What Are Virtual Assistants?
The definition of virtual assistant is incredibly broad, encompassing everything from humans working “virtually” to the ubiquitous Siris and Alexas to AI-driven tools that are part of larger business communications systems. Here we’ll focus on the role of virtual assistants in unified communications and contact center solutions and how they can enhance customer service — and build customer loyalty — throughout the entire customer journey.
Types of Virtual Assistants
A human virtual assistant is someone who performs administrative functions for clients virtually — i.e., remotely. These virtual assistants communicate with clients via phone, email, instant messaging, or some other collaborative software. They may do research, scheduling, data entry, or any other kind of work an assistant would do on-site for an employer.
Human virtual assistants have the advantage of being .. well, human. They can collaborate as a team, make independent decisions, adjust to circumstances on the fly, and they’re easy to talk to. But they primarily serve an internal function that doesn’t impact customer service, and they require food, rest, and time off.
An AI virtual assistant is a digital, personal software-based agent that assists in performing simple daily activities like setting clock alarms, scheduling an appointment, making calls, typing messages, and so on.
In the business world, AI virtual assistants combine access to business and communication data with automated actions that support today’s workforce. Tools available to virtual assistants include:
Natural language understanding (NLU) — Users can ask for what they need using only their voice. Additionally, NLU can help with real-time transcriptions of meetings or translating spoken conversations.
Computer vision — Advanced virtual assistants can use a camera to see who enters a meeting space, then adjust the room settings to match that person’s preferences or needs.
Automation — Virtual assistants can work with automatic triggers to deliver various types of support for customer service, e.g., pulling up data about specific customers or topics when requested by a team member.
Chatbots are automated programs used to interact with people via text or voice. This AI-powered software simulates human conversations and is primarily used by organizations to enrich customer service programs, allowing customers to clarify queries regarding a product, get product-related information, and more.
Both AI virtual assistants and chatbots have limitations. While NLU is getting better all the time, it’s not perfect. Likewise, there can be a lack of personalization or emotion that a human can provide. Customer questions that are too specific or are unclear can lead to misunderstandings. But because they’re always on, can handle huge amounts of enquiries, and a host of other factors, these digital solutions represent proven assets to deliver customer service.
Benefits of Virtual Assistants
Virtual Assistants as Part of a Unified Communications Solution
AI virtual assistants can be powerful tools for unified communications, allowing you to offer voice-enabled customer self-service, add intelligence to any conversation, and make your CX a competitive advantage.
In essence, virtual assistants let you augment your human team with a digital workforce. By using virtual assistants to quickly answer customer questions, initiate conversations, and more, employees are freed up to focus on their core competencies.
With a virtual assistant, a company can improve customer service by:
Handling high volumes of calls, especially during peak business hours or busy seasonal times like holidays
Eliminating long hold times for a real person when customers need quick answers
Capturing insights from verbal cues that can improve customer engagement and service
Improving the delivery of messages and targeting the right audience to ensure a better customer experience
Allowing customers to interact with the business any time, 365 days a year
Using AI and machine learning to create artificially intelligent conversational experiences; applications using voice and text can engage every caller in natural language
As humans have adjusted to interacting with AI virtual assistants, customers are comfortable speaking with non-human agents to learn more about products and services. An AI virtual assistant can quickly address every customer, enable and assist conversations to understand their needs, and execute appropriate actions.
Additionally, it allows businesses to use AI in place of a contact center, or even expand a contact center without increasing headcount — making it easier and more effortless than ever for organizations to maximize the efficiency of their service teams while delivering an exceptional customer experience.
Virtual Assistants as Part of a Contact Center Solution
Contact center leaders face a constant push to improve efficiency, cut costs, and boost CSAT, CES, and NPS scores. An AI virtual assistant in a contact center can provide 24-hour customer service with minimal human involvement, make it easy to expand contact center capacity without adding headcount, quickly resolve straightforward or common queries, improve first-call resolution, and much more.
Here are some key areas where an AI virtual assistant can really shine:
Inbound query resolution: Every day, contact agents field common questions from customers, like “Where is my shipment?” or “How do I make a return?” With a link to your CRM or ERP, a virtual representative can answer these questions 24/7, freeing agents to focus on high-value, loyalty-building interactions.
Outbound phone campaigns: Whether you are conducting a survey, qualifying leads, or executing a recall, a discreet and tactful virtual representative can get it done.
Business continuity: When disaster strikes, customers can still get service over the phone. A virtual assistant can handle calls in high-volume emergencies or while the queue is peaking.
Concierge or receptionist: Asking questions of a concierge or receptionist can be slow and frustrating. Long wait times are common as they prioritize calls. Automating the process with a dedicated “person” can make responses immediate.
How Virtual Assistants Can Optimize Your Customer Service
Tools for unified communications such as Vonage’s AI Virtual Assistant enable businesses to leverage AI to improve their business processes. Automating responses and addressing simple tasks through AI can transform the way businesses across all industries connect with their customers, driving cost savings and overall quality of service.
A virtual assistant can do things like facilitate voice-enabled self-service for customers, reduce call wait times, get straightforward queries immediately resolved, and boost customer satisfaction throughout the customer journey without involving a live agent or employee.
By understanding complex voice commands, a virtual assistant can complete a variety of tasks and provide more value and functionality to your customers. Businesses can create meaningful customer engagements by capturing insights through verbal cues about customers’ interests, questions, or issues, and then take appropriate actions to maintain customer lifetime value.
Discover how the Vonage AI Virtual Assistant, built on the Vonage Communication Platform, can modernize your customer engagement by providing conversational AI to address simple tasks and facilitate voice-enabled self-service for customers.