How Can I Help You? How Virtual Assistants Are Transforming Customer Experience.

Mobile Phone Virtual Assistant Chat Illustration

At some point, you’ve probably come across a virtual assistant. It may have offered support tracking a package or helped you pay a bill online.

Virtual assistants are becoming a popular choice for many businesses to offer quick answers to common support questions across a range of industries, from retail to benefits and healthcare, and more. This technology is being rolled out across a variety of digital channels including web, interactive phone systems and smart speakers. The goal is to enable customer self-service, offer 24/7 assistance and reduce service center volume.

So, how does a virtual assistant work? Here’s a look at the tech behind it.

At its most basic, a virtual assistant is a computer program that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate human conversation through text or voice input. This happens through a process called “machine learning,” a part of AI which allows virtual assistant to self-learn and improve from experience.

Here’s how it works: first, the virtual assistant is taught a variety of phrases, which correlate to specific programmed capabilities and responses. Over time, through experience, it becomes more confident in how to respond to phrases from users. With continuous training and refinement, the virtual assistant will recognize more “natural language”, and as a result, be more likely to correctly respond to questions, statements, and other data.

Just think of it like a growing child – it learns and matures over time!

As proof of this process, when surveyed by PwC, 27% of consumers weren’t sure if their last customer service interaction was with a chatbot or a human.1 This percentage will only increase as more are deployed in the future and the technology continues to mature.

Top advantages of virtual assistants for today’s businesses

Virtual assistants can offer many advantages to both businesses and their users.

They can:
1.  Provide immediate answers to common questions.
2.  Offer 24/7 access to personalized, self-service support.
3.  Reduce customer service representative call volume for top call drivers.
4.  Help businesses better understand customer trends and satisfaction.
5.  Increase user engagement by informing them of their outstanding tasks,
new site features, and time-sensitive alerts.

Virtual assistants as a key part of the benefits experience

Ask Emma LogoVirtual assistants can play a major role in the employee benefits experience. For example, employees using bswift can conveniently chat with virtual assistant, Emma, on their benefits platform to get quick solutions to the benefits questions they may have. This allows them to stay focused on understanding and using their benefits, instead of spending time looking for answers.

Before implementing a virtual assistant in this context, keep in mind that it can help answer the “who”, “what” and “where” of a question, but may not be able to answer the “why.” Instead, virtual assistants can help by directing employees to where they can find the information they need.

For example, if an employee asks a virtual assistant “What’s my plan deductible?” it could quickly pull up their data and respond. If the employee asks a more complex question like, “Why was my son’s visit to the dermatologist so expensive?” it can direct the user to an overview of their benefit information or their benefits service center.

In this way, virtual assistants can supplement customer service representatives by resolving simple benefits requests while guiding more complex ones to human support. Rather than replacing customer service entirely, they can serve as a very crucial part of a multifaceted team designed to address all levels of employee issue.

What does the future hold for virtual assistants?

Virtual assistants have continued to evolve in recent years with their widespread adoption across industry lines. Modern innovations include a more guided conversation led by the virtual assistant. For example, virtual assistants can prompt users with action cards and choices that can help narrow down the solution to the problem much more quickly. They will do this while using the natural and engaging language they have learned over their development to make the process more comfortable for the user.

Virtual assistants are also increasingly finding their way into other areas of websites, concealed behind search bars and other embedded tools, where they can again use their natural language abilities to help and guide users.2

Regardless of how they are used, virtual assistants can help fill a hole in customer service solutions with their ability to engage users at anytime, anywhere. They will continue to become a core part of the customer service experience and investing in their success will only lead to better results for both the business implementing them, and the end user.

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1 PwC, Bot.Me, pg. 12
2 Forrester, The Future of Chatbots, pg. 2

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