With the advent of intelligent machines and new software arriving; a chatbot is a piece of software that conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. Also known as, ‘Conversational Agents’, a chatbot simulates human conversation through voice commands or text chats or both. Chatbots can be offered via web-based applications or standalone apps. Today, chatbots are used most commonly in the customer service space. A virtual agent (VA) on the other hand is an extension of chatbots that can smartly manage complex interactions for a business. In this article we will answer a common question, are chatbots and virtual assistants different? Read on to find out.
According to IBM, up to 80% of routine customer service questions could be answered by a chatbot. Chatbots can be trained to respond customer service questions and provide fast solutions, 24/7. With the use of chatbot, many organizations can now enhance their customer service experience and satisfaction, thereby improving their response time, driving new sales, and reducing customer service overhead.
Chatbot applications can help streamline interactions between people and services, thereby enhancing customer experience. Chatbots also offers opportunities to improve customer engagement process and operational efficiency by reducing the total cost of customer service.
Chatbots can be categorized into multiple categories and many different business verticals such as E-commerce, Manufacturing, Travel, BPO, Customer Support and Contact Centre, Education, Entertainment, Healthcare, HR, Sports, and many more can take advantage of this emerging technology.
What also goes without saying is that, human intervention plays an important role in configuring, training and optimizing the chatbot system. Chatbots are not perfect. That’s why we need a bridge between text and voice. If chatbots don’t understand the human context; they can result in huge business losses, hence many organizations shy away from deploying chatbots on their applications and websites. However conversational Chatbots are able to understand context of the discussion and makes the conversation more engaging.
The lack in decision making is another drawback which Chatbot faces. Chatbots can’t differentiate between the good and the bad. Their poor decision making capability is one of the reasons why many businesses still rely more on having a live agent, who can establish a human connection with the customer, which is vital for any business.
With the rise of AI-assisted devices like Siri and Alexa and Google Home, we see many businesses are thinking of what AI-powered Virtual Assistants can do for their organizations.
A virtual assistant may seem similar to chatbots; however, at the outset they are very different. The technology behind virtual assistant allows them to be used on a much broader scale. It allows refined applications and technology which may be used for business in everyday use; thereby having a greater capability to redefine the way we look to interact with the customer. What early virtual assistants lacked were workable AI algorithms and machine learning capabilities. An up-to-the-minute virtual assistant, however, may even be capable of tasks like doing research and comparing products, among other quite surprising abilities.
With many businesses accustoming to the new ways in reaching out to customers, we can see a marked improvement in the response time which in turn reduces the waiting time; thereby maintaining a consistent levels of service quality.
Due to automation of contact with clients; there is a significant reduction in operational costs.
Virtual Assistants provide a high return on investments, due to their quick payback period and overall high profitability.
Due to automatic digital processes and optimizing digital performance, Virtual Assistants can considerably reduce the administration work.
Due to more available data, which in turn feeds analytics and statistics, Virtual Assistants can provide better insights into one’s client and their requests.
Reduce live agent workforce needs (But virtual assistants DON’T eliminate live agents — we still need them to oversee and train the A.I. powered agents.)
Boost agent productivity and reduce Average Handle Time
Many companies still have apprehensions or are discovering the unique challenges that frequently limit VA experience and success. Some of the common challenges faced and a probable solution are as follows:
VA’s may not be able to answer all questions accurately, as it may lack proper context and or personalization and they don’t understand the intent of the question.
Solution: To enable engaging conversations that result in an effective self-service resolution, which only happens with rigorous optimization, involving supervised and unsupervised learning.
Virtual assistants have difficulty in engaging the consumer with the right experience if not given the right behavioural targeting rules.
Solution: The key to successful real-time customer engagement is a sophisticated intelligent rules engine that leverages real-time analytics and business goals to choose between live agent, guides, or a virtual assistant on a per conversation basis.
Personifying the VA with an avatar may sometimes have an adverse effect as the VA may end up being flawed and untested design choices may end up in business losses.
Solution: Once a brand decides on its design and conducts A/B testing, it needs to keep in mind that, regardless of the design, content is the key to successful communication.
We need to first be clear and understand our business goals and strategy and what are we aiming to achieve by implementing VA’s or Chatbots. A well-designed and optimized self-service engagement will lead to substantial cost savings and customer satisfaction, whilst a poorly executed self-service engagement will increase expense and will in turn be bad for business. Riding the chatbot tide might be tempting and easy to implement. For simple to medium complex business need a chatbot is very useful. End users can interact with chatbot via different messaging and social platform like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp or SMS. Similar interactions can be achieved over a voice channel, too. Virtual assistants for business (unlike Alexa skills) are more complex to implement, However with Robotic Process Automation (RPA – which I leave out for another blog) integrated the virtual assistant can do lot of tasks unlike fetching and receiving information that a chatbot does. But with rapidly evolving and adaption of technologies, the lines will get blur and eventually the terms will be used interchangeably!
Author Bio: Amit is an industry professional with diversified experience in BPO’s, Banking, Education and Software Industry. Having a keen interest in writing, it was always on his bucket list to write and contribute meaningfully; and eventually with Are Chatbots and Virtual Assistants different?, it became a reality. When not engaged with writing blogs or posts, Amit loves driving, cooking and spending time with friends and family.