Virtual Assistants are key component of scaling customer interactions using technology. Learn the best practices of how to build scalable enterprise virtual assistants.
Young, tech-savvy, exacting, and above all overwhelmed with marketing content, today’s buyers are in search of customer experiences that are effective, entertaining and personalised to their specific needs. That can seem like a pretty tall order. Fortunately, help is at hand in an unexpected form: virtual assistants. While employing bots to engage with humans can seem paradoxical at first, virtual assistants are key to creating meaningful customer journeys that will help your company stand out from the competition.
The benefits of virtual assistants aren’t, however, limited to customer-facing business aspects. By improving company-wide efficiency and productivity, virtual assistants contribute to considerably reducing operational costs and boosting market growth. Recent research found that by 2022, they could save businesses in the banking and healthcare sectors over $8 billion per year – but those aren’t the only industries that are set to profit.
Current Market Opportunities for Virtual Assistants
It’s no surprise that a wide range of sectors – healthcare and finance as aforementioned, but also, marketing, services, IT, education, and eCommerce – are choosing to make virtual assistants part of their 2020 strategy. While interest in virtual assistants is globally on the rise, the Asia-Pacific region is currently witnessing the highest growth, with a number of small- and medium-sized businesses integrating virtual assistants into their strategy. Rapidly expanding ICT infrastructure across the region means that this market is likely to continue to scale.
The banking and healthcare sectors, especially, are set to benefit from the widespread deployment of virtual assistants due to their ability to reduce enquiry resolution times, thus improving customer satisfaction and boosting company profits. A Juniper Research study found that average cost savings could equate to $0.50-$0.70 per customer interaction.
Banking giant Wells Fargo made waves back in 2017 as the first US bank to deploy a Facebook Messenger virtual assistant. The Wells Fargo Bot for Messenger provides customers with their current account balance, a list of recent transactions, detailed budget reports and the nearest cash point among other features. Other major players, including Bank of America, HSBC (Hong Kong), and Hang Seng Bank, have since followed suit.
Virtual Assistant’s ability to assist customers is also taking the healthcare industry by storm. Virtual Assistants can manage appointments, direct patients towards the right specialists and provide trustworthy healthcare information. AskPam, Parkway Hospital’s friendly virtual assistant who lives on their website, helps customers book appointments to visit specialists and health screenings at the hospital.
Retail is another industry that is set to witness high profitability from virtual assistants. Virtual Assistants replicate a personalised brick-and-mortar experience, in which a helpful assistant provides advice and directs customers towards products they might be interested in. Furthermore, they provide even the most well-known brands with an opportunity to rejuvenate their marketing strategy. Fanta recently enabled a 46% higher coupon redemption rate than usual via their Facebook Messenger virtual assistant.
Enabling Customer-Driven Next Generation Digital Experiences
If more and more brands are choosing to implement virtual assistants as part of their strategy, it’s because if there’s one thing that could be considered the marketing holy grail, it’s the omnichannel digital experience. Customer journeys nowadays need to be seamless and all-encompassing, enabling consumers to hop from an email to their favorite messaging app to a brick-and-mortar store and back online again while staying within the same brand universe and receiving high-quality assistance and support.
Only a few years ago, a company’s digital presence was more or less limited to a website and email. Nowadays, messaging apps, interactive content, social media and a myriad of different formats makes delivering seamless customer journeys a big undertaking. As anyone responsible for their brand’s digital footprint will tell you, managing multiple channels and the content that goes with them puts considerable pressure on teams across the board – not just those directly involved in marketing and sales.
Even relatively modest companies tend to own and manage a number of web properties and virtual communities. Delivering a positive experience to the end user involves reducing the complexity of those ecosystems and making the whole thing appear seamless, while at the same time facilitating the work that goes on behind the scenes.
Virtual Assistants help you create this seamless consumer universe. By integrating your various communication channels, they keep track of user data and provide insights, automate key tasks, handle routine queries, optimise operational costs and are available 24/7 – with significant benefits not only for your customers, but your company as a whole.
Using Your Virtual Assistant to Create Company-Wide Synergies
While virtual assistants are perceived as being mostly customer-facing, there are several ways in which they can serve day-to-day business operations such as logistics, distribution, compliance and internal communications. When it comes to virtual assistants, there’s no need to choose between B2B and B2C. Virtual Assistants can play a decisive role in the following strategies (among others): improving customer support and assistance alongside the all-round customer experience, optimising operations, implementing new sales platforms and reaching out to previously untapped markets. New operating synergies make your virtual assistant a profitable addition to your day-to-day business operations.
JPMorgan Chase offers a great example of how a bot can make a serious difference to your bottom line. While many financial institutions use virtual assistants to interact with customers, JPMorgan’s COiN platform uses them to streamline its back office operations by analysing contracts, ultimately saving the organisation over 360,000 labour hours. The virtual assistant can furthermore analyse messages for employees, enable access to software and take care of routine IT-related tasks such as password resets. In the future, the bank aims to use this technology to reduce risk, limit costs and find new lines of income – an excellent example of how company-wide, scalable virtual assistants can enable growth and boost profitability.
A virtual assistant is a big step, and one that will potentially have a lot of impact on your company and its daily operations. The success of your virtual assistant strategy will depend to a large extent on your ability to set out a clear purpose and establish timely objectives. In order to do so, work closely with your main decision makers and think long and hard about your long-term objectives, while remembering that this is a modular product that will ultimately called upon to scale and evolve.