Ways to Provide Better Service Experiences for External and Internal Customers

Customers are invaluable to any organization. Customers want to feel valued by the vendors from whichthey buy. Happy customers have a very clear link to profit, as they equate to increased revenue and lower costs. Failure, however, to provide excellent service experiences can lead to irreversible losses of trust and loyalty.

We are all familiar, of course, with external customers. Equally important, however, are your internal customers—your employees.

The technical support team is one of the most discernable customer service departments. Without the technical support organization, business operations would stall. But these same teams are usually under relentless pressure to accomplish more with fewer resources. For that reason, many are turning to virtual agents to deliver better service experiences.

In fact, 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, according to Gartner.

Chatbots leverage artificial intelligence to remove humans from front-line customer service interactions. While many of us still prefer person-to-person interactions, human support cannot always meet the requirements of today's customers, who demand around-the-clock availability and accurate and rapid support.

Virtual agents can be used to successfully provide smart, easy, and fast service to customers, both external and internal. A true understanding of your customers' needs and expectations will allow for a successful partnership between your human team and an AI-driven virtual agent. Interactions will feel natural, personal, and unified across all channels regardless of whether it's a human or virtual agent in the driver's seat.

Better Service, Improved Productivity

Virtual agents are enabling organizations to provide better customer service experiences. In one instance, prior to deploying a virtual agent, visitors to a company's conference room had to wait 20-25 minutes for a password to access its Wi-Fi system. Now, with a virtual agent in place, the delay in getting Wi-Fi access in the conference room has been reduced to just one minute on average. In another instance, a business process outsourcing (BPO) organization is using a virtual agent to improve the productivity of employees at one of its clients, a fast food company. This retailer relies on the BPO to manage the networking infrastructure used for HR functions, including payroll, benefits programs, and training. Employees at the fast food company can submit vacation requests, adjust time cards, register for training programs, and more, in seconds, on a smartphone.

Virtual agents that leverage natural language processing enable conversational approaches to addressing service requests and resolving issues and provide more satisfying and productive service experiences for customers in the process. Best of all, they are always available. They don't take lunch or need to sleep. And they can be just as helpful and energetic in the morning as they are in the evening, and even in the wee hours of the night.

So how do technical support teams prepare for a successful virtual agent deployment? Here are three things to consider:

  1. Develop a virtual agent strategy. To avoid being left behind, management should start by defining a vision and goals and allocate budget. This is where the build versus buy decision could emerge. Technical support solutions with a native virtual agent allow you to get up and running quickly and without investing in time-consuming and costly custom development. A virtual agent should not make your business more complicated. It should simplify processes and reduce workload.
  2. Build a solid foundation of knowledge. An established knowledge source is one of the most important elements of a virtual agent initiative. According to Gartner, the goal is to enable your virtual agent to perform, or even outperform, humans. And, this requires making usable knowledge available.
  3. Establish trust among employees (internal only). Technological change impacts the entire organization. Some employees might be supportive early adopters and others might be laggards who are slower to buy in. Building a culture of trust and collaboration will help you gain support when major changes take place.

The time is right to focus on the role of virtual agents in improving customers' service experiences. Act now to identify the impact virtual agents will have on your organization and develop a foundation that will enhance business operations and improve the productivity and satisfaction of your customers.

Wai Wong is founder, president, and CEO of Serviceaide. A serial entrepreneur, he has been in the high-tech industry for 36 years. He founded WGSigma Systems and Summus Software and has held leadership roles at BEA, where he was executive vice president and global chief product officer, and at Computer Associates, where he was senior vice president and general manager of the Unicenter brand, senior vice president and general manager of WW Services, and senior vice president and general manager of interBiz.

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