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Don’t be Afraid of Intelligent Virtual Assistants & the Help They Bring

Virtual assistants can offer an incredible amount of help to your customer care organization. Before we jump into that, let’s start by focusing on what a Virtual Assistant is—or better yet, an Intelligent Virtual Assistant.

An Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) uses input from the customer (or agent) to determine how it can best help them. Common ones are:

  • What are your store hours?
  • Where is the closest location?
  • What are the current benefits I’m eligible for?
  • Can I check my order status?
  • Can I change my appointment?
  • I’d like to update a ticket.

What makes them intelligent, in my opinion, is that a conversation doesn’t usually stop with that one question or request:

CUSTOMER: Can I change my appointment?
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: Yes.
CUSTOMER: How?
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: Log into your chart and look for your current appointment. Select a new time that makes sense to you.
CUSTOMER: Can’t you just do it for me?

And here we go. The rallying cry of pulling systems together on behalf of what is needed rather than going through myriad explanations and putting all the onus on the customer.

Here’s another one:

CUSTOMER: What is my checking account balance?
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: $150.00
CUSTOMER: Hmmm, we seem to be missing a 0 here. Can I talk to someone?
VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: Sure, call this number: 800-xxx-xxxx.

Now, we all know what happens next. The human agent receiving the call has no idea that I checked my account balance. They will start all the way at the beginning. First, they have to identify it’s me. Then they have to ask me a bunch of questions on things I may not remember to authenticate me.

Only then can I tell them what I needed.

Sounds not very intelligent, a waste of time, and a cause of frustration.

There is a better way:

CUSTOMER: What’s my checking account balance?
INTELLIGENT VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: Happy to give that to you, but first I need to identify that it’s you (which you’ve already done by signing in), but let me make sure it is really you (and someone didn’t take your phone). Hold the camera to your face as if you’re taking a selfie. Great! I have it, Kathy. You wanted your checking account balance?
CUSTOMER: Yes.
INTELLIGENT VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: OK, it’s $150.
CUSTOMER: Hmmm we seem to be missing a 0 here.
INTELLIGENT VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: I see a withdrawal yesterday for $1,000 from our ATM on 123 Main St. Does that help?
CUSTOMER: Oh yeah, I remember, my spouse needed cash. Thank you!
INTELLIGENT VIRTUAL ASSISTANT: You’re welcome. Thanks for banking with us. Goodbye.

In this last story, the connectivity to a couple of systems is what enables this interaction. In addition, we didn’t need to move the conversation to a human agent because enough information was provided to the customer. The customer could have transferred funds, as well, but—and this is really vital—if the customer needed to talk to someone, all the information on what transpired would be sent to the agent so they could review it with the customer on the line.

The human interaction would have gone something like this:

AGENT: I see you were with our banking virtual assistant asking about your checking account balance and a recent withdrawal. How can I help you?

You see, the customer was already authorized and the agent was informed. Here is where I do a little happy dance! All systems are coordinated and ready for take-off!

Good, intelligent virtual assistants are a great way to start your modernization journey. If created properly, the additional moves from good to great become a natural part of the process. The implementation then becomes weeks instead of many months to deployment, and each step along the way, you’re able to see benefits for your customers.

Continue reading the other posts in this blog series:

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About the author:
As the Senior Director of Customer Experience Strategy for ConvergeOne, Kathy Sobus leads a team with extensive experience in the contact center business and drives strategic alliances and partnerships with various vendors and providers. She is an expert in the area of customer experience and helps clients enhance their contact centers to more effectively respond to their customers’ ever-changing needs.