Intelligent voice assistant will help businesses reduce the burden on their call centers while delivering improved customer service. Most businesses know about and understand that VoIP technology can give them increased flexibility and scalability, improved management and reduced cost. But few are aware of some of the more advanced features and potential that a virtualized telephony system presents.
One rarely explored or discussed is that of the voice assistant. While not strictly a part of the VoIP service, they are enabled by and designed to work with IP-based systems. This is a fast-growing area of voice technology and one that has huge potential. Used in the right way, the virtual assistant can transform call center activity and customer service levels. They are growing fast; Opus Research has projected that the global market for virtual assistant will be worth around $4.5 billion by 2021.
Smart and sensitive
Intelligent voice assistant is smart. Voice-sensitive systems that can be used as the first line of assistance for customers when they call an organization. They are designed to provide an experience for the customer that is as close as possible to a normal conversation. Many of us will have already had experience with them when we call our bank or credit card company and are taken through the standard security checks.
The key business benefit of intelligent voice assistant is that, instead of tying up an agent with qualifying details and simple questions, the voice assistant can do the initial work in a friendly and perfectly acceptable way, before passing the caller onto the response team. At this level, voice assistant is very effective and smart. But the use of artificial intelligence, advanced natural language, and voice synthesis technology, means their capability is much more sophisticated.
What’s driving adoption of intelligent virtual voice assistant is the impact that it can have in reducing the volumes of calls that have to be dealt with by agents. Webchat facilities are useful and have become popular – and many people like using them. But they simply shift the interaction from the agent’s headset to their screen. This might allow them to manage two or three conversations simultaneously, but it won’t reduce the overall volume of queries.
The devil and the deep blue sea
In any case, many people won’t want to use an online resource – they still prefer to wait until they can speak to another person. For these users, the experience of hanging on and waiting their turn before they can get through to an agent can be quite frustrating – and many people have developed a firm dislike of auto-attendant systems as a result.
Customers who don’t like using online systems and are not prepared to hang on until they can get through to the call center are thus caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. The aim of using a voice assistant is to break this deadlock and at the same time reduce the volume of calls that go through to agents.
They will be deployed in front of the VoIP system – just as an auto attendant would be – and manage the initial interaction with the caller. But instead of just instructing people to hold while agents are busy on other calls, the voice assistant can actively help them. They will, of course, need to be carefully programmed and populated with the right information but if this is done well, the smart virtual assistant should be able to deal with most routine or low-complexity interactions.
The voice assistant will thus reduce the burden on the call center and avoid customers having to go through the angst of having to hold on until it is their turn to talk to an agent.
As artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques advance, they will make intelligent voice assistant even better, and its use can be expected to grow. There is every reason to believe that users will accept and embrace them. The advances made with natural language and the growing acceptance of voice as a way of interacting with the web that is being fuelled by systems like Siri on Apple iPhones, Cortana on Windows 10 devices, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, is evidence that people are getting used to the idea of interacting with technology systems with voice.
Indeed, industry analysts predict that the use of voice assistant to interact with online services will become entirely normal within the next two to three years. Comscore has predicted that 50% of all searches will be performed by voice by 2020. Gartner has forecast that customers will be managing 85% of their enterprise interactions without human contact on the same timescale.
With an increased use of voice-activation by technophiles, the potential for intelligent voice assistant to play a much bigger role in managing incoming call volumes is plain to see. Used in front of and in harness with business VoIP systems, they promise to help organizations running response centers deal with large call volumes in a way that reduces the number of calls that agents have to manage and keep customers happy as well. In this sense, they have the potential to be truly transformational.
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