Any call center seeking to improve customer experience, cut costs and/or optimize their technology would be remiss in not considering an intelligent virtual agent (IVA). IVAs provide a modern, secure way to conduct business by combining artificial intelligence (AI) with natural language processing (NLP). Put another way: instead of leading callers through a menu, they can simply talk to your system naturally and get what they need.
In this article, we walk you through what exactly a virtual agent is and how it can improve your call center. Using real examples, we’ll show you how making the switch to IVA technology can mean sweeping positive changes for your call center and your company’s bottom line and customer satisfaction level.
What Is A Virtual Agent?
The most basic explanation of an IVA is that it’s taking a traditional phone interaction and automating it. However, today’s virtual agent isn’t going to make you share sensitive information out loud on a crowded bus, or require you to repeat yourself over and over. This is because AI allows virtual agents to better interpret a caller’s intent and direct them to the best next logical action in a way that wasn’t possible before.
In addition to its core technology, IVAs have the ability to integrate with databases, CRMs and other systems. This makes their capabilities limitless, expanding the various ways call centers can utilize them to improve their operations.
Benefits Of A Virtual Agent
Any task that requires numbers, text or speech can potentially be automated using IVAs. From payments to notifications and reminders, there are a wealth of ways to utilize these voice agents. Account inquiries, answering common questions and gathering customer feedback are other common ways IVAs are used to streamline operations and improve the customer experience.
Here are some of the top benefits of a virtual agent:
In the financial industry, customers are empowered with the ability to make payments or activate new debit or credit cards on their own. Payments also come into play frequently for medical call centers, another space where virtual agents can truly shine. And if you’re a utility call center, onboarding and account termination are now a breeze for virtual agents, so that your team can focus on the more challenging calls.
Major Financial Services Company (MFSC), for example, employed IVA technology to achieve a 90% automation rate. This meant that less than 10% of calls were being handled by live agents, improving their capacity to handle more complicated calls with ease. This was achieved in a few ways, including automating the handling of frequently asked questions and redirecting calls to the best agent for that particular caller. Aside from the cost savings that resulted from this change, MFSC enjoyed higher customer satisfaction scores.
Improved Customer Experience
When call centers are more efficient, customers benefit by having an overall better experience. It means getting answers about your insurance policy quickly and paying a credit card bill without getting put on hold or sent down an endless phone tree. It also can mean a deeper level of personalization, whether that’s a reminder to pay your bill or to let you know that your prescription has been refilled automatically and is ready to be picked up.
Convenience, reliability and flexibility are critical to good customer service, something payment services provider EML knows well. By using IVR for account inquiries, they were able to achieve an 85% call containment rate. This is because they started to automate balance inquiries, the top type of call their customer service representatives received.
PCI compliance was one of the top reasons EML selected Plum IVR – because customers care about security, too. A secure IVA platform also takes a great deal of the compliance burden away from the call center. For financial transactions, call centers will want a solution that’s PCI-DSS compliant; medical entities also will need to consider a HIPAA-friendly product.
Research and analytics company Second To None caters to Fortune 500 clients who have high expectations when it comes to security. Because they were able to build on Plum Voice’s PCI- and HIPAA-compliant platform, they could confidently execute surveys and notifications. This gave them the competitive edge when seeking new clientele.
While most of our benefits so far have been about the customer experience itself, collecting data on that experience matters as well. IVAs can be utilized to provide immediate feedback regarding customer concerns. This lets companies follow up with unhappy customers faster and improve overall customer retention rates. It also helps when training new agents.
Erie Insurance is one of our favorite examples of maximizing voice technology to measure and improve customer satisfaction rates. Taking the manual feedback process to an automated one empowered them to save on postage costs and boost participation rates, which immediately jumped 7% once web-based feedback was implemented. The Fortune 500 company leveled the playing field by adding a phone option for those not as comfortable with using online surveys.
Notifications and Alerts
While proactive communication can be a customer service perk, in certain situations it can literally be a lifesaver. Consider how much we rely on electricity, wireless internet and water. If any one of those utilities were to go out in your neighborhood, the provider no doubt gets inundated with calls. This type of communication also can be utilized internally with employees.
In a unique application of this capability, Aerospace Engineering Company (AEC) utilizes IVAs to allow employees to provide their status during emergency situations. With tens of thousands of employees scattered throughout the country, if disaster strikes the impacted employees communicate their status via SMS. The notification feature, in particular, ensures that employees know when they need to use the phone line, a back-up method also powered by IVA technology.
As customer service and security become increasingly important in business, companies will need to continue to rise to the occasion. Similarly, they must meet this challenge in a way that’s efficient and cost-effective. IVA technology checks all of these boxes and likely can accomplish even more tasks that are unique to your call center. Contact us to learn how we can put virtual agents to work for your call center.