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How to successfully implement a virtual assistant

Virtual assistants (VAs) are now commonplace in customer interactions with contact centres. They...

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Virtual assistants (VAs) are now commonplace in customer interactions with contact centres. They can help to improve customer experiences with swift and accurate responses to common queries, and they reduce the burden on contact centres by diverting interactions that would otherwise need to be handled by a human agent. They also improve the employee experience by allowing agents to focus their attention on more complex, interesting problems that customers genuinely need human support to overcome. However, successfully achieving these benefits is often challenging and too often they create frustration for customers and agents alike. We suggest the following approach to successfully embed your virtual assistant and deliver sustained results:

Control your initial scope

In an attempt to realise benefits quickly, it can be tempting to apply a virtual assistant across a broad range of interactions immediately. However, if applied incorrectly across too many interactions, it risks creating disjointed experiences, alienating customers and reducing satisfaction. Instead, you should apply a virtual assistant to a tailored selection of interactions that can be effectively controlled and the outcome measured, before expanding across customer journeys. The most appropriate interactions to start with will differ from business to business and industry to industry, but focus should be put on high volume repeatable interactions that require the same messaging and tone.

From this point you can learn, adapt and apply the VA across a broader range of more complex interactions, increasing the effectiveness and accumulating the benefits in a sustainable way.

Apply your virtual assistant selectively

In a desperate attempt to deflect contacts away from agents, organisations often apply virtual assistants to complex interactions that are not suited to automated responses. This inevitably fails to resolve the customer issue and the contact still needs to be managed by an agent, all the while reducing customer satisfaction. To counter this, focus should be on interactions that the virtual assistant can support as well as, if not better than, human agents. Virtual assistants can often respond more quickly, more accurately and more consistently than human agents. However, they struggle in complex, nuanced interactions that require rapid adaptability and emotional intelligence. Therefore, virtual assistants should be applied selectively to repeatable conversations that can be contained within a single interaction, such as signposting information or providing details about a previous transaction.

Measure and adapt

Starting small and applying selectively, gives you an opportunity to learn about the effectiveness of your virtual assistant before adapting and adopting it across a broader set of your customer interactions. To assess the full impact, you should measure the effect of the VA on customer satisfaction, as well as contact volumes related to the journeys you have applied the VA to. Effective quantitative metrics include ‘containment rate’ (how many interactions do not require additional follow-up from the customer), ‘customer effort score’ (how easy the customer found the journey), and ‘customer satisfaction’ (how satisfied the customer was with the interaction). Qualitative feedback can also be gathered through surveys to understand customer satisfaction with the VA in more depth, including the tone of voice applied through the VA. Collecting and analysing this data is time-consuming. However, it is critical to building sustainable benefits, since it enables you to adapt and fine-tune the VA, before applying it to a greater selection of your customer interactions.

Successful implementations of virtual assistants require patience, caution and consistent evaluation. By starting small, applying selectively and constantly measuring the effectiveness of the VA, you will be able to create a virtual assistant that improves customer satisfaction, reduces unwanted contacts and improves agent engagement.

If your organisation needs help in your contact centre or with employee and customer experienceget in touch to speak with an expert.

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