How to Cash in on Conversational AI

Conversational AI
Inference's Richard Dumas

Richard Dumas

By Richard Dumas, Chief Marketing Officer, Inference Solutions

Two years ago, Gartner predicted that by 2020, 25% of customer service operations will have adopted virtual agents, which use natural language to automate routine (and increasingly complex) customer interactions over voice and chat. Recent trends certainly support this prediction, as Siri and Alexa bring conversational artificial intelligence (AI) experiences increasingly mainstream, and service managers seek solutions to support a growing number of customers across a growing number of channels.

Consumers are getting used to interacting with brands more naturally, via voice-driven, screenless experiences. And the technology that drives these experiences has become more accessible as Google and other API providers move speech and natural language processing to the cloud and reduce the cost of implementing conversational self-service.

It isn’t surprising, then, that Gartner has also predicted that virtual agents will drive $1.2 trillion in business value by 2030. Channel companies can capture a piece of that market by partnering with cloud-based virtual agent providers to add conversational AI to their service roadmaps. Here’s what you need to know to cash in.

Virtual agents solve key problems for your customers

Intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) can address many of the major initiatives on service managers’ agendas. Examples include:

  • I need to move to the cloud.
  • I need an AI strategy.
  • Can you help me increase my deflection rates?
  • How can I improve my IVR experience?
  • I need to comply with PCI-DSS & HIPAA.
  • Can you help me deploy speech recognition apps?

Underlying each of these initiatives is the challenge to reduce costs while maintaining or improving customer satisfaction. Using virtual agents to automate routine customer requests such as order lookups, frequently asked questions and appointment booking helps organizations significantly decrease support costs.

A recent report found that nearly four out of five businesses are saving more than 20% in customer service costs and four staff hours a day as a result of adding a virtual agent to interact with customers. Plus, satisfactory customer experience (CX) now includes the expectation of an immediate service response anytime, anywhere and on any device. Nearly 70% of customers would rather help themselves through self-service for simple issues, and IVAs allow brands to better deliver on those expectations. Furthermore, Gartner research indicates that organizations that implement virtual agents “report an increase in customer satisfaction and save 33% per voice engagement.”

You can sell virtual agents for more than live agent seats

The economics of virtual agents enable you to charge more for a virtual agent than you charge for a live agent seat. What’s even more impressive is that you can do this while lowering the total cost to serve for your customers. The price of virtual agents will vary based on their skills, but, generally, a virtual agent will cost a customer service organization less than 10% of what a human agent would cost.

In the U.S., the average annual salary for customer service agents is around $28,000. The fully burdened cost is much higher when you include onboarding, training, benefits and equipment. Let’s assume it’s closer to $40,000 per year. The cost for 100 agents…

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