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Credit: Alex Kotliarskyi

Supercharge CX while lowering expenses with virtual agents

Is improving your customer experience a top of agenda item in FY2024? For many Australian organisations, the answer is likely to be a resounding yes. 

While it may have taken some time to register, local business leaders are now well and truly alive to the fact that customer experience matters and matters a lot. They’ve come to the collective realisation that a quality product or service offering and competitive pricing are no longer sufficient to attract and retain customers – at least not when said customers have the option to deal with a slew of alternative suppliers boasting equivalent products and prices.

In those circumstances, it’s customer experience – the way a business makes its customers feel, at every stage of the purchasing journey – that’s the key differentiator. It’s the point of difference that converts wavering window shoppers and one-time buyers into loyal repeat customers who are happy to recommend a brand to family, friends and associates.

Little surprise then, that 80 per cent of organisations expect to compete primarily on customer experience, according to Gartner. Nor that, by CX Index’s reckoning, 90 per cent of businesses across all vertical markets have made customer experience their primary focus. 

Improving customer interactions

Personalised interactions are central to the delivery of a stand-out customer experience, irrespective of the nature of the products or services being purchased.

That’s because consumers and business buyers alike don’t want to feel like just another anonymous account in the system. 

Online behemoths, such as Amazon and eBay, have set the bar sky high when it comes to providing slick, seamless and highly personalised service and that’s the standard customers are increasingly demanding, from all the businesses they deal with.

The sixty-four-dollar question for local enterprises is how to deliver those high-quality customer interactions, many of which occur digitally via omni-channel contact centres, affordably and at scale.

Hiring virtual agents

Upping the contact centre headcount is one option but it’s not an appealing one, for organisations looking to contain costs. Today’s customers want to be able to engage with businesses at the time, and via the channel, of their choosing and having an army of agents on standby is likely to prove logistically challenging and prohibitively expensive.

Unless, that is, some of those agents are virtual ones – AI powered assistants which can be taught to handle and resolve the bulk of incoming enquiries swiftly and satisfactorily without the need for escalation to a human counterpart.

Virtual agents with this capacity did not exist until relatively recently. Clunky, functionally limited chatbots did – and still do. To say the customer experience the latter provide tends to be underwhelming is something of an understatement.

In fact, it’s a rare individual who hasn’t found themselves waiting – and fuming – on the line to talk to a real person, after failing to resolve their enquiry or issue via self-service channels powered by chatbots.

Dynamic and responsive

Their inability to improvise and adapt is what makes dealing with chatbots a frustrating experience for customers. 

Typically, they are programmed to respond to a small series of questions, worded in specific terms. Deviate from the script and they do their darnedest to pull you back, by reframing your enquiry into something they’re able to answer.

Not so with Conversational AI virtual agents, which have natural language processing capability. They’re able to gauge context, understand multi-intent requests, accommodate conversational variations and provide relevant, helpful responses.

That means they have the capacity to conduct dynamic conversations with customers in natural language, and to resolve a myriad of requests and issues, without human involvement. 

Enquiries which do require intervention from a real-life agent can be transitioned seamlessly, without customers having to re-enter their details or repeat their story from the start. 

And because Conversational AI virtual agents learn from every interaction, they’re better placed to resolve similar issues autonomously, next time they arise.

The net result? Optimal customer experiences, delivered on demand from a team of real and virtual agents working in synchrony.

Exceeding expectations

In FY2024, Australian companies are having to work harder than ever to attract and retain business. Consumers and organisations are seeking responsive, personalised service and will very quickly take their custom elsewhere if it’s not forthcoming.

Conversational AI can change the game, by elevating the quality of the customer experience you’re able to deliver across each and every one of your digital channels, whenever and however your customers choose to get in touch. And it can do so economically and at scale.

If maintaining mind and market share matters to your organisation in FY2024, it’s mission critical technology you can ill afford not to invest in.

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Andrew Winlaw

Andrew Winlaw

Andrew Winlaw is Vice President and General Manager Australia and New Zealand for Amelia, the enterprise leader in Trusted AI whose mission is to power the world with intelligent expert systems, eliminate routine work and free up brainpower for innovation and high impact activity. Andrew has more than 20 years’ experience in the IT industry during which time he has held senior sales director and account management roles at CSC and IBM Global Services where he managed a wide range of clients supporting their drive for business growth and transformation.

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