Human vs. Machines: How to Stop Your Virtual Agent from Lagging Behind


The use of AI technologies reached an all-time high in 2017. AI is now poised to enable contextual marketing and customer service across the entire customer lifecycle by autonomously creating, delivering and optimizing personalized customer engagement.


In fact, organizations that can deliver such interactions are able to retain more customers and get additional incremental purchases from them. This explains why the telecommunications industry has specifically sought out and uses artificial intelligence in the form of intelligent agents, more commonly known as chatbots or virtual agents.


What are virtual agents? A virtual agent is an avatar or computer that simulates a customer service conversation, leveraging artificial intelligence technology intended to streamline tasks, enabling users to engage more naturally through language.


Tools, technology, talent and time will evolve virtual agent capabilities from simple, preprogrammed decision-making entities to open-ended requests for help and services. Today, virtual agents are rising in popularity with humans because a query is sorted out quickly (49%)* and issues can be resolved at any time (40%). But human agents still do a better job at creating a rapport with the consumer and understand them on an empathic level.


Although virtual agents hold promise, they are very much in the early stages of their lifecycle. In other words, overly complex queries will often leave consumers feeling disappointed since these systems struggle to understand human context and intention. Some AI-powered virtual agent technologies are already in use today, while others will mature and become more useful in the coming years. Yet firms will need to assemble a host of artificial intelligence talent, like UI designers and AI maintenance executives, in Agile teams to design the next generation of natural language interfaces.




It’s important to note though, that AI expertise is some of the hottest and scarcest talent on the market, with new grads commanding salaries of $300,000, while experienced talent (to the extent that it exists) demands compensation packages in the seven figures. This isn’t scaring telecommunication powerhouses, thought, as they intend to hire AI designers (65%), data scientists and data analysts (58%), bot trainers (48%) and AI maintenance executives (45%) in the coming years. In fact, they’re being supported by the business with AI budgets set to increase by at least 5% over the next 12 months (68%).


Virtual agents are and will continue to transform marketing and customer engagement. While many firms do have some experience with conversations, that experience tends to lie in product support — not marketing, account services or commerce. Moreover, existing experiences were not designed to meet the needs and motivations that consumers have on the go. Developing conversational expertise for both voice and text will be a slower journey.


The AI revolution doesn’t mean technology will replace jobs. Instead, AI-powered services like virtual agents will automate workflows to enable workers to focus on more strategic tasks; 68% of respondents believe it will make customer services teams more efficient (e.g. speed, responsiveness and agility), and improve overall workforce productivity (61%). In other words, virtual agents are scratching the surface of what they can truly accomplish and are set to transform customer service, marketing and commerce in the coming years.


Read the full study, including detailed methodology.


End notes:
iAI Will Revolutionize Digital Experiences
*These statistics are from a Forrester study that was commissioned by Amdocs of more than 7000 consumers and 30 decision makers at Tier 1 & 2 communication and media service providers (CSP). The study focused on how organizations plan to use, upgrade and invest in virtual agents more commonly known as chat bots.



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