Intelligent Virtual Agents

Intelligent Virtual Assistants/Agents are not the same. What’s the difference and why does it matter? 

Virtual Assistant-Employee-Agent 2.0 

There is a lot of discussion and marketing of IVA’s (Intelligent Virtual Assistants/Agents) and when you read it at first you ask yourself what’s the big deal? This is not new-- this stuff has been around for a number of years.    This is a reaction we get fairly regularly. People associate IVAs with chatbots, speech recognition IVR (Intelligent Voice Response) and/or AA (Auto Attendants). Many times, they are influenced by negative experiences with these applications.   In a nutshell: Intelligent Virtual Assistants/Agents are not the same. What’s the difference and why does it matter? 

The Basics of IVR  

At first glance the application/uses are similar. What has changed is the experience and results. For example, consider the first airplanes flown by the Wright brothers. While the airplanes of today also fly through the skies, they are much more sophisticated and safer than the original at Kitty Hawk.     The latest generation of these applications leverage Natural Language Processing from Google, IBM, Amazon or a few others.  In practice, when you engage a next generation IVA in a voice conversation of a chat you are not simply answering a long series of questions and getting a single response or a few separate responses that are pre-programmed into a set scenario.     You are instead conversing, and the IVA is asking follow-up questions based what information it needs you have yet to provide.    It is a more natural conversational experience with many more applications. That being said, why do some people still have such negative experiences with it? It comes down to how these solutions are implemented and deployed.  

Leveraging These Technologies Effectively  

Like all newer and evolving technology, the level of performance you get is a direct link to how well it is implemented and how committed your team is to achieving the best result possible.    Configuring and training an IVA, similar to a human requires a good plan, a group of hours over a planned time period, and regular care and tuning of performance with continued education. After the onboarding, the new virtual agent needs ongoing training to stay at the top of their game, but they will work 24/7/365 and never leave.    This all being said, the project still requires a good understanding of the back-end NLP source and the ability to properly set up the API’s to your primary database/CRM.  What do you need to understand about IVAs in order to implement them well? 

What You Need to Know 

When it comes to the most recent set of IVAs, we have reached a step in the evolution of the technology where what once required a team of programmers and a customized solution can know be accomplished through a number of different platforms. These give you the ability to configure instead of custom program and can actually simplify the API integration process as well.    This is a crucial evolutionary step. It creates a far more rapid adoption rate and development rate than was possible before and streamlines the entire process. 

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When you are looking at adding self-service solutions or different ways to automate organizational workflows and process the latest generation of virtual assistants are a great productivity enhancer.   No matter where your company or organization is at in their development, it’s worth keeping an eye on this next generation of virtual assistants. The future will be here sooner than we guess. 

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