Have you ever asked yourself why business-to-consumer communication has become much more complicated over the years? After all, asking a question and then getting a response is a natural, everyday part of life. Since technology has taken over the world of communication, it seems like it has become more difficult to get an answer, even though the purpose of technology is to simplify things.
Customer communication: from vocal to digital
It all started with the first phone call on March 10, 1876. With this event, people all over the world would be able to communicate with each other – and soon also with businesses. As phones became more available, organizations had to deal with more incoming calls. So in order to handle all these incoming calls, the IVR was invented in the 1970s. It allowed organizations to understand the customer’s needs and then route them to the right agent. The result? Consumers had to wait on hold.
Thanks to the internet (which went live August 6, 1991) and the creation of web chat (the first version was ICQ, launched in November 1996), we were then able to communicate through a computer, without waiting on hold. Instead, consumers were required to sit in front of the device until the conversation was over – not very convenient.
Digital engagement becomes mobile – and convenient – and abundant
With the rise of mobile phones and with them the beginning of SMS in 1992, consumers were able to text at any time, no matter where they were. Although SMS was (and still mostly is) used for proactive notifications – things like alerts and reminders – organizations are now starting to see the potential in using this channel for two-way communication.
Facebook and Twitter might have started the messaging hype by introducing their own “instant messaging” capabilities in 2010. Within just a few years, consumers were also confronted with messaging apps like WeChat (January 2011), Line (March 2011), Facebook Messenger (August 2011), smart speakers like the Amazon Echo (November 2014) and the “revamp” of SMS through RCS Business Messaging (February 2017) and Apple Business Chat (June 2017). This plethora of communication channels made it slightly overwhelming for enterprises.
Soon, every consumer had their preferred channel, and they used it to ask questions to businesses. To cope with the flood of incoming requests, organizations started to deploy the IVR for the digital world: chatbots. They became popular with the release of Facebook Messenger Bots in 2016; however, they and their more intelligent counterparts, virtual assistants, have been around for a while. The purpose was to automate conversations and deliver an always available self-service that is easy to use. Unfortunately, a lot of vendors and organizations underestimated the complexity of conversations, which led to bad experiences and frustrated customers.
How are these businesses to know which virtual assistant solution is able to deliver a modern customer experience that understands the nuances of how people communicate?
Finding the right solution
Analyst firms like Opus Research have taken on the task to analyze all the virtual assistant vendors, sort through their claims and recommend the best of the best with the goal to provide reliable information to enterprises so they can simplify their communication strategy and create the next generation of customer engagement. We’ve provided for you Opus’s recommendations here. Spoiler alert: Nuance is ranked as one of the best Enterprise Intelligent Assistant vendors; but see for yourself by downloading a complimentary copy.