ISABELLE SALLARD, EDITOR, INTERNETRETAILING.FR
Do you know Lucie from SFR? Two years ago, she was elected “Miss Client 2011”. But Lucie is special: she is not human. She is an “Intelligent Virtual Agent” (known as “AVI” in French). The intelligent virtual agents appeared in customer service a few years ago and they are being used increasingly by French etailers.
From a dozen in 2009, there are now around 25 on the French web.The conversational agent, an interactive media contact available 24/7, is consistent with the expectations of users who want personalised quality answers at all times. Supported on an automatic, natural language processing, engine coupled with artificial intelligence, the virtual agent does not merely respond to the most common questions from users in a defined dialog but adapts and modifies answers automatically.
According to a recent study, French users are accustomed to interacting with a virtual agent: 76% have used one and amongst those people who have had ‘a conversation’ with an AVI, 76% considered that the answers were relevant and useful. Customers are also very aware that they are not human but an automatic online support available 24/7 to help them.
Today, customers are gaining autonomy in their use of the internet to solve problems and make their purchases, but it seems that many support tools (Q&A, keyword search, forum etc) are not yet mature or fully effective.
The virtual agent, which is sometimes combined with a solution enabling chat with a real person when the user needs help, is an additional device that has some advantages: enhanced site usability, improving the experience, availability 24/7. For retailers,AVIs can handle the simplest questions and reduce up to 30% of their incoming client requests.The virtual agent can guide the more specific questions to people in the contact centre. Freed from many common applications, the contact centre agents can then focus on personalising the relationship.