It’s no secret that when people need answers, they turn to the web. And with nearly 40,000 Google queries every second, it’s become increasingly clear that Google sets the standard for what people expect out of those online experiences. They want fast, easy, and accurate resolutions on-demand. But when we took a step back, we at Nuance couldn’t help but ask ourselves: are businesses living up to that “Google standard”? Are company websites providing efficient and simple service? Or is there a disconnect between what consumers expect from corporate websites, and what they’re actually getting?
Earlier this month, we hosted a webinar with Wakefield Research called “The Web of Confusion” to reveal the answer to this question, and to unfold how corporate websites are performing against customer expectations. We found that, overwhelmingly, bad websites hurt a company’s reputation and negatively impact the customer relationship. In fact, two out of three global consumers say they would stop doing business with a company whose website was difficult to navigate. But fortunately, our research also showed that companies who master their websites will be rewarded, as consumers will spend more money with companies whose websites are easy to use. In order to help businesses improve their websites, we discussed the value of leveraging a virtual assistant to provide the effective, personalized self-service experience that customers expect from corporate websites.
But as is often the case with live presentations, some of the best and most enlightening moments of this webinar came from our audience’s questions. In case you missed any of the action, we’ve compiled highlights from the Q&A session below, featuring responses from our own Lynn Ridenour of Nuance, and Nathan Richter of Wakefield Research.
Question: What’s the difference between a chatbot and a virtual assistant?
Lynn Ridenour: The term chatbot has really only become popular in the last 18 months. It’s essentially describing the same thing as a virtual assistant – a conversational system that has the ability to engage in a dialogue and help consumers solve their issues on a website. But the fact that those terms are often used interchangeably doesn’t get to the heart of what makes virtual assistants so effective. In essence, what sets virtual assistants apart are four basic elements.
- First is their ability to engage in humanlike conversations, which enables them to understand intent, offer personalized responses, mimic human interactions, and learn from experiences to continuously improve.
- Second is the fact that virtual assistants have contextual awareness, which allows them to provide fast, relevant information to each individual customer and suggest content that fits their needs.
- Third, virtual assistants can work seamlessly with live agents, ensuring that customers’ time is not wasted, that requests are escalated as necessary, and that their interactions with virtual assistants feed directly to the live agent so people don’t have to repeat themselves.
- Fourth and finally, virtual assistants offer a consistent experience across channels, connecting the dots between channels and breaking down silos. And it’s those four factors that make virtual assistants uniquely successful at solving customer issues quickly and effectively, and doing so in a customized way.
Question: Are websites getting worse?
Nathan Richter: About 80 percent of people think that finding information online is getting less difficult. So in that sense, the issue is getter better. But you have to look at that number in context. Twenty percent of people think finding information is harder than it used to be, so clearly the issue is not solved. So there’s certainly been progress, but problems still remain that companies need to address in order to satisfy and retain their customers.
Question: Is there one customer segment in particular that feels more strongly about website performance?
Nathan Richter: Our research shows that all ages care about the effectiveness and ease of corporate websites. These are universally-held sentiments. However, the feeling is slightly stronger among Millennials, who tend to be more digitally passionate and have higher expectations when it comes to how technology should work.
Question: Will virtual assistants replace live agents?
Lynn Ridenour: This is a topic that we’ve talked a lot about at Nuance. We don’t think a virtual assistant will ever replace live agents. We’re working hard to build virtual assistants that can mimic humans and leverage conversational AI. But there will always be a need for humans, particularly in the case of sensitive interactions and complex situations. In those types of scenarios, humans will forever be vital and irreplaceable. And that’s why it’s so critical to have an integration between virtual assistants and live agents – so consumers can transition from channel to channel with ease.