual Agent

What are Intelligent Virtual Agents?

Intelligent Virtual Agents are self-service applications that service providers license and re-sell to their customers. Virtual Agents offer capabilities that are similar to human service and support agents -- they just never rest or take a vacation -- and they’re substantially cheaper.

  • Virtual Agents Have Skills - For example, they can understand human speech in over 100 languages and can respond using text-to-speech that is almost indistinguishable from a human agent.

  • Virtual Agents Can Do Things - They can perform all kinds of tasks to care for customers. They can authenticate callers with voice biometrics, process PCI-compliant payments, look up orders, survey customers and answer all kinds of questions -- over the phone, web or SMS.

  • Virtual Agents Are Employed Like Human Agents - Just like an outsourced call center, you purchase Virtual Agents and pay for them for as long as you need them, on a monthly basis.

Now that you know what Intelligent Virtual Agents are, you might be wondering why you would want to use them to provide self-service to your customers. Here are a few reasons we think are pretty darn compelling:

Reason #1 – Proven and Being Widely Adopted

The market for Virtual Assistant is huge. And it’s growing. Think about it. There are about 20 million contact center agents out there handling billions of transactions. They also consume billions of dollars of contact center software and services each year. That market is also growing at over 20% per year. As more of those transactions transition to Virtual Agents, an enormous market is being created. Gartner has revealed that 25% of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, up from less than 2% in 2017.

Reason #2 – Reduces Cost While Improving Satisfaction

One key initiative on every service manager’s agenda is how to more effectively use self-service to reduce costs while maintaining or improving customer satisfaction. Virtual Agents will help you do just that.

As Donna Fluss from DMG Consulting explains, “Just a small improvement in utilization rates can improve the customer experience and net millions in savings. For example, if the cost of an agent-handled call is $5, a 2 percent increase in IVR utilization for a business that receives 1 million calls per month represents a savings of $100,000 per month, or $1.2 million per year.”

Virtual Agents help you increase self-service utilization while their advanced AI-powered natural language skills will improve customer experience -- especially as more customers expect service, whenever, wherever, they need it.

Reason #3 – Helps You Comply with Industry Regulations

A key concern for most businesses is compliance with industry regulations -- for good reason. The penalties for lack of compliance can be staggering. For example, HIPAA fines range from $500 - $5,000 per violation and can include criminal prosecution. Virtual Agents can help organizations avoid violations and penalties. PCI-DSS and HIPAA compliant virtual agents are able to collect sensitive customer data without revealing that information to the human agent.

Reason #4 – Mission Critical

Virtual Agent applications offer mission critical capabilities to your customers. Virtual Agents become trusted and valued members of your customer’s service team. Once deployed, service organizations focus on how to use more, not less, of their services.

Reason #5 – Innovative

Service organizations are continually searching for new and innovative ways to improve the service experience that they deliver to their customers. This can be a somewhat daunting task as so many new channels and technologies are introduced into the market. With a Virtual Agent platform, new technologies and capabilities are added as they are released, giving you automatic assess to the latest innovations.

Reason #6 – Easy to Deploy

But what good is the latest and greatest technology if it’s too difficult to bring to market? Visual, drag and drop solutions, like Inference Studio, let you develop, package and deploy self-service solutions that leverage the latest advances in speech recognition and natural language processing, without having to rely on a team of developers.

There are dozens of pre-built applications for everything from biometric enrollment to order lookup to queue callback.

Within applications, you can select which speech recognition, natural language, TTS and biometric services you want to use from vendors like Google Cloud and IBM Watson. There’s no need to license and manage the services from each vendor; that is done for you. And you can switch anytime you choose.

If you’re a telecommunications carrier, you still anchor the call -- all calls are “on net.” A SIP trunk is established on behalf of the enterprise, enabling Virtual Agents to get to work.

Getting Started

To learn more about how easy it is to bring natural language applications to your customers, I encourage you to watch our webinar where we demonstrate our latest release, Studio 6.0.

You will see (and hear):

  • How easy it is to create a Virtual Agent offering that uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text, WaveNet Text-to-Speech and Dialogflow NLP.

  • How to package self-service solutions that offer the right functionality, at the right price, for your customers.

  • How your Virtual Agents can now sound more like a human and have conversations that are more like an interaction with a live agent -- in more than 100 languages!

You can also sign up for a trial to see, first-hand, the benefits to be gained from our latest release.

Richard Dumas