Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Virtual Agent Tips and Tricks: What Are the Components That Create a Stellar Self-Service Experience?

Within the past couple of years, Personal Virtual Assistants have become household names (Siri, Watson, GoogleNow, Cortana, etc.). Although they are gaining popularity with the public now, noHold has been developing sophisticated Virtual Agents (VA) for over a decade. Based on our experience, and the satisfaction of our customers, these are just a few of the key features one should take into consideration when implementing a Virtual Agent: 

  1. Natural Language Processor (NLP). The NLP gives the VA the intelligence to provide the right answer to a question, even if questions are phrased differently, or if there is misspelled or morphed words. For example, "Show me a neworking sample" and "What is a network?" Due to the NLP, even though the questions are different and there is a misspelled word in one of the phrases, the VA will still provide me with the same answer. 
  2.  Multilingual Capability. Having a multilingual Virtual Agent is one of the differences between  becoming a global success and staying a local commodity.  Global support options should speak the language of your audience. 
  3. Reporting metrics. This feature allows you to listen to the Voice of the Customer (VoC), and gives the customer an opportunity to share how he/she feels about the experience. Flexible reporting options empower trusted brands to not only listen to the VoC, but also to customize the reporting they capture from each interaction. 
  4. An effective VA should be able to provide multimedia options within the solutions. For example, including images for visual learners, or embedding an instructional video to demonstrate how to fix the audio sound on your PC. Most people prefer watch a clip to see how something is done, instead of reading a long list of directions that can often be confusing. 
  5. Ease of implementation and ease of maintaining is another feature to look out for when learning about Virtual Agents. A short implementation process and easy administrative tools allow entry level associates (or even interns) to build and maintain a Virtual Agent. Some noHold customers utilize short overview videos to introduce groups a Virtual Agent to call center agents, employees, consumers and more. 
  6.  Another important feature that a Virtual Agent should have, is the ability to ask confirming questions. In a natural conversation with your peers, the listener often confirms he/she understands your request before responding or taking action. For example: "Where is the light?" Before answering, the other party might ask "Are you asking me where is the light in the kitchen?" By implementing this type of feature, you keep the conversation as close to a human interaction as possible, while avoiding a false positive response. 
  7. Clarifying Questions. The end user should be able to ask clarifying questions without confusing the VA. For example: During a natural conversation, I might use a term that my audience is not familiar with. In this case, my peer or audience should be able to stop me and ask "Before you proceed, please tell me what a Virtual Assistant is?" The ability to ask clarifying questions is imperative for the end user to have a successful dialog, and a smart self-service application should be able to mimic that dialog. Clarifying questions during a VA conversation empowers the end user to understand a term, and then continue naturally with the remainder of the conversation without a hiccup. 
  8. Change of subject. The end user should be able to abruptly change subject during the interaction without confusing the VA. Giving consumers the freedom to control which direction the conversation goes in is an important aspect to increasing Customer Satisfaction. 
  9. Integration with the customer experience ecosystem. A Virtual Agent can live within your existing call center, integrate with live chat, and/or other applications. Having open APIs gives companies the flexibility to create a custom Virtual Agent that is specific to the needs of the brand. In addition, seamless customer experiences increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, and have proven to reduce costs. 
  10. One of the most important features that a Virtual Agent should have is the ability to be diagnostic and interactive. Sometimes, users need help diagnosing or figuring out what the problem is. When there is an 'error' message, the customer may not understand how to troubleshoot the problem. With the diagnostic element, a Virtual Agent can help troubleshoot the problem and give interactive instructions to solving the issue. A Virtual Agent makes sure it understands you and you understand it, every step of the way.    
These are just some of the most popular best practices that have worked for our customers. The light-weight, flexibility of a Virtual Agent gives companies the power they need to create a stellar customer experience, from the beginning of the relationship all the way to supporting that relationship.  

What are the features that make your customer experience stellar? Does your company offer self-service options for pre-sales, customer service/care, and support? What is your strategy to creating a unified customer journey for end-users?