Virtual Digital Assistants: The Future of Customer Interactions?

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Valerie Access

March 28, 2016

Siri, Cortana, the new Amazon Echo – you know, the commercial with Alec Baldwin – these are all examples of virtual digital assistants. By definition, virtual digital assistants are automated digital systems that assist users through understanding natural language in written or spoken form. This technology represents the intersection between speech recognition, natural language processing and artificial intelligence. As such, it’s worthwhile to further explore a couple examples of this technology and understand how it can help businesses better serve their customers.

Hound
Released by parent company, SoundHound, Hound is an assistant that gives answers to questions and lets users complete various tasks by using voice commands. Some examples include looking up the weather, making a phone call or sending a text, finding a hotel that matches specific criteria, navigating to an address, searching and playing music and even playing interactive games. It’s not just about one-off commands, the technology also allows users to follow up with additional questions, like you are talking to an actual assistant. Using what he calls Speech-to-Meaning capabilities, SoundHound CEO Keyvan Mohajer, believes that this is what will make Hound quicker and more accurate that the widespread Apple Siri.

Alexa
Alexa is Amazon’s cloud-based virtual personal assistant. In addition to completing simple tasks like answering questions and setting alarms, Alexa is also capable of turning on lights in the home or even ordering pizza delivery. More recently, Capital One customers are now able to handle their finances through Alexa. Through voice commands, customers can check balances, find out when bills are due and even pay bills. Capital One is the first bank to use Amazon’s Alexa, aiming to use technology to enhance the experience for their customers.

Veronica
While the two examples above are examples of voice powered virtual digital assistants, Veronica is an example of a virtual digital assistant powered by written language. Veronica is Ticketmaster’s virtual digital assistant implemented on the site in Turkey. Ticketmaster wanted their customers to have a personalized experience as they navigate the site to hopefully, purchase tickets. To interact with Veronica, users click the “Need help?” link at the bottom of the screen and in walks Veronica. Veronica is a conversational agent that users talk to by typing in the text box. She uses a natural language processing engine to comprehend the question and provide answers based upon a comprehensive knowledge base. Veronica is available on all pages throughout the user experience, so shoppers can interact with Veronica without ever leaving the path to purchase. Results have proven effective for Ticketmaster as they have seen a 15 percent increase in sales since implementing the avatar.

So how does this apply to businesses and their customers? In a number of ways, similar to what Captial One and Ticketmaster has done, businesses can adopt this technology to improve the overall experiences for their customers. Here are some ways:

  • Virtual digital assistants can help answer questions in a quicker and more personalized manner
  • Virtual digital assistants can help with tasks like checking or updating account information
  • Virtual digital assistants can help guide customers through the customer journey, pointing them to the next step and answering any hesitations or questions along the way
  • In conjunction with the point above, virtual digital assistants can assist in making a sale

Because virtual digital assistants operate using technology and knowledge databases, they are able to do all of these things without needing much human power. By utilizing virtual digital assistants, consumers and businesses have to do less while technology is able to do more, ultimately making it easier and more convenient for both parties, but particularly the customer. As natural language processing and artificial intelligence technology becomes increasingly refined, accurate and accessible, it’s only a matter of time before virtual digital assistants become mainstream.

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Sources:

  • http://www.business2community.com/brandviews/zendesk/5-times-virtual-digital-assistants-take-lead-customers-01474488#zmpVDxf0gYYJPiAd.97
  • http://techcrunch.com/2016/03/01/hound-a-voice-powered-virtual-assistant-app-launches-publicly/
  • http://fortune.com/2016/03/11/amazon-alexa-bank-teller/
  • https://virtualagentchat.com/2015/11/03/inbentas-intelligent-avatar-gives-ticketmaster-the-digital-edge/