5 Innovative Ways to Use Virtual Agents

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In a world of high competition, every company wants to differentiate. And when all things are equal, an incredible customer experience (CX) can tip the scales. Here’s the problem: Adding another service rep sounds great, but isn’t always fiscally wise.

At this point, you have a couple choices. You can ask your workers to go the extra mile. It’s a good way to inch farther ahead in terms of having gold-level service. However, your team members can only stretch their efficiencies so far. Eventually, they’ll reach capacity. When they do, you’ll want another option, like augmenting humans with virtual agents.

Most of us have encountered virtual agents, even if we didn’t know what to call them. They’re the pop-up chat animations, often located on websites with a digital help desk. Yet they’re far more involved than just being chatbots. Digital agents are powered by AI-driven software, and they send essential data back to human reps.

As human reps explore the retrieved data, they help the virtual agents learn how to respond. This symbiotic relationship allows the human reps to focus on higher level service calls. At the same time, customers are treated to intelligent interactions with virtual agents that don’t feel stilted or clunky.

If you’re struggling to keep your CX and other selling points strong, consider the following innovative ways to leverage virtual agents.

1. Use virtual agents to empower customers to help themselves.

Not every customer wants to wait until normal business hours to talk with someone about their problems. Plenty would rather find their own answers with the assistance of virtual agents.

Virtual agents never take breaks, making them the perfect 24/7/365 solution. Unlike limited “listen and fetch” chatbots, the best virtual agents almost replicate a human-like thought process.

As cloud-based contact center platform Five9 notes, this type of intuitive behavior creates intelligent rapport. Consequently, customers can solve their issues alone without feeling alone. Data from the interaction can be delivered to a live representative for accuracy before being downloaded into the customer’s online file.

2. Incorporate virtual agents into the buyer journey.

It doesn’t matter if you sell a product or service. Either way, you probably have several buyers’ journeys laid out, depending on the buyer’s background and needs. You can use virtual agents to provide assistance and nudges along the way. Additionally, they can help chip away at shopping cart abandonment rates which hit 88.05 percent in March 2020.

For instance, your virtual agent could be set up to pop up after a customer has been viewing a page for a certain length of time. Prompting the viewer with, “Do you have questions about [insert item]?” could lead to an important discussion that overcomes buyer hesitance.

Of course, you don’t want your virtual agent “visits” to feel intrusive. Therefore, plan them out carefully. Make sure they’re warm and inviting, and that they happen at the perfect moment.

3. Lean into virtual agents to help employees.

The happier your employees are, the better they’ll treat your customers. And the better they treat your customers, the faster you’ll gain a reputation for unparalleled CX. One method to keep employee engagement levels strong is by giving them internal support.

True, your IT personnel or consultants can’t be on call around the clock. However, your virtual agents can. Consider the following scenario: Your top salesperson has been working remotely from home during unconventional times. By working overnight, the salesperson can speak to people halfway around the world during their business hours. However, your salesperson is experiencing tech glitches.

Instead of making the employee wait until the morning, your virtual agent could try to troubleshoot the problems. No, it’s not guaranteed to work and a human intervention might be needed the next morning. Nevertheless, your employee will feel supported rather than defeated.

4. Add virtual agents across multiple communications channels.

Seeing animated virtual agents on websites has become commonplace. They can be just as useful on other platforms, including through proprietary apps, Slack, and social media.

Consumers have shown a strong preference for omnichannel communication interfaces, anyway. A Harvard Business Review survey from 2017 found that when customers had the opportunity to contact retailers through multiple channels, online sales rose by 10 percent.

By placing virtual agents across all the channels you use, you won’t just increase your profit margins. You’ll also avoid repetition and streamline your services. As an added bonus, you can program your virtual agent to update your customer relationship management (CRM) database. Being able to look back through customers’ omnichannel interactions can help live CX reps better serve clients.

5. Give virtual agents a personality upgrade.

Stripped down, any kind of automatic AI system can look and sound stiff. Yet there are tricks and tools to improve the way your virtual agents engage with users to give them a human feel.

A great example is having your virtual agent “think” for a moment before answering a customer’s question. The “thought process” may be indicated with a series of repeating ellipses. This familiar signal helps users feel like they’re working with someone, not some thing. It also normalizes the process of getting answers in a virtual setting.

Another way to personalize your virtual agent if it’s in an animated form is to give your character a style and name. You could even use your virtual agent character throughout your content, referring to the agent by name. In time, your virtual agent could become an important, essential, and trusted part of your online brand image.

Right now, we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of how to make the most out of virtual agents. Far from trying to “steal” jobs, they’re proving to be an essential resource. They’re also practical no matter what size company you run, from startup to enterprise level. You just have to think beyond the bot.

Image credit: Pexels

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