Last week, I presented “Five Clicks or Less: Building Virtual Assistants to Benefit Consumers” at CS Week with Oncor Customer Experience Manager Jerry Oliver. In the presentation, we shared our strategy for enabling a unique and consistent VA experience to empower a stronger overall customer experience.
Defining a Digital Virtual Assistant
A chatbot and a true digital virtual assistant may feel similar from the user perspective, but there are key differences behind the scenes. A virtual assistant (VA) is a tool that uses artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and machine learning to extract data from conversations and process it. Because of the AI foundation, VAs can complete tasks of varying complexity.
Before going into more detail about VAs, I want to pause to acknowledge the AI elephant in the room. There’s a lot of uncertainty around AI, particularly when it comes to job security. The goal of a VA isn’t to replace jobs. Rather, the technology should be implemented with the goal of assisting your customer contact agents by taking care of easy-to-solve tasks so they have time to deal with more complex issues. When deployed effectively, this reduces wait times for your customers and reduces call volume for your agents.
While the specific VA platform and development will vary from project to project, here are the five pieces of implementation advice I recommend to any company considering a VA:
1. Be prepared to make the investment. A quality solution is worth the price tag. While opting for an inexpensive software and implementation may be tempting, it’s important to view your VA program as a key component of your customer experience strategy. By investing in quality upfront, you will be able to avoid costly rework down the line. You also significantly increase the chances of high user adoption rates by ensuring that the software is intuitive to navigate and bug-free.
2. Take time to fine-tune the language prompts. You want to be sure that your customers and VA solution are speaking the same language. When developing your prompts, be sure to consider colloquial terms, common decision points, and historical contact center data. This will ultimately reduce frustration for your end-users, as the VA technology can quickly recognize what they are asking for.
3. Raise risks early. A major software implementation and process change has company-wide impacts: your call center agents will see a shift in their day-to-day tasks, your technology department will have a new tool under its purview, and your leadership teams will have a new element to incorporate into the holistic customer approach. Empower each of these impacted groups to raise any potential risks they see early in the planning process so you can go into the implementation phase with confidence.
4. Build across all channels. Does your company have a website? An SMS program? A mobile application? Interactive voice response technology? Your VA program can interface with customers across each of these channels. Should it? Evaluate your full customer communication landscape to make strategic choices about where your VA will be most effective.
5. Plan a robust support structure. Your VA program will require consistent maintenance to effectively respond to customers as your business changes. General business improvements–like introducing a new form of bill pay or debuting a new customer loyalty incentive program–will require updates to your VA. Plan for the known and unknown future-state of your company during the VA implementation phase by ensuring that you have a solid and responsive support structure.
Beyond CS Week
Customer experience is a journey. Some companies are at the beginning of that journey, and others are confidently executing an established strategy. No matter where you are today, the available technology solutions will continue to evolve in the coming years.
At Sendero, we want to ensure that you’re confident in any phase of your customer experience journey. If you have a question about making a VA part of your CX strategy, or aren’t sure where to start, fill out the form below to connect with one of our consultants.