There are a number of new fields that have opened up due to recent advances in big data. Big data has played a huge role in the evolution of business development. One field that has emerged as a result of new developments in big data technology is the virtual agent.
Intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) are attractive to businesses in dozens of industries thanks to their convenience and their AI capabilities. The already growing market got a boost when many businesses went wholly virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Companies needed to figure out how to offer top-notch customer service while still keeping teams lean and productive. Virtual agents help create a seamless customer experience while empowering human employees to work on pressing tasks that need the human touch.
The overall IVA market is predicted to grow 34% by 2027, and it was valued at $3.7 billion in 2019. Here’s a look at some of the industries this growing technology is transforming.
Banking has been gradually going digital for years now, but that shift was accelerated last year. Without being able to physically enter branches, more people were reaching out to their banks via phone or online.
To ramp up this increased need for virtual customer support, many banks have turned to using virtual assistants. These assistants are useful for fielding routine requests like password or personal information changes, as well as helping customers make payments and transfers, check balances, or resolve login issues. Basic questions about banking services can also be handled with IVAs, while more complicated ones can be quickly routed to the correct representative.
Over the past year, people have depended on their government for social services, health advice, and more. Virtual agents can be profoundly useful for local governments handling this influx of requests. The government has started using big data more than ever, which has made it an institution that relies on virtual agents.
One of the biggest benefits IVAs lend to local governments is their multilingual capabilities. Most IVAs are programmed with several different languages, ideal for diverse municipalities. Local governments no longer have to worry about hiring agents who speak every language spoken in their population.
Additionally, local governments rarely have big budgets and can’t afford large call center staffs. IVAs can help them save costs while still making sure the public has all the services they need.
Research shows that retail is the industry that fields the most customer calls. The reasons for these calls are diverse, but many are straightforward requests. For example, customers may call a retail company because a package did not arrive and needs to be replaced. Or, they may need detailed information on a product they’re interested in purchasing.
While customers do want a personalized touch from retailers, they don’t want to spend a long time on the phone with them. IVAs can help retail callers – many of whom are already frustrated – get the information or resolution they need quickly.
In a post-pandemic world of remote ordering for curbside pickup, IVAs play yet another role. They can help customers place orders and get the items they need in a fast, efficient manner.
Smart speakers in cars are a major boon for both driver safety and driver convenience. This is only going to become more popular, and in the future, you’ll be hard pressed to find a new car that doesn’t have a voice-activated assistant in it.
The smartest of these assistants have enough AI capabilities to classify them as IVAs. They can use data to proactively meet driver needs, performing tasks like automating climate control or suggesting the driver’s favorite audio options. IVAs in cars can also answer driver questions about traffic patterns, directions, or inquiries unrelated to driving, much like regular smart speakers can. In the future, these bots could even predict maintenance needs and make suggestions for when preventative tune-ups are needed.
The insurance industry had to make adjustments on the fly to serve remote customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have begun experimenting with offering customers personalized benefit plans that take individual needs and hardships into account. Others have had to work hard to remain relevant to customers who are cutting out what they deem unnecessary expenditures.
IVAs can use AI to determine what customer callers need and help insurance companies meet them where they are. They can allow customers to connect over voice, chat, or video – depending on their preference – and collect data on each individual customer experience. This data can help inform insurance agents of how to best serve those customers.
Meanwhile, the load on agency call centers shrinks. For example, one health benefits firm used IVAs to decrease average call times to 31 seconds. Virtual agents handled more than 1 million calls for this organization in the first half of 2020.
The healthcare tech sector has seen a massive boom in recent years, and data-driven IVAs are a part of this. They’re being used to schedule appointments, send patients reminders and confirmations, schedule prescription refills, and more. IVAs can also be used to field or triage routine patient inquiries, such as requests for referrals or billing information.
Recently, IVAs have been used to help coordinate COVID-19 testing and even vaccine registration by using highly relevant data on patients and providers. Patients can input their address, and the IVA will search for available appointments for these services in their area.
Telehealth has also seen massive growth over the past year. IVAs can help here, too. In addition to the areas where traditional healthcare organizations have been using IVAs, some telehealth apps use AI-powered IVAs to triage patients and send them to the right services.
7. Consumer Tech
People don’t often think of smart speakers as IVAs or big data experts, but they have similar tech underpinnings and act as IVAs employed by major search engines. Thanks to Amazon Alexas, Google Homes, and Siri-enabled Apple devices, the average consumer is accustomed to speaking their question and getting an immediate answer.
This has implications for the broader consumer tech space, as companies are now considered behind the times if their devices don’t include AI-powered answering devices. It also has broader implications for all of customer service, as people now expect that level of responsiveness all the time, for every inquiry. Call centers that don’t have advanced IVAs are disappointing by comparison. By this logic, one could argue that IVAs are transforming every industry.
Big Data Has Led to the Proliferation of Virtual Agents
The use of virtual agents has grown over the past year, and this growth will only continue. Customers and call centers alike are growing accustomed to the convenience and quick answers good IVAs can offer. It won’t be surprising if, over time, they transform every industry that interacts directly with customers.