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Virtual Customer Assistants Transform Online Support

Savvy CIOs and CTOs at innovative retailers and other progressive organizations are piloting and deploying new cognitive technologies that enhance their customer experience. This is an acceleration of the ongoing trend that's very likely to transform legacy online support applications.

According to the latest worldwide market study by Gartner, 37 percent of customer service leaders are either piloting or using artificial intelligence (AI) bots and virtual customer assistants (VCAs), and 67 percent of those leaders believe they are high-value tools in the contact center.

Virtual Customer Assistant Market Development

In recent years, no other channel technology has piqued customer care and support leaders’ interest more than AI bots and VCAs, according to Gartner’s Technology Roadmap Survey.

In the survey of 452 service leaders across all industries and business types, respondents showed that confidence is leading more companies to adopt the technologies -- with 68 percent of service leaders reporting they believe AI bots and VCAs will be of significant importance for them and their organizations in the next two years.

"While bots and VCAs are still emergent technologies, many service leaders have been impressed with their potential. As a result, we are seeing more adoption of these technologies into service technology portfolios," said Lauren Villeneuve, senior principal advisor at Gartner.

Service organizations that are integrating these technologies -- both customer-facing and employee rep-facing systems -- into their operations are using innovation and progressive strategies to ensure the success of the technology.

AI bots and VCAs are relatively new in the customer service space, so it’s critical that companies evaluate these technologies to ensure they are the right fit for their organization and customers.

Outlook for Customer Service App Innovation

Gartner research shows that deploying bots can deliver various benefits to the contact center, including:

  • Greater capability and scale: AI bots are best equipped to resolve the simple issues customers are interested in self-serving in the first place. This allows service reps to focus on the more complex tasks and issues customers need direct help resolving.
  • Faster chat speed: AI bots can drastically reduce customer wait time. For example, one company reported their chatbots responding to customer inquiries within five seconds of customer contact, while their typical service reps take an average of 51 seconds.
  • Better gatekeeping: AI bots can learn to recognize other bots trying to gain access to systems, thus freeing service reps to focus only on actual customers.

IT vendors that offer information and guidance to Line of Business (LoB) leaders and other key client influencers are likely to gain a strategic competitive advantage. Mainstream businesses are seeking self-paced learning and mentoring support so that they can upskill their team's capabilities and discover how to apply AI, machine learning and deep learning technologies.

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