Virtual Agents: Looking at the Development of Self-Service

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By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Over the years the way in which customers and businesses communicate has dramatically changed, bringing new dynamics and expectations to those relationships. Along with the increasing number of engagement channels, has also come a change in organisations’ requirements for customer support software. In Developments in Customer Service Software, 1990s to 2015, Software Advice, takes a look at the developments in market trends and shares five key findings applicable to small and midsize businesses (SMBs) when looking for customer service software.

One key trend in the evolution of customer support is the development of customer self-service from basic FAQ pages in the 1990s to sophisticated solutions, such as virtual agents, being used today. According to a key finding of the report, “Self-service support channels have grown in popularity: they are now preferred by many customers, and help businesses save money by replacing more costly channels, such as phone support.”

Craig Borowski, a market researcher for Software Advice and author of the report, provided some additional thoughts on self-service:

“Self-service is a customer service channel that both companies and their customers appreciate. Companies save on the cost of providing live human support and, at the same time, customers actually prefer self-service to other channels. While customers prefer it, and will be more loyal to companies that offer it, this is only true if they can find the information they need quickly and easily. That last part is the challenge. Given the massive amounts of information that self-service channels make available, the biggest challenge is getting the correct article, FAQ or troubleshooting guide to the right customer right when he or she needs it.

Virtual agents play a unique and valuable role in helping self-service customers find exactly what they need. In many cases they’ve already demonstrated great value in improving self-service customer interactions, and, overall they’re due some credit for the success and growth of self-service. It’s very likely that virtual agents will play an increasingly important role in the future. According to a Gartner study, in 2014, “nearly 60 percent of customer service interactions required the intervention of a human support agent.” And they expect that figure to be cut in half over the next two years. Self-service, with the help of virtual agents, will make this change possible, saving companies on the cost of providing support and saving their customers’ time and patience finding it.”

As a self-service solution, virtual agents have become much more sophisticated over the years and now enable organisations to extend the self-service their customers have come to know and expect on their website to other channels, including social media, mobile and kiosks. This technology is also being successfully utilised within contact centres to support live agents, increase first contact resolution and decrease average handling times. When backed by the correct knowledge management platform, content for all channels can be easily managed, updated and approved in one place to keep the knowledgebase accurate, complete and up-to-date.

My thanks to Craig and the Software Advice team for providing the additional commentary on virtual agents. If you’d like to learn more about virtual agent technology and how these solutions can help your organisation provide 24/7 self-service support to customers, please request a live demo.

Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net