Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Virtual Agent Tips and Tricks: Near Field Communication, Digital Payments, and Virtual Agents in Your Favorite Store?

New technologies are developing to create unique experiences for customers; Near Field Communication (NFC) is one of those technologies. NFC allows companies to know when you are in the store and monitor your interactions with different products. These “sensors” give companies the ability to provide you with a personalized experience. Here is an example from an article written by David Marcus, President of PayPal, about Near Field Communication and wearable devices…

“For example, we have a pilot running in our on-campus Starbucks that combines Beacon, with an app built for the Samsung Galaxy Gear 2, and Gear Fit devices. Walk into the area covered by the Beacon, your watch notifies you you've checked-in, the barista, greets you by name because your photo shows up on the point-of-sale system, and when she rings you up, you get another push notification. Tap on the watch to confirm the payment, and go. This is one of the most transformative payments experience I've had. No wallet. The phone never leaves my pocket. And I'm in control” (Three Trends that MightTransform the Retail Payments Experience).

This example combined NFC and wearable technology to create a completely personalized shopping experience. In the future, Virtual Agents will be incorporated into virtual retail experiences - For example, if you are interested in buying a router, you can scan the box and a Virtual Agent will pop up on your phone to tell you everything you need to know about that product, acting as a personal “shopping advisor”. While this is happening, your data (interactions with different products) are being sent to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for sales associates to interpret your history and cater promotions or messaging specifically to your interests/needs. 

There is a lot of controversy surrounding NFC, specifically related to security issues. What is your opinion on NFC? Would you opt to share your 'in-store' activity resulting in a more personalized experience? 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Virtual Agent Helps Handle Call Volume Peaks During Tax Season

As always, tax season is a stressful time, full of questions and concerns. It is also a time that tax accountants, stock managers, and the IRS get a high volume of calls flooding call centers about similar questions. Not only does this cost a pretty penny for the company answering the phones, but it also wastes the time of the consumer because they have to wait on hold until an agent is available to help them.

This season, Penny, a Virtual Agent from a leader in global stock transfers, helped to reduce the volume of phone calls/emails to their call center by answering questions regarding taxes. The top question asked this month was, “How do I get my tax statement/1099?” In addition to looking at the top trending questions, we compared this month’s number of interactions to a previous month’s and found a significant increase of over 20% more interactions.

Virtual Agents benefit the customer because they won’t have long hold times, and also benefit the company because the cost of support does not sky rocket during peak seasons. Virtual Agents like Penny also increase Customer Satisfaction and loyalty by providing quick, consistent, and compliant responses. 

Virtual Agents can help reduce traffic to the call center during tax season, and also during Christmas/holidays, health care reforms, company promotions, etc. When you need a quick response to a question, it is best to try self-service options first before waiting to get in contact with a live agent via phone or chat. 

How does your company handle spikes in volume at the call center? Do you promote self-service options first? 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The Progression of Smart Appliances

     Just about a year ago, LG talked about their futuristic refrigerator that has multiple “smart” capabilities. Since the fridge is connected to the Internet through a WiFi connection, it can help manage the contents inside. It includes features such as when your food is expiring, provides you with recipes that incorporate those perishing foods, creates an electronic grocery list of the items you need, and has the ability for you to order groceries right through the screen on your refrigerator (LG Smart Fridge Spots Spoiled Food, Orders Groceries).

     Today, most manufacturers of appliances are continuing in the direction of the future by connecting them to the Internet. Similarly, Google started their virtual shopping experience with Google Shopping Express. So many new technologies are enhancing the user experience with traditional items. For example, you may not even need to go to the store anymore; your fridge will tell you what you need, communicate with an app like Google Shopping Express, and automatically order it for you.

     The future of smart appliances is looking bright and adding a Virtual Butler to the mix will further simplify the experience of the Internet of Everything - i.e. coffee machines, washing machines/dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, etc. The Virtual Agent comes into play to help manage all these appliances from one user interface. Instead of having to go to multiple apps, you can go to a "Siri-like" Virtual Agent and be able to turn on the washing machine that you forgot to turn on in the morning from your phone and in the same moment turn off the coffee pot that you forgot that morning as well. 

     If a Virtual Butler was within your arm's reach today, what would you use it for? Can you imagine a world where the butler provides troubleshooting, support, and sales advice in the same user interface that you use to control your connected home and devices? 

Happy Throwback Thursday!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On-the-Go Virtual Agent: Trusted Brand Launches Mobile Virtual Agent

                           Reference: Mobile Apps Overtake PC Internet Usage in U.S.

Internet and App usage on mobile devices is continually growing and has already exceeded PC Internet usage in 2014. "Mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the United States in January. Apps made up 47% of Internet traffic and 8% of traffic came from mobile browsers, according to data from comScore, cited Thursday by research firm Enders Analysis. PCs clocked in at 45%" (CNNMoney). Consumers are using their mobile devices for virtually everything now; shopping, looking up directions, banking, etc. Furthermore, users now have access to their smart devices via their mobile applications. It seems like having a mobile strategy for your company is required in today's world, instead of just a bonus feature.  

For example, one of the top providers for telephone service in the North East Central States, recently enhanced their mobile support presence. They estimated that about a quarter of their users are mobile, and they wanted to adopt practices that will cater to the needs of these users, as well as PC users. One way they responded to customer demand was by launching a mobile version of their Virtual Agent. Now that the Virtual Agent is easily accessible from mobile phones, users can get the solutions to their problems from the palm of their hand. 

Is your company mobile friendly? What are some of your best practices within the mobile scope?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Virtual Agent Tips and Tricks: Leading Analyst Predicts Top Customer Service Trends for 2014

A few months back, Kate Leggett (Principal Analyst at Forrester) wrote a blog titled “Forrester’s Top Trends for Customer Service In 2014.” She suggested 12 new developments to adopt this year to keep customers satisfied and coming back to your business for more. Here are just a few of her tips that really hone in on how to provide over the top customer service.

“Trend 1: Customers Demand Omnichannel Services”
noHold's opinion:
People like to have multiple options when it comes to customer service. Although voice is still the most used channel of communication, it is still important to offer other preferred channels, such as self-service, to balance out the company’s support ecosystem.

“Trend 6: Knowledge Will Evolve from Purely Reactive to Giving Advice”
noHold's opinion:
It is going to be crucial for your company to invest in a knowledge management solution this year. “67% of consumers use web self-service to find answers to their questions” (Forrester's Top Trends for Customer Service in 2014). Since customers prefer self-service, it is important to have the company’s knowledge easily organized, shared, and analyzed so people can find the right solutions on their own time, quickly. Analysts foresee an increased use in Virtual Agents to support a more natural conversation. This will help create an enjoyable experience for the customer, instead of sending lengthy, irrelevant documents.

“Trend 7: Decisioning Will Power Offers, Actions and Connections”
noHold's opinion:
Predictive analytics is a growing trend this year. Brands are analyzing what you look at and your past purchases to try and predict what it is that you would want/ need. Predictive analytics is a great resource for cross-selling/ up-selling. For example, if someone buys something online and encounters  a problem, they can pull up the Virtual Agent, get the answer they need and the Virtual Agent will be able to provide them with the right content personalized for them.

“Trend 10: The Agent Experience is No Longer an Afterthought”
noHold's opinion:
Another top trend for this year is to increase Contact Center agent efficiency by simplifying their work space. One way to accomplish this is by implementing a Virtual Agent into the Contact Center directly. By doing this, your company will improve the Average Handle Time (AHT) per phone call, increase consistency, improve churn, and even new trainees can effectively give solutions to customers with the help of the Virtual Agent.

These are just a few of the top trends talked about in this article; there are many more predictions that can help your company exceed your customers expectations. To read the full blog, click here.  

How do you plan to keep customers satisfied and increase loyalty? 


Monday, April 14, 2014

Creating an Excellent Customer Experience with Virtual Reality Technology

There has been a lot of talk circulating the media about Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR, the company that developed the virtual reality headset called Oculus Rift. Most people consider virtual reality technology to be specifically for gamers only, so there is a lot of confusion as to why Facebook wanted to invest into this company. According to an article from nojitter.com, Oculus Rift: The Future of Customer Experience, “The clues to why Facebook made this investment lie in what else Zuckerberg had to say in his announcement. Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the Internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. Is this what the acquisition was all about--chasing a dream? Is it possible that this $2 billion bet is not about ‘science fiction,’ but will instead be part of bringing the ‘future to the world, and to unlock new worlds for all of us,’ as Zuckerberg concluded?

It is apparent that as time progresses we are adopting new, more immersive technologies every day. For example, holographic images are becoming more wide spread. Holographic avatars are used as “greeters” in airports or retail stores, providing individuals with a warm welcome and pertinent information to their visit. Holographic keyboards for your smartphone are also gaining popularity. We can bet it is not going to stop there, though; Facebook, along with trusted analysts, envision a future that completely immerses reality with virtual reality. Here is a video from CORNING, the world leader in specialty glass and ceramics, demonstrating what such a world would look like.

This idea posed in the video above of an interactive world does not seem too far off. In fact, for many years companies have already been using “virtual” technology to enhance their customer’s experiences. Virtual Agents(VA's) are a great example of such technologies that provide the desired interaction the consumer wants, while keeping costs down, and increasing satisfaction. Not only do VA’s offer exceptional customer support, but they are also used to augment ecommerce sales. For more information on Virtual Agents for Sales, please click here.

Our reality is continually being enhanced with technology. Do you think Facebook has validity in investing in what is considered to be a “niche” market? How do you feel about blurring the lines between virtual reality and actuality? 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday: According to a Leading Analyst Firm, 50% of Online Self-Service Will be Via a Virtual Assistant

     In the early days of the Internet, CallCenter.com published an article, "What’s in a Name? noHold Rebrands Self-Help Software." This article was written back in October of 2001 (just about 13 year ago) sharing the multiple benefits of using a Virtual Agent. One of the paragraphs cites compelling predictions about on-line service for 2005....

“If cost savings aren't enough to sell you on the product, consider also that, according to Jupiter Media Metrix, the number of individuals seeking on-line service will jump to 67 million in 2005, up from 33 million this year.”

     When looking at the numbers of people seeking online service today, this prediction has been far surpassed. Billions of people are connected to the Internet and web-based customer support is quickly becoming the preferred channel for customer support. 

     The future of Virtual Agents is predicted to keep growing. According to a leading analyst firm, “By 2015, 50% of online customer self-service search activities will be via a virtual assistant for at least 1500 large enterprises” (Intelligent Virtual Agents for SMBs, smbnow.com) Looking at the pattern from 2001 up to today, it is apparent that continuously more and more people are interested in web self-service. What will the future of Virtual Agents/web self-service look like in 10 more years? Will the current predictions be surpassed yet again?