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4 Things to Expect from Virtual Assistants in 2017 

Tara Wildt | Jan 4, 2017 716 views 1 Comment

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In 2016, there were a lot of ongoing conversations about Intelligent Virtual Assistants: what they are, how they are used, what’s contributing to their increasing popularity, and the benefits they bring to customer care.

And – for good reason – 2016 seems to have been the year when executives in every industry were asking themselves, “how do we integrate Artificial Intelligence into our strategy?” The truth is that an investment in an AI-focused customer care solution can provide a competitive advantage for your company. The evidence of this can be seen in the recent evolution of Intelligent Virtual Assistants and the constantly changing expectations around customer care. As we look to 2017, here are 4 things Interactions expects from Intelligent Virtual Assistants this upcoming year:

1) Leverage the latest in AI, while still harnessing human intelligence

The improvements in AI technology that have been made this decade have had a material impact on automating customer care to provide consistent and productive outcomes for your customers at a lower cost. Advances in Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) and significant increases in the amount of data available in recent history have enabled researchers to expand what’s possible in Machine Learning. This, along with the constant improvement of Natural Language Processing technologies, enables companies to provide a conversational customer care experience without using live agents – translating to improved efficiency and decreased costs.

AI enables Virtual Assistants to automate many tasks in enterprise customer care, but the recent integration of human assistance improves the experience for both your customer and the agent. Human-assist, which directs the conversation but does not allow the human to directly interact with the customer, is implemented across customer care channels to ensure productive, satisfying outcomes – such as a more accurate experience for the customer, better efficiency for the agent, and lower costs for the enterprise. AI technology is not in a state to provide comprehensive customer care completely on its own, but when used correctly it will reduce live agent costs for many transactions. Live agents can then be assigned only the most complex requests or for sales opportunities.

2) Provide a seamless, multichannel customer care experience
It’s no secret that your customers expect you to be able to interact with them across all the channels they use – voice, chat, sms, etc. While the voice channel still plays a predominant role in business to consumer interactions, increasingly the customer interaction journey spans multiple channels (sometimes over the course of resolving a single issue). But beyond that, customers are looking for companies to provide a seamless, multichannel experience. That means that a conversation started with your chat agent should carry its context over to a future voice conversation. An Intelligent Virtual Assistant needs to be able to support your customers across channels – which means implementing a technology stack that can provide that kind of seamless experience.

3) Enable secure customer interactions
As security concerns and incidents continue to grow across businesses in most industries, the ability to provide convenient and secure authentication for customer service applications is becoming a requirement for modern security standards. For this reason, many companies are considering Intelligent Virtual Assistant solutions with integrated voice biometrics capabilities. By verifying a customer’s identity using the unique characteristics of each human voice, voice biometrics ensure that the person calling is indeed who they say they are. And since a customer’s voiceprint can be leveraged across all of your company’s support channels, voice biometrics is ideal for enabling a seamless, multichannel customer experience. In fact, voice biometrics can reduce the time it takes to verify a caller’s identity by anywhere from 10 seconds to several minutes, leading to increased customer satisfaction.

4) Adapt to changing expectations in customer care
There’s no denying that the expectations for customer care have changed. Industry leaders and executive teams are acknowledging that customers have increasingly high expectations for service interactions, regardless of industry. This means that the standards for legacy technologies such as Interactive Voice Response systems (IVRs) – which still serve as an important and necessary gateway for automated customer care – have to change. In 2017 and beyond, automated customer care solutions need to be seen as a vehicle for improving the customer experience.

Intelligent Virtual Assistant solutions that leverage the latest advancements in AI, Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing enable the kind of efficient and conversational service experiences that your customers demand.

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One Response to 4 Things to Expect from Virtual Assistants in 2017

  1. Dan Miller January 5, 2017 at 3:18 pm (1 comment) #

    Brilliant. I agree with everything you say here. It requires enlightened teamwork that spans Digital Commerce, Customer Support, IT, the Security Folks, but really focuses in on Customer Experience. I’ve been trying to build a community of folks that are trying to figure out how to use existing platforms to build Intelligent Assistants and add the Intelligent Authentication (we call it OptiChannel Authentication) to boot. That brings in voice and other biometric factors together to provide secure, personalized service. I hope you won’t see this as spam, but but my company, Opus Research, is convening our “Intelligent Assistants Conference in May in London. Would love to see you, and your readership, there.

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