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Mythbusters: Solving 5 mysteries around virtual assistants

As customers increasingly demand self-service options for their business interactions, companies are turning to virtual assistants to empower consumers to solve issues on their own. But many organizations still have questions as to how exactly virtual assistant technology works and how it can benefit the business. We’re here to debunk five common myths about virtual assistants.
Virtual assistants can improve business functions and the customer experience.

Expectations of virtual assistants can be unrealistic, as they are often shaped by the make-believe world we see in science fiction movies (think Blade Runner and The Terminator). As a result, we often seek fictional virtual assistants that can reason and sense emotion and understand our questions and be good listeners and solve our problems. But when it comes to judging a virtual assistant solution, what do you really need to get the job done? What is fact and what is myth about this technology? We’re here to help you dispel 5 myths and mysteries surrounding intelligent virtual assistants.

Myth #1: Virtual assistants need an avatar

Intelligent responses? Yes. Personalized interaction? Check. But a virtual assistant doesn’t have to have an avatar. Many of our most effective virtual assistants are embedded into website menus, search boxes, and mobile in-app “buttons” that enable voice or text interaction where you need it and when you need it.  Avatars are “nice to have’s”, not must-haves. But if you do include an avatar, make sure they aren’t a photograph of an actual human being. Research indicates that we still want to know – without a doubt – when we are talking with a machine.

Myth #2: Virtual assistants don’t provide enough privacy or security for my personal information

Using a virtual assistant does not mean forfeiting your privacy or security. According to contact center usage research, 55 percent of consumers prefer automated self-service. In separate findings, 1 in 5 millennials seeks self-service checkout to a cashier. And regardless of age group, one of the most popular reasons for wanting automated self-service is to keep transactions and financial information private. So it’s easy to see why 89% of consumers want to engage in conversation with virtual assistants to quickly find information instead of searching through Web pages or a mobile app on their own. However, it’s still important for businesses to ensure the virtual assistant vendor they select meets the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), to better protect sensitive consumer information.

Myth #3: Virtual assistants only work on a website

Customers engage with businesses on multiple channels, many averaging three or more during their customer journeys, according to research from Ovum. These channels increasingly include text/SMS, email, and messaging apps like Facebook Messenger – to name just a few. Deploying a digital virtual assistant on one or more of these channels can have significant impact on reducing operating costs by containing conversations to lower cost channels and deflecting calls from contact center agents.

Myth #4: Virtual assistants can damage a company brand with unintended responses

Virtual assistants like Nina from Nuance integrate “human supervision” to curate interactions, minimize overhead and maximize value through efficient monitoring of responses. For instance, Nina uses machine learning to automatically group and categorize questions, map them to possible answers, and then allow a person to quickly verify or update these groupings. Nina also provides the capability to transfer to an agent during the conversation without losing context, and can track all customer interactions so agents can intervene when necessary.

Myth #5: Virtual assistants can only handle simple interactions

That depends on the virtual assistant. Many can take single questions and effectively provide resolutions – like “get me an Uber.” But the real complexity lies in a virtual assistant’s ability to authenticate your identity, engage in multi-slot conversations (interactions that collect multiple pieces of related information for the purpose of accomplishing a specific goal or learning about a topic quickly and easily) and provide you with personalized information such as money transfers and healthcare records. Nina integrates with Nuance’s Voice Biometrics capabilities to authenticate users by their voice and supports multi-slot conversational dialogs so that you can say “I want to transfer $500 to my son’s bank account” and magically, it happens.

These advanced capabilities aren’t science fiction. This kind of intelligent virtual assistant technology is in-market and working for companies worldwide as we speak. To learn more about virtual assistants and how your business can benefit from implementing this technology, check out our website for more details.

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Pablo Supkay

About Pablo Supkay

Pablo Supkay is Senior Manager, DCS Product Management, responsible for Nuance’s virtual assistant, Nina. Pablo has over 20 years of experience in UX design, customer engagement, targeting and personalization. Prior to Nuance, he held product management positions at Corbis Corporation and Microsoft, where he worked on a variety of initiatives to optimize customer experience across the customer journey. Pablo holds an MBA from Rice University and a Plan II Honors BA from the University of Texas at Austin.