Ep. 4 - Ramesh Kumar: The Virtual Agent – What Chatbots Mean for Your Agents

Andrea Lowe | November 02, 2018

Ah, the never-ending quest to deliver the best possible customer satisfaction. Nobody can question our intent: We want our customers to receive the best possible support; of course we do. We want them to receive uncompromising, personalized service. We want them to feel special; like they really got the human touch. We want them to be happy. The challenge is that uncompromising, personalized service is tough to scale and, increasingly, evidence shows that the human touch is not necessarily what drives the highest customer satisfaction ratings. Ramesh Kumar joins the podcast for this episode to help us understand how adding digital personalization via a virtual agent can help crank up customer satisfaction and NPS.

Ramesh kicks it off with a somewhat startling finding from McKinsey and Co. In their recent report, Higher Satisfaction at Lower Costs: Digitizing Customer Care, the company reveals that a purely digital customer service journey has a 19% higher customer satisfaction rate than one that is delivered via strictly traditional channels. What does this mean for your human customer service agents and what does adding a virtual agent mean to your customer satisfaction and your bottom line?

The Rise of The Virtual Agent

Over the past four years, [24]7.ai has been tracking steady and significant growth in not only the number of transactions handled by virtual agents as opposed to traditional channels such as phone and email, but also in the number of customers who actually opt to interact with chatbots. The data sample is taken from industries such as banking/financial services/insurance (BFSI), retail, telecom, and technology. Perhaps the technology numbers are no surprise, but it is telling that consumers, particularly in BFSI and retail, will now often opt for the help of a virtual agent over human interaction. Most tellingly of all is that over a sample of instances where a virtual agent is employed, customer satisfaction (CSAT)/NPS scores were markedly higher, especially when compared to support offered purely by telephone. For your reference, the virtual agents consistently received a net promoter score above 60%, a 20% lift above voice interactions.

Even in light of this change, it's important to note that human support agents still play a critical role, as they are uniquely qualified to handle exceptional cases. This has the benefit of keeping the support work more interesting for the human agents as the chatbots are the ones who end up taking care of the more repetitive or uninteresting tasks. This data points toward a "golden stack" approach for customer care, consisting of offering chatbot, telephone and email support as being the best approach, with chatbots being the enabling factor for unlimited scaling of support on the most repetitive scenarios.

Surprising Virtual Agent Outcomes

We mentioned we would get to the part about how chatbots can affect your bottom line. Perhaps the most surprising information from the case studies Ramesh shares is net sales conversion of the virtual agents versus traditional voice channels. Over a 12 month study of interactions, sales conversion of the chatbots hovered around 20%, with a low month of 18% and a high month of 24% converting to a sale. Compare this with voice interactions over the same period which converted at an average rate of 16%, and you begin to see chatbots as more than a tool to merely handle your repetitive customer inquiries. Depending on your industry, it is an interesting exercise to look at how virtual agents can be employed not just as a digital personalization tactic for reducing support friction, but also as a viable sales channel that can be continuously optimized the way you might measure and optimize any other digital tactics.

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