For years now, economists and business leaders have struggled to solve a problematic mystery: technology is improving the way work gets done, but why isn’t productivity growing along with innovation?
Luckily, for those in the call center industry facing their own productivity issues, solutions are available—and more are on the way. The AI technology that’s finally gone mainstream is revolutionizing the work inside the call center. And it’s delivering results, with Accenture predicting AI alone will increase contact center productivity by 35% in the US over the next two decades.
Amid this sea change, it’s solutions like call center virtual agents that are leading the way. [To clarify, this is not to be confused with managing a remote agents for a “virtual call center.“] Read our guide to virtual agents, and see why the future is bright for these AI solutions and the call centers that deploy them as we cover:
- What are virtual agents?
- Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs) vs. Chatbots
- Virtual Agents vs. Virtual Assistants
- Will virtual agents replace human agents?
- How virtual agent technology unlocks call center efficiency
What Is a Virtual Agent?
The term “virtual agent” often serves as an umbrella term for any artificial intelligence-based programs that can communicate with humans via text or voice-based interfaces. This can include programs like virtual assistants (think: Siri and Alexa) and chatbots. However, within the realm of customer service and call centers, virtual agent typically refers more specifically to intelligent virtual agent, or IVA, solutions.
Virtual agents like IVA harness natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithms to understand user queries and respond in a way that mimics human conversation. This way virtual agents can be trained to handle a wide range of tasks, including everything from answering frequently asked questions and providing product recommendations to scheduling appointments.
But virtual call center agents—those driven by IVA technology—can do much more than this. Instead of merely handling simple customer service tasks, they can actually augment the work of agents and become an integral part of sales teams. See how virtual call center agents compare with other technologies that get lumped in with the term “virtual agent’ below.
IVA vs. Chatbots
Both IVA and chatbots are conversational AI tools designed to interact with users in a natural language conversation. However, there are a few key differences between them:
- Scope of conversation: Chatbots are usually designed to handle specific tasks, such as answering frequently asked questions or helping users book a hotel room. In contrast, IVAs are designed to have more open-ended conversations and can handle a wider range of topics. IVA’s like Convosos are being trained to handle complex conversations and walk potential leads through qualifying questions.
- Intelligence: IVAs are typically more advanced than chatbots when it comes to natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) capabilities. IVAs can understand and interpret more complex user queries, and can also learn from previous interactions to provide more personalized responses.
- Personalization: IVAs are designed to provide a more personalized experience for the user. They can take into account a user’s previous interactions, preferences, and context to provide more relevant responses.
- Interface: IVAs can be integrated with various interfaces, such as voice assistants, mobile apps, or web-based chat interfaces. Chatbots, on the other hand, are usually limited to text-based chat interfaces.
Virtual Agents vs. Virtual Assistants
Likewise, intelligent virtual agents are frequently mistaken for virtual assistants. Adding to the confusion, some IVA solutions are even termed “intelligent virtual assistants.” Here’s what actually separates intelligent virtual agents and virtual assistants.
- Integration: Virtual assistants are typically integrated with specific platforms or applications, such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. IVAs, on the other hand, can be integrated with various interfaces, such as call center software solutions used by inbound, outbound, and blended call centers.
- Functionality: Virtual assistants are designed to handle specific tasks or functions, such as scheduling appointments, setting reminders, or ordering groceries. IVAs, on the other hand, can handle a wider range of topics and have more open-ended conversations with users.
- Intelligence: As with chatbots, IVAs are significantly more advanced than VAs when it comes to natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) capabilities. IVAs can understand and interpret more complex user queries and responses, and can also learn from previous interactions to provide more personalized responses.
- Context: IVAs are designed to maintain context throughout a conversation, meaning that they can understand and remember previous interactions with a user. VAs may be designed to handle specific tasks, but they may not always be able to maintain context across multiple interactions.
Will Virtual Call Center Agents Replace Human Agents?
The question of whether AI will replace call center agents is a common one—and one we’ve covered before. Despite the growing complexity of AI tools and intelligent virtual agents, the answer is a flat “no.”
Although virtual agents are increasingly capable of some pretty incredible things, it’s very unlikely they’ll completely replace call center agents. Call center AI solutions excel at augmenting the work agents do—making their jobs easier, efficient, and effective. This makes the virtual agent a more of a supplementary tool to improve efficiency.
How Virtual Agents Will Unlock Call Center Efficiency
By taking on the tedious, the repetitive, and the time-consuming, virtual agent solutions can play an important role in scaling call center operations. Here are three key ways they’re able to drive exactly the kind of efficiency that’s essential for rapid, sustainable growth.
1. Accomplish More with the Same Agents (and for Less)
With their ability to handle complex customer interactions, both customer service teams and outbound call centers can free up their agents to do more, providing a boon for productivity.
You can deploy virtual agents to dial and qualify aged leads, while your human team focuses on reaching your warmest leads. AI handles the most tedious and least profitable tasks for less, while your team as a whole achieves greater lead penetration. It all adds up to more calls, more contacts, more sales—and above all, more growth.
2. Enable Agents to Focus on What’s Most Important
This last point can’t be understated from an efficiency standpoint.
Your agents get to spend more time doing what they want to do—having conversations and closing deals. They’ll enjoy their time on the job more, and crucially for the sake of the business, they’ll stay in rhythm and build sales momentum.
3. Boost Contact Rates with an Omnichannel Approach
Moreover, with an IVA solution that can work across voice and text channels, you can support an approach that’s not just automated, but omnichannel.
By lowering your call volume, you can avoid call blocking and flagging and make even more contacts with leads. And with AI and your agents efficiently driving more contacts and more conversions together, your operation will move in an upward trajectory.