What are IVAs?

Overview of Intelligent Virtual Agents

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 calls or tasks. This allows a live agent to focus on more challenging calls where customers need personal assistance.

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 to meet those end goals.

IVAs can be used to reduce the use of live agents or augment their services 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.

By focusing on how IVAs can augment and enhance a live agent's role, it opens the door for not only delivering better customer service, but lifting employee morale and productivity.

Capabilities of Virtual Agents

Expanding upon interactive voice response (IVR) technology combined with nature language processing (NLP) and the integration of conversational AI, businesses 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 explaining themselves multiple times to multiple agents.

Answer FAQs

By “training” your IVAs with a database of frequently asked questions (FAQs), callers can quickly get answers to these questions with an automated response. This is a better customer experience than waiting for a live agent who may have to look up or find the answer. In this type of situation, an IVA augments a live agent's role to free them up for more critical matters.

Address Multiple Issues without Transfers

Sometimes, customers are calling to resolve more than one issue. For example, they want to update their address, as well as make a payment. Or, they may need to book a flight, and also want to check their frequent flier miles balance. Traditionally, this meant being placed on hold and/or being transferred from agent to agent to get all the information.

IVAs are on-demand and programmed to know a vast amount of data/ information to answer a variety of questions. IVAs are able to handle various tasks from multiple departments quickly and efficiently. For customers, using IVAs alleviates long wait times and being transferred from live agent to agent.

24/7 Support 

Managing live agents poses its own challenges, especially when it comes to scheduling and availability. Some typically situations where IVAs are an enhancement to business operations are:

  • A business is short-staffed and needs a way to fill in the gaps
  • A business needs to quickly scale to demand because of a sales events, holiday rush, news release, etc.
  • A business staffs a contact center only during typical business hours and needs after hours support.

Whatever the circumstance, IVAs are available at all hours. Customers get the service they need whenever they want.

Analytics Make an IVA "Smarter"

IVAs need human intervention to help them improve and respond better to customer requests. With smart analytics technology, like Plum VoiceTrends, businesses are able to monitor the effectiveness of their IVAs. They can adjust the workflow between systems for improved efficiency and expand IVA intents as needed to meet customer demands.

Live Agent & Virtual Agent Hybrid Approach

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

Using IVAs as the first point of contact for quick and repetitive tasks augments a live agent's role. IVAs take care of simple or common issues and act as triage for more serious or complex needs until a live agent is available. Then, a live agent can handle an escalated or more complex call with a human touch.

Live agents are most valuable when they are dedicated to the most important customers, or callers who are experiencing complicated problems. Plus, they feel more valued when they are able to work with customers to bring meaningful resolution to issues.

Click here to see examples of hybrid applications.