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Article : Virtual Agents - Friend or Foe?

#contactcenterworld, @puzzelsolutions

Intelecom’s own experience with customers tells us that the demand for self-service has never been greater. Consumers want to do business on their terms, as it suits them. New communications methods such as Web Chat are rising in popularity with a dramatic 82% increase expected in the next two years[1]. This presents contact centre managers with a real challenge as they seek to deliver exceptional levels of personalised customer service to an independently minded consumer community.


IVR – the foundation of self-service

Around for a long, long time, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology makes self-service possible. It is the routing system that helps manage fluctuating call volumes or enables customers to book a hospital appointment or pay their gas bill at any time without agent intervention. Crucially, it’s also the front door to the whole contact centre experience and, as such, has to be perfect. Get it wrong and risk losing both customers and your hard-earned reputation.

Fortunately, we’ve learnt a lot about how to get it right. Organisations should think ‘inside-out’ and really listen to their customers perhaps using their own customer satisfaction and email surveys or post IVR calls. For instance, if 80% of callers are requesting password resets, make that the first menu option.

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Enter the virtual contact centre

Many organisations are moving towards a virtual contact centre model with virtual agents. This is the next stage in improving self-service especially as consumers embrace social media and want to interact using their latest iPhones and mobile tablets.

But what are virtual agents? The first type are those who work away from the physical location of the contact centre either remotely at another location or, increasingly, from home. These virtual agents are, according to contact centre consulting firm Backus & Associates LLC,[2] "much happier with their jobs (as they don’t have to contend with the daily commute or worry about ironing their shirt), resulting in higher CSATs and quality scores". The companies who employ them often report higher agent productivity, lower attrition rates and reduced operations costs because they can expand their staff without impacting facility space.


"My name is Lucy, how can I help?"

The second type of virtual agent – and the one that has probably had the biggest impact on the contact centre – are the automated, computer-generated agents, previously referred to as avatars that pop-up on the screen when customers use visual communications methods such as Web Chat. Also called a virtual rep or v-rep, virtual agents are becoming increasingly commonplace in some industries such as travel, healthcare, and utilities.

When it comes to enhancing customer satisfaction, the International Customer Management Institute reveals that "more than 64% of contact centre leaders feel advanced self-service options such as virtual agents improve the overall customer experience".[3]


So what are the pros and cons of virtual agents?
Virtual agents balance automation and personalised service but are they right for your organisation?


Pros

  • 24/7 access – Customers can ask questions at 2:00 a.m. and get an immediate answer without waiting for the contact centre to open at 9:00 a.m.

  • Reduced wait times and call volumes - leveraging both artificial intelligence with a graphical representation, virtual agents can help customers quickly with their most common requests such as placing orders, locating information and making reservations.

  • Greater customer engagement and loyalty – a well-designed virtual agent can feel like a real live agent. Given a face and even a name, they boost the customer experience and strengthen brand loyalty.

  • Effective on boarding tool – new and training agents can hit the ground running because they have instant access to accurate information they can use to answer customers enquiries.

  • Business benefits - when a virtual agent is effective in guiding a customer toward the information they need in a way that is fast, efficient and enjoyable, the company is rewarded with reduced support costs and greater revenues through more effective self-service and happier customers.


Cons

  • Image – virtual agents can appear a little trite, especially in B2B industries where customers often expect a more formal, conventional approach to branding and customer interaction.

  • Exclusive, not inclusive – Tech savvy Millennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – will find virtual agents entertaining and interesting, whereas older customers might find them a distraction and, worse, a complete turn-off.

  • You can’t afford to get it wrong - otherwise you risk losing customers and reputation without having an opportunity to put it right.

Ultimately, contact centre leaders should blend the benefits of self-service and virtual agents with the human touch to meet the needs of all customers and the overall business.

[1] - Intelecom "Survey Results 2015: The Real Emerging State of the Contact Centre."

[2] - Homeworking and Happy - The Advantages of Virtual Agents

[3] - Using Intelligent Virtual Agents to Improve the Customer Experience

Today's Tip of the Day - Getting The Marketing Message Right

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Published: Friday, March 25, 2016

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2021 Buyers Guide Computer Telephony Integration

 
1.) 
AMC Technology

DaVinci
DaVinci provides Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) to a library of pre-built applications + UXiPaaS (User Experience Integration Platform as a Service) built specifically for contact centers. As contact center needs evolve, organizations need to have access to extend or create new functionality, without waiting to be a part of a software roadmap. Get the benefits of CTI within your CRM like screen pop, click-to-dial, screen transfer, speed dial and more, but future-proof your contact center so you can expand and integrate how and when you want.

2.) 
Call Center Studio

Call Center Studio
Call Center Studio is the world’s first call center built on Google and is one of the most secure and stable systems with some of the industry’s best reporting. It is one of the most full-featured enterprise grade systems (with the most calling features, one of the best call distribution, outbound dialing features and integrations—including IVR, AI Speech Recognition, blended inbound/outbound calling and includes Google’s new Dialogflow and Speech API. Call Center Studio is the absolute easiest to use (with a 10 minute setup), and is the price performance leader with lower equipment cost and less setup time.

3.) 
ComSys S.A.

CLink for CRM and Call Center Integration
CLink by Comsys is a middleware that connects in real-time the CRM and the contact center applications. CLink enhances the CRM with interaction management capabilities from the contact center that allow agents to work more productively across all communication channels.
Comsys is a provider of οmnichannel customer engagement solutions that assist companies around the world in delivering unique customer experiences. For the last 15 years, Comsys designs and implements complex projects for clients from the outsourcing, financial services, telecommunications, and retail sectors. Comsys enjoys strategic partnerships with technology vendors like Cisco®, Aspect Software®, and Microsoft® for the delivery of innovative interaction management and contact center optimization solutions.

4.) 
Consilium Software

Consilium UniAgent™
Today’s call centers need their agents to work more naturally, and respond better and faster. Here, we talk about the innovations Consilium has made with the latest desktop and mobile agent releases of the UniAgent™ CRM connector. From small enterprises to Fortune 500 companies and governments across 110 countries, UniAgent™ comes into action right at the moment of reckoning, making every contact center experience engaging and personalized, powered by simplified customer identification and anticipating customer needs.
UniAgent™ provides CRM integrations between all the Cisco contact center solutions (UCCX, PCCE, UCCE and HCS-CC) and over 20 CRMs, such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365...
(read more)

5.) 
IntraNext Systems

IntraNext Systems develops agent efficiency tools and data security software solutions for medium-to-large contact centers. Our Event Intelligence® Platform solutions include SmartCTI™, iGuard®, and SmartSIP™. SmartSIP is based on our patented SIP layer technology and provides a DTMF masking solution for VoIP environments.

6.) 
Megacall

CRM integration
CRM
We know how important it is for a business to obtain data from its customers and to manage them effectively, so we help small to large companies by integrating their CRM with the Virtual Switchboard.

This type of integration will simplify the work of your team and improve the management performance of the contact list and its information.

7.) 
NovelVox

NovelVox CTI Connector
NextGen Cisco Finesse, Genesys & Avaya Embedded CTI Connectors for Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, ServiceNow, Zendesk & more.

8.) 
PhoneIQ

PhoneIQ
What is PhoneIQ?
PhoneIQ is the modern cloud phone system and contact center platform built exclusively for companies on Salesforce. Our all-in-one cloud communications platform brings together power dialing, local presence, voicemail drop, Salesforce call routing, call recording and a complete PBX replacement that lives within your CRM. With support for desktop, mobile, and desk phones, PhoneIQ works seamlessly at the office or remote, logging all interactions in Salesforce and generating reports in real-time.

Best For
Companies using Salesforce and looking for a phone system, dialer, or contact center software that provides deep integration capabilities with their CRM and expert Salesforce support.

9.) 
Teckinfo Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

InterDialog UCCS
InterDialog UCCS - a robust contact/ call center software that helps organizations provide a seamless customer experience across all channels in the customer service journey. All interactions from various channels come to a single unified queue on the InterDialog platform. With unified view agents get to see all historical interactions , enabling him to give a resolution quickly. InterDialog UCCS is a comprehensive Contact/Call Center Software with robust CTI, Unified Q ( ACD), Reporting, Unified Agent Management, Administrator, Supervisor - Monitoring (Pmonitor)
 

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