One of the questions I'm frequently asked by clients is if virtual agents are a good idea. Many of us have had frustrating interactive agent experiences over the years (recall Clippy, Microsoft’s animated paperclip that launched a thousand parodies).

Times have changed, and I think virtual agents are worth taking a look at. Today’s virtual agents can guide consumers through your Web site while answering questions effectively and conversationally. 

As virtual agent technology continues to become more sophisticated — features such as integrating with enterprise systems like shipping and delivery or CRM availability on mobile devices — virtual agents will continue to take on more complex customer service issues.

One of the benefits that I think is really compelling is that if a consumer escalates to live help, the transcript is pushed to the call rep, reducing call resolution times and sparing customers the annoyance of having to start from the beginning to explain their problem.

These features matter for many reasons. Here are two big ones.

  • Customers want immediate answers to their questions while they are on their purchase path.
  • Enhancing user experiences, deflecting customer service calls, and reducing call resolution times are important customer service priorities.

So how do you determine if a virtual agent is right for your organization? Conduct a customer service driver analysis.  (For more information on how to do this, Forrester clients can see my report “Selecting Online Customer Service Channels To Satisfy Customers And Reduce Costs.”

You're looking to see if:

  • You have a significant proportion of low complexity issues that go to live help (telephone, chat, email).
  • You have a notable proportion of customer service inquiries with repetitive answers.
  • Your abandonment rates are higher than they should be.
  • Traffic is coming to your help section from general search engines.

If you answer yes to any of these questions, a virtual agent is likely worth exploring. Here is a link to my report called “It’s Time Ro Give Virtual Agents Another Look,” which I hope you'll find useful.