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Article : Virtual Agents - To Bot or Not?

#contactcenterworld, @Synthetix_Ltd

AI software can play a powerful role when engaging with customers online. What does this mean for the Contact Centre? Neldi Rautenbach, Head of Marketing with Synthetix explains more in the following article.

The role of Artificial Intelligence in Customer Engagement

AI software can play a powerful role when engaging with customers online.

Every few years we eagerly anticipate the next big thing in the realm of Artificial Intelligence. Like computing, it’s hard to distinguish between classifications for AI, sometimes referred to as machine intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, or cognitive learning.

Artificial intelligence, in fact, is a broad term. In other words, machine learning, natural language processing, robotics, and computational intelligence all refer to a wide variety of algorithms and methodologies under AI.

Virtual Agent, Chatbot, Intelligent Virtual Agent, Virtual Assistant, Personal Virtual Assistant, or Conversational bot?

Google, IBM, Facebook and Microsoft have all made announcements this year about Intelligent Virtual Assistance. Advances in text analysis, natural language processing and automation are enabling many queries and tasks to be resolved without any human interaction. Gartner states that this combination of speech and Virtual Assistant technologies provides a strong customer service proposition. Offering more than just search, an Intelligent Virtual Assistant should enrich the quality of the customer experience and assist the customer throughout their online interaction.

As we are one of the pioneers of Virtual Agents as a concept - building our first versions in 2001 - it’s important to clarify the differences between Personal Virtual Assistants, Virtual Agents and Chatbots to understand their value to a business as AI has led to erroneous expectations, especially in terms of customer engagement.

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Personal Virtual Assistants

Google Now, Siri, Alexa, Cortana – There’s a new voice assistant in town and they are having a showdown. The hint is in the name.

Personal Virtual Assistants are friendly, helpful, personalised, can perform tasks and answer questions. This type of AI has been designed to be helpful and highly entertaining. They can have a voice, a face or Avatar.

In a personal capacity, there isn’t a big downside if the system misunderstands a command or responds with the wrong answer, but in a business sense, this would be critical.

Different accents, dialect, synonyms, or contradictory meanings can have speech recognition AI struggle to respond accurately.

Virtual Agents

Synthetix were creating virtual agents for companies like the BBC, Vauxhall, and Ford, using AI techniques comparable to Siri, Cortana and Google Now, before they became the norm. It’s true, our NLP (Natural Language Processing) technology has answered millions of customer questions by making sense of naturally (and sometimes, badly) worded questions.

The difference between a Virtual Agent and a Virtual Assistant however, is that a Virtual Agent is goal orientated, designed to perform detailed tasks or queries, much like a virtual employee with a specific job description. Like Virtual Assistants, Virtual Agents should be friendly, personalised, and conversational.

Although Virtual Agents are designed to mimic human learning, understand user intent, and to perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence such as speech recognition, NLP, decision-making or language translation, it should not be posed to be a real human. Automation can be a great customer service tool, however in a recent study by myclever, the ‘personality’ of a Virtual Agent barely registered with consumers – AI needs to be smart and effective first - witty and personable second.


A chatbot (also known as a talkbot, chatterbot, Bot, chatterbox, Artificial Conversational Entity) is a piece of software that conducts a dialog via auditory or textual methods. Chatbot programs are often designed to credibly simulate how a human would behave as a conversational partner, thereby passing the Turing test. However, simulating a human being doesn’t make for a more compelling customer service experience as Microsoft discovered earlier this year.

Chatbots live within in a social domain or messenger platform and are popular amongst millennials whom prefer these channels for customer support, shopping or to interact with a brand. Asking a chatbot a simple question will have it deliver a helpful response or carry out a simple administrative task such as making a reservation at a restaurant.

Chatbots are only as intelligent as they are programmed to be. Some conversational programs simply scan for keywords within the input, pulling a reply matched to the most similar wording pattern or matching keywords from a database. Other chatbots use AI techniques such as Natural Language Processing, rules, and decision trees to ‘understand’ intent and commands. It can be self-learning making it smarter through each conversation. In fact, the Facebook Messenger chatbot is learning increasingly more about the language patterns and questions asked by users globally.

Chatbots are also popular in smartphone app deployments. A popular category of smartphone app that relies on a chatbot is the dating sim or romancebot category. The 36 You Games app "Boyfriend Maker" and WET Productions Inc.'s "My Virtual Boyfriend" are popular examples.

Will Virtual Assistance replace the contact centre?

Imagine one affordable, intelligent point of contact that can efficiently respond to a limitless number of queries with relevant information, any day, any time. Why is it then that Virtual Agents haven’t replaced the contact centre?

None of the technologies mentioned is a ‘plug and play option. Consider the potential combinations of colloquialisms, questions and meanings that exists within everyday language. Although it advances every day, AI technology is not adequately advanced to understand all the questions put to them. In the land of customer service, every interaction matters and any investments in these types of technologies will falter if the user experience comes up short.

Programming the right features are key. Although these technologies can be powerful in engaging customers’ careful consideration should be taken for other methods such as an intelligent self-service tool powered by a knowledge-base might be quicker to deploy and prove effective.

Determine which technology is right for you – To bot or not?

#contactcenterworld, @Synthetix_Ltd

About Neldi Rautenbach:
Marketeer and customer experience advocate with a true passion and fascination with AI, especially the future of cognitive learning, NLP and the business prospects they create as Head of Marketing for Synthetix, one of the pioneers of Virtual Agents.

About Synthetix:
Company LogoSynthetix has been empowering companies with conversational customer engagement tools, powered by AI since 2001. The cloud-based software supports your customers and employees through the power of unified solutions that promote CX. With AI-powered knowledge management, self-service, chatbot and live chat tools that can seamlessly integrate, agents become more productive and customers receive an enhanced, optimised level of customer support and digital experience.
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Today's Tip of the Day - Channel Selection

Read today's tip or listen to it on podcast.

Published: Wednesday, January 4, 2017

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2021 Buyers Guide Computer Telephony Integration

AMC Technology

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.


CRM integration
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.


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


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.

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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