How Virtual Agents Can Improve Your Customer EngagementIn recent years, the idea of “customer engagement” has become more of a priority to many businesses. It’s no longer enough to simply offer great customer service, but the level of a customer’s commitment to the company has also become an important benchmark.

While in terms of Internet marketing, engagement is measured by indicators like social sharing and time spent on the site, when it comes to general engagement, the definition gets a little fuzzier. Some take a page from the Internet world and define customer engagement by specific actions, as in repeat purchases and requests for information. Others put engagement within a broader scope, and defining it as the relationship that a customer has with the company.

Whichever definition you choose, the fact is engagement is important. According to research firm Gallup, engaged customers:

  • Are loyal. They go out of their way to find a specific product or service, and won’t accept substitutes.
  • Visit more often. When a customer is engaged with your company, he or she visits more often — sometimes more than 50 percent more often than other customers do.
  • Are profitable. For example, in banking, studies show that engaged customers bring in 37 percent more profit than others.

With such clear benefits of customer engagement, it’s easy to see why it such a priority. But how can companies boost engagement? One method that is gaining traction is the use of intelligent virtual assistants.

Intelligent Virtual Assistants: Your Best Employees

Almost everyone who has spent time online has encountered an intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) at some point. Also known as chatbots, avatars, or concierges, an IVA can help you find what you are looking for on the site, answer questions, or direct you to a customer service agent if you need more help. However, IVA customer engagement software does more than simply helps customers find the information they need. They are also an important part of any engagement building strategy, thanks to their ability to provide several key services.

1

Improves Service. Several studies have found that most people want to solve their own issues when they visit a website and find it annoying when they have to contact the support center for help. IVAs make it easier for customers to find the information they need and move on with their day, instead of searching for answers only to end up contacting a service agent. At the same time, IVAs that are not certain that they have provided the correct responses can notice clues that the customer needs additional help and automatically escalate queries to an actual person, improving the service experience.


2

IVAs Help Increase Time on Site. Customer service isn’t the only purpose of an IVA. IVAs can ask a series of questions to determine the user’s purpose for visiting the site, and make recommendations that set the customer on the right path. When users ask questions, the IVA can provide additional links with the answer, effectively leading the user to additional content and getting them to stay longer.


3

IVAs Provide a “Face.” While most customer prefer to self-service, there is also an innate human need for connections. We are social creatures, and like being able to associate a “face,” name, and persona with companies — when we do so, we are more likely to engage with that company.


4

IVAs Help Increase Conversions. Studies have shown that companies that activate IVAs to help customers complete the conversion process, such as by offering assistance with filling in forms or completing purchases, have higher conversion rates and fewer abandoned shopping carts. IVAs can be deployed to help overcome objections that lead to abandoned carts; for example, customers can ask questions related to returns and exchanges.


5

IVAs are a Source of Data. Because IVAs are collecting information from customers in real time, businesses are able to gain greater insights into the most prevalent customers and concerns. For example, if many of the queries posed to the IVA are related to site navigation, that information should be shared with site developers so they can make changes for a more intuitive experience. Using data related to the timing of questions (i.e., how far into the sales process do questions arise?), the nature of questions, even satisfaction with answers can help you design a better site experience to foster a more engaged customer base.

Of course, one of the primary benefits of IVAs is that they are on call, 24hours per day seven days a week. This means that you can engage your customers whenever it is convenient for them, outside of normal business hours. So while it might seem that delegating certain services to software is the exact opposite of engaging, it can actually make a big difference in your customers’ experiences — and your bottom line.