As the glow of back-office RPA fades, spotlight turns to front-office virtual assistants

Evolution of virtual assistants, driven by robust natural-language processing and ease of use, is allowing businesses to automate customer support and improve employee productivity


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Kore.ai

How well a company handles business interactions defines its performance. Within most companies, customers and employees wait too long for support, from getting answers to simple questions to executing complex transaction, and support channels provide limited self-service and poor personalisation.

The flood of routine tasks into contact centres drives up operational cost and reduces agent efficiency, and limited IT resources makes it difficult to automate routine interactions internally.

Building chatbots to automate front-office interactions using components from Big Tech players, such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft, requires IT resources, time and big budgets. All this has driven companies, particularly banks, to explore a new way to automate business interactions.

Leading companies are turning to virtual assistants powered by conversational artificial intelligence (AI). Gartner predicts that by the end of 2021, 40 per cent of digital workers will use a virtual employee assistant daily, up from only 2 per cent in 2019, and virtual assistants will automate 69 per cent of front-office workloads by 2024.

The first wave of chatbot offerings left much to be desired. Chatbot 1.0 technology was expensive and difficult to use and could automate only simple FAQ (frequently asked question) interactions. The limited ability of chatbots to understand, manage and lead customer conversations compromised customer satisfaction and capped the containment rate, which is the measure of how many interactions are automated without escalation to a live agent.

“Gone are the days of chatbots that can’t actually have a conversation,” says Raj Koneru, chief executive at Kore.ai, which provides a conversational AI platform for configuring virtual assistants and pre-trained industry and functional virtual assistant products. “Improvements in ease of use and the robustness of natural-language technology have helped companies start and scale their front-office automation programmes faster and deliver a better customer and employee experience.”

Knowing where to aim virtual assistants and understanding how much can be automated has been a key challenge for companies. “If you think about the types and volumes of interactions within a business as a triangle, where simple FAQs are at the wide bottom and strategic debates are the peak, the bottom 80 per cent of interactions can be automated with virtual assistants,” says Adam Devine, chief marketing officer at Kore.

Gone are the days of chatbots that can’t actually have a conversation

Both customers and employees follow a similar journey into and within a business, starting with FAQs during onboarding, followed by a series of transactions along with efforts to retain and develop, whether that’s upselling customers or making human resources and IT support effortless for employees.

The key to automating this continuum of interactions, while ensuring a great experience, is natural-language processing that can identify both intent, for example “transfer funds”, and entity, for example “from current account to savings”, and manage and lead dialogue with contextual awareness and empathy across any channel.

Intelligent conversational user experience gives people instant, personalised responses from a business, and integrations between virtual assistants, enterprise systems and robotic process automation (RPA) make these conversations actionable by automating a wide range of transactions.

Virtual assistants also improve contact centre agent performance by identifying successful outcomes and prompting agents with next-best actions. By managing omnichannel business interactions on a single unified platform, conversational AI users get advanced operational analytics that not only show containment rates, but also provide nuanced trends and insights into customer and employee behaviour and agent performance.

The inevitable question for businesses, particularly banks, is build or buy? Microservices from Big Tech players allow businesses to create purpose-built bots with full control, but it’s cost, time and resource intensive. On the other side, pure-play vendors offer prebuilt virtual assistants that enable organisations to go to market almost instantly, but with limited customisation and a heavy reliance on vendors for support and product updates.

A newer option that eliminates the cons and accentuates the pros is a no-code conversational AI platform. With this approach, business users get all the tech components they need to configure customised virtual assistants along with the option to buy prebuilt industry solutions, such as banking, and prebuilt functional solutions, like HR and IT service management. Neither the platform nor product paths require coding, which democratises virtual assistants for any size company and every stakeholder with a use-case for a virtual assistant.

Kore is one of a few next-generational virtual assistant software companies pioneering this approach and giving customers a faster and more efficient alternative to Big Tech. It is the conversational AI partner to 100 Fortune 500 companies, including the top four banks and top three health organisations, and 500,000 employees and 70 million retail consumers interact with its virtual assistants.

“The benefits speak for themselves,” says Devine. “Typically, businesses that use conversational AI are able to reduce 30 per cent from their front-office costs. That’s a huge win for support teams. Even a single percentage point for big contact centres, which spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on live agents and technology, really adds up. The speed of service increases tenfold, which increases speed to revenue.

“But probably most importantly, when you’re talking about financial services business in particular, you’re able to improve your customer satisfaction or net promoter score by 25 per cent and fend off competition by born-digital fintech competitors.”

Customers have chosen Kore to ride the virtual assistant wave for its unified conversational AI platform that provides a single user experience across all digital channels and superior natural-language processing capabilities, combining machine-learning, fundamental meaning and industry-focused knowledge graph to deliver the highest automation rates and accuracy.

Asked what is the biggest barrier for Kore and other next-generation virtual assistant providers, Devine had a one-word answer: “Awareness. If chief information officers, chief operating officers and customer service executives knew how easy and efficient it is to spin up a virtual assistant that delivers human-level performance, there would be no such things as wait times, dropped calls and customer attrition, and employees would get more done and be a lot happier.” This is good news for customers and a challenge to expensive, black-box Big Tech.

For more information please visit kore.ai


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