Yes, chatbots AND virtual agents, not chatbots OR virtual agents. In our conversations with those in the contact center, a question we hear often is “Chatbots OR Virtual Agents”? To which we say, yes! Chatbots and Virtual Agents may sound as though they are synonymous, however, they serve very different purposes.
With the advancement of AI fueling the capabilities of both, it would be beneficial to dive into why they are different, the purposes they serve, and how contact centers can benefit from each of the technologies.
The Many Varieties of Chatbots
Chatbots are there, ready to give you directions, answer some FAQs, or set up an appointment. They interact with users either through text (like on websites) or voice commands (think Alexa or Siri). Now, while some of them can hold pretty decent conversations, they’re not about to pass any major intelligence tests anytime soon, or are they?
The essence of chatbots is that they’re reactive. They wait for you to initiate a conversation, and then respond based on their pre-programmed knowledge. They’re not really learning or evolving with each chat. They are as good as you make them. The key word is “programmed”.
There is no one-size-fits-all Chatbot, which is a good thing as they serve very different roles in the contact center.
Here’s a look at some prominent chatbot categories:
Basic Interactors: Scripted and Menu-Based Chatbots are the foundational chatbot types that operate on a set decision tree logic. They pose pre-set questions to users, leading to the final response. Menu-based versions further guide users through selection lists to narrow down the bot’s understanding.
Keyword-Centric Bots: Slightly more sophisticated, these bots rely on recognizing keywords from user queries. They mesh predefined keywords with AI to craft apt responses. However, they can falter when faced with keyword repetition or redundant queries.
Hybrid Conversationalists: A fusion of menu and keyword-based bots, these offer users both direct answers and menu-based selections, catering to a more expansive range of user interactions.
Intuitive Experts: Contextual Chatbots Standing at a higher complexity tier, these bots are data-driven. They leverage AI and ML to recall past user interactions and evolve over time. Rather than keywords, they lean on the context and nature of user queries to refine their responses.
Voice-Driven Chatbots: Representing future tech, these chatbots understand and respond to voice inputs. With the help of voice recognition and text-to-speech APIs.
The Role of Chatbots in Modern Business
E-commerce Support: Chatbots in online shopping spaces can answer routine product queries or provide after-purchase details like shipping costs and timelines.
Customer Service Enhancer: For common queries, chatbots can offload repetitive tasks from service agents, routing complex issues to humans only when necessary.
Digital Personal Assistants: Big tech players like Apple and Google have their versions of virtual assistants, blending the line between personal assistants and chatbots.
Revamping Business-Customer Interaction with Chatbots In today’s digital age, customers crave round-the-clock availability and value experience as much as product quality. Chatbots, offering 24/7 support, can mitigate wait times, personalize interactions, reduce friction points, and enhance brand personality.
Why Businesses Should Embrace Chatbots
- Efficiency: Capable of handling multiple user interactions simultaneously.
- Cost Savings: A one-time investment in a chatbot can be more economical than developing apps or hiring additional personnel.
- Proactivity: Unlike traditional passive interactions, chatbots can initiate and guide conversations.
- Insightful Analytics: Chatbots can provide valuable feedback, tracking user behavior and purchasing tendencies.
- Global Reach: With multilingual capabilities and 24/7 availability, chatbots can cater to a global audience.
Stepping Up the Game with Virtual Agents
Virtual agents powered by AI and machine learning have the capability to cure much of what ails contact centers today. Imagine the best of chatbots that learn as they go. Getting better with every conversation or chat. Thanks to advancements in AI, these agents can really understand your intent, engage in more dynamic interactions, and, yes, they can even remember things from past chats.
If you’ve ever chatted with a bot and felt like it genuinely understood your frustration or joy, you’ve probably dealt with a virtual agent. They adjust their responses based on the tone and mood of the conversation. That’s the magic of natural language processing.
Natural Language Understanding Is Key to Virtual Agent Success
If you speak a foreign language, you quickly realize that how we are taught in school is very different than how people actually speak with each other. That is why conversational language is so important. With chatbots, how a question is phrased is important while virtual agents are able to use logic to decipher the root of the question in fractions of a second.
The intelligent virtual agent from Five9 is a great example of Natural Language Understanding (NLU) implemented correctly for a great customer experience. Customers want convenience and quick accurate answers, which virtual agents can deliver.
How Chatbots and Virtual Agents Can Enhance Your Customer Experience
A decade ago, chatbots were seen as an inconvenience because they largely lacked understanding & logic. The evolution of logic coupled with customer familiarity has created an opportunity for contact centers to implement cost-effective solutions. A few of the reasons to embrace these technologies are:
- Happy Customers: Quick answers mean satisfied customers. Whether it’s a chatbot handling simple queries or a virtual agent delving deeper, your customers get timely solutions.
- Engaged Employees: Free your team from mundane tasks! Let them focus on intricate issues and foster genuine customer relationships.
- Easy Integration: Many of these solutions can be plugged into your existing systems without a hitch.
- Smooth Operations: Critical updates are seamless, ensuring your chatbot or VA is always ready to assist.
Taking the Plunge: Chatbots or Virtual Agents?
Remember we are a big fan of both, and many of our customers have implemented both chatbots and virtual agents as they serve different purposes. Some answers are black and white, while others can be more fluid as times change.
At InflowCX, we have always started with the most important piece of the equation, which is your business. Contact our team of experts and see why a human, customer-centric approach is a great way to navigate the world of AI and virtual agents.