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What are intelligent virtual agents and how are they used by contact centers?

9/7/2016

Question
What are intelligent virtual agents and how are they used by contact centers?

Answer
Intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) are products of artificial intelligence (AI), a branch of computer science focused on the development of intelligent machines that mimic human cognitive functions to learn, reason, work and react in a human-like way. IVAs are known by various names, some of which include interactive virtual agents, virtual agents, virtual reps, v-reps, chatbots and chatterbots. Visual representations of IVAs, on websites or within mobile apps, may be shown as avatars or have a more human-like appearance. IVAs have been programmed to communicate with humans and are powered by multiple underlying technologies, including speech-to-text/text-to-speech, speech recognition, natural language processing/understanding, voice user interfaces, machine learning, and more. They leverage interactive, context-aware knowledge bases to retrieve the data needed to “converse” with humans.

IVAs are used by contact centers to extend and enhance the self-service and agentless capabilities offered to customers. Though most commonly encountered on company websites, IVAs can also support inbound and outbound voice, interactive voice response (IVR), chat, text and mobile apps. Contact centers are leveraging IVAs to improve the customer experience by providing automated self-service and agentless options for routine activities and transactions, such as answering basic questions and directing prospects and customers to additional resources for customer service, sales, marketing and product support. This, in turn, frees up the IVAs’ human counterparts (agents) for more complex and interesting interactions, which increases agent engagement. Since IVAs never sleep, call in sick or take a vacation day, they are always available to customers, and because they don’t have “a bad day,” their interactions are always professional and they provide a consistent brand experience.