Improving the Customer Experience with Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Agents

By: Greg Hasse

It’s no secret that the way businesses communicate with their customers can make or break the relationship. As we see a shift in customers’ communication preferences, it is paramount that businesses adapt to provide the experience and service levels that customers have come to expect. Data from a recent study suggests that one third of customers in America will leave a company if they aren’t satisfied or if they have just one poor customer service experience, resulting in lost revenue for the business.

Customers want immediate service response—anytime, anywhere and on any device. They are increasingly looking for self-service options that enable them to get questions answered and problems resolved without needing to speak with a human. And the tide is changing: after years of rejecting these self-service solutions and preferring to speak with a live agent, customers are now showing a strong preference for self-service solutions. Because of this, Gartner reports that 84 percent of organizations expected to increase their investments in customer experience (CX) technology in 2018.

Virtual intelligent agent applications are one way in which businesses can enhance their customer communications. In partnership with Inference Solutions, Consolidated Communications, a leading business and broadband communications provider, is now offering a virtual agent solution to its customers. It’s a cloud-based, intelligent automation solution that enables businesses of all sizes to automate many of the routine and repetitive conversations handled by live agents. The virtual agent application integrates seamlessly with the ProConnect Unified Communications solution already offered by Consolidated.

Demand for AI-powered customer service has never been higher as businesses realize the benefits of using virtual agents. Gartner estimates that 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual custom assistant or chatbot technology by 2020, significant growth from as few as two percent as recently as 2017. Making the transition to intelligent virtual agents will help businesses remove the deep layers of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menus that tend to frustrate callers, making it easier for businesses to connect with their customers and clients.

Furthermore, businesses can gain significant cost savings when implementing an intelligent agent as it frees up live agents to focus on more pressing and more complex customer needs, creating added value for the business’s bottom line. A small improvement in utilization rates can not only improve the customer experience but also has the potential to net millions in savings. For example, if the cost of a live agent-handled call is $5, a two percent increase in IVR utilization for a business that receives one million calls per month represents a savings of $100,000 per month, or $1.2 million per year.

Consolidated’s Intelligent Agent solution provides an advanced conversational interaction, with a variety of skills and pre-programmed tasks and an extensive task library to automate many of the callers’ needs, along with capabilities to perform outbound calling tasks. These skills can be utilized across many verticals, including retail, hospitality, healthcare, financial services and even local businesses—with tasks like intelligent callbacks, making reservations, booking appointments and issuing reminders; handling collections balance look-ups, password resets, inbound ticketing,


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