What are Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs)?

Overview of IVAs

Intelligent Virtual Agents

An intelligent virtual agent (IVA) is an automated version of a live customer service agent. It leads an intelligent conversation with customers, responds to their questions and performs adequate non-verbal behavior to guide and respond to customer requests. An IVA can also sense heightened emotion or frustration and transfer a customer to a live agent.

In essence, an IVA augments a live agent's job by handling the repetitive and mundane tasks so that they can focus on more detailed or challenging calls.

Virtual Agents Improve Customer Satisfaction

With the need to modernize business processes for efficiency and cost savings, more companies are implementing artificial intelligence (AI) into their organization. Some of the top reasons include improving operational reliability, data accuracy and ROI outcomes. IVAs top the list of customer service projects to implement.

This type of technology can be used to reduce the use of live agents by providing faster and easier access to the right data at the right time. From providing customers with insights about a product order to automatically canceling a financial transaction and issuing a refund, IVAs can provide customers with the information needed to fulfill their requests. This allows customer service agents to dedicate more time to specialized interactions and other tasks.

Capabilities of Virtual Agents

Expanding upon the technology of traditional interactive voice response (IVR) combined with nature language processing (NLP) and the integration of conversational AI, we are now able to create a level of communication capabilities similar to a live human agent. Using Conversational AI, IVAs can actually hold a conversation with the customer, understand their intent and read their emotions. Going beyond basic call flows, IVAs can dynamically make “choices” to directly help the caller – whether they need to change a reservation, make a payment or find out why a service outage is occurring.

How Virtual Agents Can Improve Customer Experience

Seamless Self-Service

By quickly determining a caller's intent, IVAs can shorten the amount of time it takes for them to get their desired outcome. Callers can quickly get the information they need or take necessary actions without the need to explain themselves multiple times to multiple agents.

Answer FAQs

By “training” your IVAs with a database of frequently asked questions (FAQs), callers can instantly get answers to these questions. This is a better customer experience than them waiting for a live agent who may not be as familiar with the multitude of questions that your call center is regularly asked.

Address Multiple Issues without Transfers

Sometimes, customers are calling with more than one issue. They may need to update their address, as well as make a payment. They may need to book a flight, but also want to find out how many frequent flier miles they have. Traditionally, this could involve talking to multiple live agents which means being placed on hold and/or being transferred from agent to agent.

IVAs are on-demand and programmed to know a vast amount of data/ information to answer a variety of questions. IVAs are able to take on various tasks from multiple departments quickly and efficiently. Using IVAs alleviates long wait times and transfers for customers.

With smart analytics technology, like Plum VoiceTrends, businesses are able to monitor the effectiveness of their IVAs and adjust the workflow between systems and expand their intents as needed to meet demand.

24/7 Support 

Managing live agents poses its own challenges, especially when it comes to scheduling and availability. Businesses may be short-staffed and need a way to fill in the gaps or quickly scale to meet customers' needs. Or, a business may only staff a contact center during typical business hours. Either way, IVAs can remain available at all hours, enabling customers to get service whenever they want or need.

Live Agent & Virtual Agent Hybrid Approach

There are benefits for using both live agents and IVAs. So, which should you use? Most businesses can easily utilize both because IVAs augment and don't replace the care and compassion of human interaction.

Use IVAs as the first point of contact. IVAs take care of simple or common issues and act as triage for more serious or complex needs. This makes live agents available to handle escalated or more complex calls. They can be dedicated to your most important customers, or callers who are experiencing complicated problems and need a human touch to resolve their issues

Click here to see examples of hybrid applications:

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