After a wave of pretty abysmal attempts in the early part of this decade, virtual chat agents pretty much disappeared from the scene. However, the past couple of years has seen a new wave of implementations of this customer-facing technology with some large-company implementations, including “Frank” on the Verizon website (Ask Verizon); “Louise” at eBay France (Votre conseillère virtuelle); and “Anna” at Ikea (Have a Question?). Virtual chat sits in the interaction spectrum between search and live customer service agents and combines natural language processing, conversational interactions, and an (optional) animated persona.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken to three different vendors in this marketplace — all of whom have seen an uptick in the their business over the past 12 months. The common themes expressed by all three — the ability to engage customers with a more conversational tone where questions are answered, rather than search results based on keywords presented; and common results of better sales and higher service call avoidance, indicate that virtual agents may make a good corporate “hire” in the right circumstances. Rough estimates of costs — about $0.25 per successful resolution of the customer problem.
So many of you came to the @CRMe09 conference where I spoke about the ROI of Social Media, in particular that derived from customer service. And a funny thing that happened there... Lithium had a booth in the exhibitors area and they had asked me to come and speak to people about my ROI model. So there I was ready to impart my wisdom. A man came up and saw the flyer on the table - it was for the Tweet-up. He picked up the flyer and asked me to tell him about Tweet-up.
This quarter I've started some research on knowledge management (KM) for the contact center and customer service. This is KM for both agent-assited and self-service. One of the biggest misnomers about customer service is how important great knowledge management is to good experiences. And no, I don't mean Sharepoint. That's a fine product- but for customer service- one needs to find answers and not documents.
Customers often wonder - why, when they do a search on a website or when they ask a customer service agent for help- they wonder why the search results are awful- meaning nothing that got pulled up in the search was even remotely what they needed. And they also wonder why the agents don't have THE answer.