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How to Choose the Right Type of Virtual Agent: Page 2 of 3

What Can a Virtual Agent Actually Do for Your Business?
Every organization has different needs when architecting an automated self-service or virtual agent strategy. Companies of all sizes -- even ones that don’t have traditional contact centers -- can benefit from intelligent virtual agents. Depending on your specific type of business and tasks performed, a virtual agent can help reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction, and improve productivity.
  • Smaller Organizations -- If you have a small or local business, you may not have a contact center in the traditional sense, but you do have employees whose job entails varying degrees of customer contact. Your volume of customer interactions may not be as high as a company that requires a contact center; however, because the technology is so cost effective, a virtual agent can help you reduce costs and improve your customer’s experience in a number of ways. You can:
    • Enable callers to request call-backs instead of waiting on hold
    • Offer automated appointment scheduling and reminders
    • Offer to send directions via SMS
    • Replace frustrating touchtone menus for incoming calls with natural conversations
    • Offer automated order lookups
    • Collect payments for services -- and be PCI-compliant
    • Offer self-service support outside of standard business hours
  • Mid-Size and Large Enterprises -- Your organization has a traditional contact center for customer service and/or sales. Your contact center may range in size from small (1-100 agents), mid-size (100-500 agents), large (500+ agents) to global (multiple locations around the world, typically 1,000+ agents). Virtual agents can play a key role in cost reduction, compliance, and digital transformation for your organization. They can:
    • Augment contact center agents with easy-to-use, conversational self-service across multiple channels
    • Reduce customer service costs by offloading easy repetitive tasks currently handled by agents
    • Provide VIP service to your most important customers by routing them immediately to someone who can help them
    • Extend service business hours
    • Handle growing volumes of interactions, support peak seasonal transactions, new services, and products without adding employees
    • Ensure compliance across industries -- including automated solutions for PCI payments, HIPPA, and TCPA
    • Offer more complex, transactional self-service applications like making hotel reservations, booking travel, or applying for a loan
What Makes a Virtual Agent Intelligent?
Not all virtual agents are created equal; some are simple scripts with little intelligence built in. Sometimes that’s all you need. But to create a virtual agent that will grow with your business, you need to make sure you choose one that can get smarter over time as your business needs evolve. You need an intelligent virtual agent, or IVA. What makes a virtual agent intelligent? Virtual agents are intelligent when they:
  • Have skills -- For example, they can understand human speech in more than 100 languages and can respond using text-to-speech (TTS) that is almost indistinguishable from a human agent.
  • Can automate things -- They can perform all kinds of tasks to care for customers. They can authenticate callers with voice biometrics, make appointments, reset passwords, look up orders, survey customers, and answer all kinds of questions -- over the phone, Web, or SMS.
  • Can have different types of conversations -- Whether over the phone or through a text-based interaction, virtual agents can use multiple approaches to converse with a customer, from basic to sophisticated.
    • DTMF -- “Press 1 for sales, 2 for service.”
    • Directed Dialog -- “Would you like to purchase, please say yes or no.”
    • Mixed Interaction -- “I’d like to fly from Austin to Boston, next Wednesday at 5 p.m.”
    • NLP -- Ability to have a natural language, free-flowing conversation via phone
  • Are self-learning -- They can use machine learning to understand the various ways your customers ask for things. Individuals will ask for the same thing in different ways. For example, if the virtual agent is programmed to understand "I need to fix my car," over time it can learn the many different ways this might be asked -- i.e., "my car needs to get fixed," "my car is broken down," or "my car needs help."


Click below to Page 3: Buying Framework and Decision Factors