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    What-Is-a-Contact-Center-Virtual-Agent?-7-Big-Benefits

    What Is a Contact Center Virtual Agent? 7 Big Benefits

    Contact Center Virtual Agent
    15:21

    Contact centers are busier now than ever before, making it incredibly difficult to keep customers happy and engaged. The industry is facing higher interaction volumes, rising customer expectations, employee burnout, economic challenges—the list goes on. Because of this, many are turning to AI solutions, such as virtual agents, to help alleviate these issues.

    AI-powered agents can handle all sorts of tasks, streamlining workflows and reducing interaction times by providing instant support. And there are no signs of this trend slowing down, with 78% of people feeling optimistic about using AI for customer service interactions.

    In this article, we’ll cover what a contact center virtual agent is, some common use cases, and 7 top benefits of using AI agents.

    What is a contact center virtual agent?

    Not to be confused with a virtual assistant, a contact center virtual agent is a chatbot powered by AI—namely, large language models (LLMs), natural language processing (NLP), natural language understanding (NLU), and machine learning (ML). These advanced chatbots can have humanlike conversations that convey an appropriate tone and sentiment based on context and input from the user, drawing on their extensive training to handle queries.

    With NLP and NLU, these AI agents can interpret user intent and offer detailed responses that pull from your internal knowledge base, system integrations, and other sources to personalize interactions and provide detailed answers.

    Not only can they be trained on your internal documentation to offer these responses, they can also handle menial administrative tasks like interaction summaries, query categorization, and more, saving your agents time and effort.

    Virtual agents are more than chatbots

    It’s easy to confuse the two, as they overlap in certain capabilities. However, while your typical chatbot can only draw from a list of preprogrammed answers and responses, a contact center virtual agent can interpret and understand almost any query and respond with a personalized, detailed response. They can even understand slang terms and common spelling and grammar mistakes, which your classic chatbot won’t understand.

    Instead of being based on keywords and rules like chatbots, they’re built upon conversational AI and ML to understand and answer more detailed questions with nuance and detail. An AI agent can learn and respond to customer inquiries in real-time, offering custom solutions and categorizing new queries for future users. They improve over time, learning from each new inquiry, which is then added to their data set.

    Additionally, they can easily integrate into most tech stacks and infrastructures, adding even more data sources to pull from. They’re designed to work alongside your existing infrastructure, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, quality assurance (QA) solutions, workforce management (WFM) platforms, and other common software found in call centers.

    With these integrations, they can access customer information in real-time to help resolve issues as they arise and tailor the conversation accordingly. Or, human agents can lean on a contact center virtual agent to help them resolve issues and collect information without needing to manually search an internal knowledge base for a solution.

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    What does a virtual agent do? 5 example use cases

    Contact center AI agents are rising in popularity and being adopted across multiple industries, including financial services, healthcare, retail, hospitality, and more. Gartner even predicts that by 2026, one in ten agent interactions will be automated, highlighting how effective these AI agents can be.

    Your standard chatbot is only able to handle simple queries and patterns to find solutions, while a call center virtual agent can perform a wide variety of tasks, such as:

    #1. Answering simple customer queries

    At their most basic level, an AI contact center agent can handle simple customer queries with speed and precision while remaining accessible. From tracking order statuses and answering common questions to scheduling appointments and callbacks, they help offload routine tasks from your live agents, allowing them to focus on more complex issues. 

    Picture a customer seeking information about a recent financial transaction. Instead of navigating through a maze of prompts to get a simple answer, they can get an immediate, personalized answer from an AI virtual agent.

    This can help improve your first contact resolution (FCR) rate and elevate your customer experience, leading to higher customer satisfaction scores over time.

    #2. Processing transactions and payments

    Another simple action these contact center virtual agents can take is to handle payment processing, such as creating orders, facilitating payments, and detecting fraud. They can guide customers through the entire payment process in a safe and secure environment and even personalize product recommendations or upsell services. 

    After processing payments, these AI-powered agents can instantly provide customers with confirmation messages, order numbers, and receipts, ensuring transparency throughout the entire process. Plus, they can handle simple payment queries or disputes to help solve issues before a human agent needs to intervene.

    #3. Supporting sales and lead generation

    One of the biggest benefits of an AI contact center agent is that they enable you to offer 24/7 support. Customers will be able to access information anytime, boosting both CSAT scores and potential lead generation.

    Paired with their integration into CRMs for extensive customer information, they can also help offer personalized product or service recommendations, including after an agent has taken over the call.

    They can ask predefined questions to gather information, offer recommendations throughout the interaction, and answer any follow-up questions your customers may have.

    #4. Automating intelligent call routing

    A contact center virtual agent can also act as an automated call routing system if a customer’s query extends beyond its scope. With NLP and NLU, paired with sentiment analysis, they’re able to understand the customer’s intent and direct them to a specific agent or department that can resolve the issue, or escalate to a supervisor if necessary.

    An AI call center agent can prioritize calls based on predefined criteria, such as the urgency of the request, the customer’s value to the company, or the complexity of the issue. This helps manage the flow of calls effectively, ensuring that high-priority calls are attended to quickly, while agents who have specific knowledge can tackle issues that other teams or departments may not be able to handle.

    #5. Collecting customer feedback

    Last but not least is the ability for a virtual agent to collect customer feedback automatically. They can prompt the customer for feedback after a conversation (in a post-interaction survey, for example), during a call to assess their effectiveness in real-time, or even send follow-up messages long after the interaction to evaluate long-term satisfaction.

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    7 top benefits of AI contact center agents

    #1. Improves operational efficiency and agent productivity

    Virtual agents can play a significant role in boosting operational activities and helping agents become more productive in a number of ways. 

    The biggest selling point is how an AI contact center agent can dramatically reduce the number of tickets or interactions that your human staff needs to take care of, such as routine questions and simpler interactions such as billing inquiries, scheduling appointments, or status updates.

    They can also provide agents with a detailed summary before connecting them to the customer, elevating the customer experience with a smooth transition to a live agent. They can even help live agents with any after-call work so they can reduce the time they’re unavailable.

    All of these factors add up to huge benefits for your human agents—and they also help reduce their workload. This can lower stress levels and increase job satisfaction rates, resulting in happier, motivated agents who are unlikely to churn.

    #2. Saves a significant amount of money

    Naturally, money is a significant motivator for any business. A contact center virtual agent can handle all of those tedious tasks (like order status, inquiries, and billing) to free up agent time, meaning you won’t need to hire as many agents to perform the same tasks.

    This can be a huge boon to your company, as 95% of costs associated with call centers are due to staffing issues, according to Gartner.

    These cost savings don’t mean you need to replace your human agents with AI-powered ones, though.

    Ideally, you’ll use the time your agents save from eliminating these tasks to focus on more complex issues and handle a greater volume of interactions, especially those that actually need a human touch and empathy.

    Plus, your staff will be more motivated to work on these complex issues because they aren’t trapped completing repetitive, boring tasks.

    #3. Makes your customer service 24/7 and multilingual

    Expanding your customer support to a wider audience is a significant growth opportunity, and it’s easy to do with AI call center agents.

    They’re able to run 24/7, automatically handling queries while your physical center isn’t operational (or working with fewer agents). A virtual agent can handle an entire query, or collect additional information and schedule a callback from a human agent once they’re available.

    In addition, these bots can offer multilingual support to your customers and your agents, translating language in real-time. It can support your customers who don’t speak your native language or help agents with translations when issues expand beyond the scope of an AI-only interaction.

    This functionality can open your business to the entire globe without needing to hire a ton of extra staff. On top of that, it can boost customer satisfaction and loyalty through ‘always-on’ availability.

    #4. Allows you to scale up and down with ease

    Scalability is crucial for most call centers, especially if they’re prone to busy seasons or infrequent high volumes of customers. Think retail around the holiday season or hospitality and travel in summertime.

    A call center virtual agent can alleviate these unexpected surges in demand so you don’t have to adjust staffing or hire new agents. Scaling up your contact center with AI agents is much faster than hiring and onboarding new human agents and can help maintain a high-quality customer experience even at peak times.

    #5. Keeps the quality of your customer service consistent

    Customers want to have consistent, positive interactions whenever they contact your business. With AI call center agents exhaustively trained on relevant data sets and your own internal knowledge base, you can guarantee this CX consistency.

    With this training, AI virtual agents can offer detailed, uniform responses that stay consistent across different interactions and channels, and learn from feedback to adapt as information changes.

    And this aligns with many of the other benefits on this list—enabling 24/7, multilingual support that can scale as needed helps ensure consistency across the board, regardless of the communication channel used.

    Additionally, implementing AI support can help cut down on human error by responding to common issues, and offer real-time information to agents during interactions to help support and guide them.

    All of these features will help contribute to a satisfying, consistent experience for every customer that gets in touch.

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    #6. Improves customer engagement and satisfaction

    An AI call center agent can offer immediate assistance and doesn’t need to put customers in a queue before they are served, helping to reduce wait times, streamlining workflows, and boosting your FCR rate. They don’t need to look up answers or think about solutions—their answers are instantaneous and tailored to specific customers based on their historical data.

    93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies that offer excellent customer service, meaning that keeping them satisfied and engaged is crucial. By leveraging a contact center virtual agent, businesses are able to blend these self-service tools with human agents and omnichannel support, giving customers a wide variety of ways to get the service they need.

    And not only can customers access support, AI can tailor the experience, offering personalized interactions from that historical data. This can be a major driver for customer satisfaction, as 70% of consumers are willing to spend more with companies that offer a personalized experience.

    #7. Enables data-driven decision-making

    In most cases, AI agent solutions will include data analytics and reporting tools to help track performance over time. You can monitor information about peak times, recurring customer issues, escalations, and a variety of other metrics, allowing you to adjust your virtual agent as needed.

    Outside of simply improving your AI contact center agent, though, this data can be used to update and improve your internal knowledge base and other resources for both agents and customers. They’ll have access to accurate, up-to-date information that comes directly from the data you collect.

    This data can be analyzed to find insights into customer behavior alongside core call center information. Data on customer needs, preferences, frustrations, and common queries can be used in various ways. You can leverage it to create new marketing or sales strategies and improve your customer service workflows to increase engagement across the board.

    Conclusion

    AI has already made its mark on the world, and there are few signs of it slowing down anytime soon. Leveraging the power of these AI tools can bring dramatic improvements to your call center by expanding your in-house capabilities, opening your service up to a wider market, enabling personalized interactions, and more.

    However, an AI contact center agent isn’t a cure-all solution. Balancing these powerful tools with human agents' compassion, understanding, and empathy is crucial to finding business success and delivering an ideal customer experience.

    If you’re looking to take advantage of AI, Scorebuddy’s new embedded AI features can take your customer experience to another level:

    • Automatically score all of your customer interactions in real-time
    • Support your QA evaluators with GPT-powered assistance
    • Collect insights by analyzing 100% of your interactions
    • And more

    Sign up for a free trial and see how Scorebuddy AI can drive QA, CX, and operation efficiency today.

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      FAQ for 'What Is a Contact Center Virtual Agent? 7 Big Benefits'

      FAQ

      What are the limitations of virtual agents? 

      Virtual agents, while versatile, have limitations including a lack of deep understanding and empathy that human agents offer, making them less effective for complex or emotional customer issues.

      They’re also only informed on the data provided to them, meaning they can lack some nuance or context, or be unable to come up with a creative solution.

      An AI contact center agent cannot operate without a human touch, meaning they’re both essential to deliver high-quality customer service.

      Will virtual agents replace human agents? 

      Virtual agents excel in handling routine tasks and offering 24/7 support, but humans are indispensable for dealing with complex, sensitive, or highly personalized customer interactions.

      The future requires a collaborative approach–one where virtual and human agents complement each other, optimizing customer service by combining efficiency and scalability with empathy and understanding.