Last Updated on September 27, 2022

Today, the bots quickly responding to a query has become a thing, and it is only for the good of a business. 41% of customers prefer to interact on live chat, and 79% of them like it for fast responses. These studies indicate the potential of live chats and quick responses in topping the game of customer experience. That’s the reason why virtual agents are conversing their way into organizational workflows. They give the entire interaction a human touch with AI-enabled capabilities. And they are NOT chatbots. If the idea of implementing a virtual agent is budding in your mind, then it is imperative to learn how useful it is and what makes it different from a chatbot.

Let’s begin.

What is a Virtual Agent?

A virtual agent is a conversational software program that uses artificial intelligence to address and respond to various customer queries. It is programmed to recognize human speech, enabling it to work the way it does – with a more natural and flowy touch.

Virtual agents are capable enough to provide an amalgamation of services, perform repetitive tasks, handle multiple chats at the same time, and discover customer intents. They elevate human teams to shape a better customer experience and demystify the tasks for human agents by reducing the workload. 

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Virtual Agent VS Chatbot – The Difference You Should Know

More and more businesses are incorporating virtual agents today, but the difference between a virtual agent and a chatbot is still fogged. The similarities between the two make identifying the difference in a task. For instance, both show up with a live chat window on the screen and are available 24/7.

A quick response to a query on a small chat window isn’t always the doing of a chatbot. There are virtual agents that are always there to respond to various types of questions. But how do you recognize that? A thin line and cracking are the way to implement the right option for your sales operations.

There are a few crucial differences between a chatbot and a virtual agent.

Capability

A chatbot typically works on the keyword it finds in a customer query and responds to common questions from a set of pre-composed responses. Chatbots can be rule based chatbots, button based chatbots, or the more advanced natural language based chatbots, voice bots or the more sophisticated AI chatbots.

On the other hand, a virtual agent is powered by AI technology and NLP, enabling it to understand user language, mimic human conversations, ask more questions to identify the gist of a query, and direct the conversation to a human agent as questions become more complex.

Complexity

A highlighted difference between chatbots and virtual agents is that the former is notably easier to set up and use. The fact that it only addresses the most common queries and has easy functionality makes maintaining it a less expensive deal. However, chatbots can get complex, depending on the use case. As the bots get more and more complex, so does the cost of implementing these chatbots.

Virtual agents are sophisticated and smarter chatbots, to put it simply. The level of complexity and requirement of various resources with a bit of training demand efforts in setting up and running virtual agents.

Purpose

Determining the reason why you want a specific bot is what makes you see the difference between a chatbot and a more advanced chatbot – a virtual agent.

Chatbots serve the following purpose:

  • Collect information, like customer requirements and personal details for lead qualification, before the chat is passed on to a human agent.
  • More often, provide basic instructions to a customer by providing links to log in or blogs on the page.
  • Performs routine tasks like scheduling appointments.

Virtual agents can be used to:

  • Gather relevant information, understand customer intent, and provide personalized answers.
  • Assist customers with basic troubleshooting.
  • Interact with customers in a more human-like way and tonality.
  • Perform repetitive tasks such as order management, IT assistance, etc.
  • Only escalate highly complex chats to human agents.

Benefits of Using a Virtual Agent

Using a virtual agent helps you stay in touch with your customers and provide quick responses to them even if you’re off the desk. It saves a good deal of time and reduces the workload for your live agents. They can devote this time to resolving complex queries. A virtual agent boosts employee productivity and contributes to a streamlined work process.

Let us take a look at the topmost benefits of virtual agents:

Automated Tasks

One of the biggest advantages of using a virtual agent is that it mitigates the repetition of tasks by automating them. There are various tasks that agents have to handle on repeat, such as order cancellation, registrations, scheduling, etc. You can employ a virtual agent to automate your customer service operations that keep coming back to you. It will also help you improve the response rate and allow your agents enough time to dedicate to queries that require human attention. 

Manage Multiple Chats

A human agent can only pay attention to a limited number of queries simultaneously. When there’s a flood of chats, and you don’t want to make any of your customers wait, who can help you better than a virtual agent? A virtual agent can deal with all your customers seamlessly and diminish the waiting time.

No Work Pressure on Your Agents

One of the foremost reasons why you might want to implement a virtual agent is this. Virtual agents greatly relieve human service by easing the burden off their heads. Since they automate a number of tasks and can handle an endless number of chats at the same time, it ultimately checks the tasks off your agents’ to-do. Given the reduction in the level of urgency required to handle it all, your agents can work with less stress and more ease. 

Lead Generation Errands are Streamlined

Can a virtual agent back your agents with lead generation tasks? Of course, it can. Virtual agents are capable enough to obtain relevant details like name, email address, phone numbers, and other basic details to profile a prospect. It is a steadfast way to get contact information for practices like follow-ups and lead qualifications. 

Boost in Customer Experience

Irrespective of the level of interaction customers have with your business; they will always expect quick replies to their queries. The majority of customers expect agents to respond in less than 10 minutes. You can keep up with a good customer experience by implementing a virtual agent and quickly responding to your customers’ questions. Lastly, naming your virtual agent has proven to be extremely beneficial for improving customer engagement. 

24/7 Support

This is one of the most amazing benefits of using a virtual agent for obvious reasons. Providing round-the-clock service reduces the waiting time and ultimately boosts customer engagement. Self-service also leads to a significant spike in customer satisfaction scores. A number of companies worldwide implement VAs with multilingual self-service for seamless communication with customers from different countries. Overall, a virtual agent ensures steady communication.

Reduced Hiring Costs

Using a virtual agent can help you reduce hiring costs and accelerate the scalability of your business. Yes, a virtual agent is not to replace but back your human agents at the desk. However, a bit of a blend of automated tasks and human support can positively impact the hiring costs. Unlike human agents, virtual agents do not need to be hired or given extensive training. Moreover, you don’t want to hire new agents to perform repetitive tasks. Therefore, it is best to balance the role of virtual agents and human agents to avoid hiring more for a job your VA can do.

Use Cases of Virtual Agents

From e-commerce to IT, a virtual agent gives a hand in demystifying the task of responding to the same queries to different customers. Let’s take a look at the common use cases of virtual agents and how they are helping human agents:

Customer Service

A virtual agent cannot really replace your live agents. However, they can be incredibly useful to them when it comes to handling multiple chats on general queries. It eventually reduces the work pressure and wards the stress off. 

There are basic queries that your live chat agents come across a number of times a day, like order status, account, returns, etc. A virtual agent can handle these questions in real-time, allowing you to focus on questions requiring human intervention.

IT Support

An IT helpdesk receives a number of queries every day. Customers have inquiries and requests such as troubleshooting, software updates, and password reset. Basic queries and issues can be resolved by virtual agents. While a virtual agent can reply to basic questions in no time, employing it can also create a ticket. It improves response rates and boosts customer satisfaction. Moreover, it takes the pressure off your IT staff’s shoulders.

Lead Generation

A virtual agent proves to be tremendously helpful when it comes to lead generation tasks. It helps your sales team generate leads more easily by doing a lot of work on its own. The sales team can use a virtual agent to obtain basic details of customers, such as their names, phone numbers, email addresses, and so on. It also helps dig more about their expectations and reasons to sing in.

Order Management

Retail and e-commerce have customer queries in massive numbers. These queries are generally about canceling, returning, changing orders, changing/modifying address details, and order status. Virtual agents can respond to such queries depending on the product or the information the customer wants to have.

Virtual agents are also useful in sending reminders to your customers to make purchases again based on their past orders. They can also send alerts regarding orders and purchases via email or text. It makes sure that your customers don’t have to wait for the order status and gives them a smooth experience.

IVR

Contact centers have a lot to gain from using a virtual agent in the IVR system. Virtual agents make a good replacement for traditional IVR as they use smart routing. Not to mention, it depends on what your customer communicates. For instance, if your customer wants to know about the order status, the virtual agent will either respond to their query or direct route the call to the right live agent. 

Moreover, they can also authenticate your customers based on details like their registered number, which is a good way to personalize services for them. By implementing this solution, your customers and agents can save a good amount of time.

Final Thoughts

A chatbot and a virtual agent essentially accomplish the same thing, albeit a virtual agent can be considered an advanced version of a chatbot. Chatbots started out as simple pieces of software which can carry out repetitive tasks, but as time progressed, we can see chatbots becoming more and more advanced.

So, if your plan is to implement a virtual agent, determining how it is useful to your requirements and needs should be your first move. You can also measure your chatbot’s performance with specific metrics and chatbot data. In the end, it is all up to you, dear reader, as to the sophistication of the solution required.

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