Make Your Next Hire an AI-Driven Virtual Agent

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Technology is becoming increasingly advanced, so much so, that it is commonplace for virtual agents (VA) or chatbots to automate vital business functions, once only performed by human employees. As businesses grow, one of the most challenging questions modern leaders face is, should we hire more human employees or explore automation using artificial intelligence (AI)? The fact of the matter is that too many human employees drive up overhead, while too few limit growth opportunities.

Now, I’m not suggesting in any way that technology replaces humans 100 percent of the time. What I am suggesting is that there are circumstances where technology, including AI, has become a substitute or complement to human labor, without fail, ultimately allowing human employees to focus on more complex projects. The next time you consider hiring a new employee, examine the tasks you want them to perform.

• Are they repetitive?
• Does the knowledge they need to perform their job already exist on your website or in a database or knowledge artifacts across your organization?
• Will they triage before passing to a more skilled agent?
• Will they answer frequently asked questions (FAQ)?
• Will they provide navigation guidance through a self-service interface?

The above actions are all perfectly suitable for a VA. Perhaps, you can start by identifying the low-impact, automatable functions that all of your employees perform, and assign them to a VA. The opportunity to drive self service is even greater as you enable an intelligent VA with advanced technologies to effectively respond to support requests across the organization, which can learn and optimize over time.

A study performed in January 2019, Inferring Work Task Automatability from AI Expert Evidence, surveyed 150 academics and industry experts in machine learning, robotics, and AI. According to the research, mail routing, recording shipping information, and estimating costs of products, services, or materials are among the most automatable work activities. Interestingly enough, two of the most automatable occupation groups include office support and sales.

If your support agents are spending even 30 minutes per day answering common FAQs, multiply that by the number of agents, and you will find that a VA will save you and your employees hours or even days per week.

Once you have decided that augmenting your team with a virtual agent will boost user experience, productivity, and efficiency, you need to hire or select the best agent/technology. After all, virtual agents will represent your company. This is a point that is often overlooked. When you leverage a chatbot on your website or across your communication channels and it represents a poor user experience there is a cost. People become frustrated. This impacts satisfaction rates, return visits, customer retention, etc.

Hiring digital labor is not just about productivity, it provides opportunities for the rest of your team to develop. Offloading repetitive tasks frees up time for training and more strategic, higher value initiatives. At the end of the day, a Virtual Agent may improve team morale and job satisfaction in addition to saving you money.

Nancy Bhagat
Nancy is a seasoned marketing and business executive with deep global, cross audience, product and software experience. She is passionate about technology and innovation, and currently serves as the Chief Marketing Officer at Serviceaide, Inc. Previously, Nancy held executive positions at TE Connectivity, Intel, Macromedia and CA Technologies.

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