The key market trends driving adoption of virtual assistants

Adoption of virtual assistants is booming in both consumer and enterprise markets. But why? Customer expectations for personalized customer service which is delivered quickly, in an automated fashion, and to the customer’s preferred channel, is certainly a factor. But customer expectations are not alone. Nuance’s Pablo Supkay outlines other factors driving the $15.8 billion virtual assistant market.
Consumer need for instant gratification, proliferation of mobile devices, increase in conversational speech capabilities, social media and rising operational costs drive adoption of virtual assistants.

Virtual assistants are rapidly gaining traction in both consumer and enterprise markets. A recent report from Tractica forecasts that unique active consumer virtual assistant users will grow from 390 million in 2015 to 1.8 billion worldwide by the end of 2021 – increasing the market revenue from $1.6 billion to roughly $15.8 billion!


Why the increase in adoption?

Social and economic forces, and advances in technology, are driving demand for personalized customer service that can be delivered more quickly and in an automated fashion over the customer’s channel of choice. Additionally, improving the level of customer care is now a top priority for many enterprises.

According to Deloitte Research, 85% of customer service organizations view customer experience as a competitive differentiator. A simple search on LinkedIn reveals hundreds of customer success executive titles and companies, indicating a recent trend in the enterprise to elevate customer success programs. Seventy-seven percent of these enterprises expect to maintain or grow the size of their team during the next 12-24 months. And last, but not least, 82% view accuracy and quality of information as the most important attribute of customer experience.

While businesses understand the need to improve the customer experience in order to increase customer satisfaction and retention, they seek to balance the cost of providing quality service with the constant business objective of controlling costs.


5 factors that contribute to growth

  1. Instant gratification: In our always-on, next-day delivery, 24/7 news cycle society, we’re used to getting what we want, when we want it — and if we can’t get what we want from one company, a reasonable substitute is often just a click or call away. Enterprises are under increasing pressure to provide instant, personalized, intelligent answers to any – and all – questions consumers have.
  2. Mobile phone proliferation: In 2016, nearly 60% of the world’s population has access to the internet from their mobile smartphones. We use our phones for everything from ordering food to filing an insurance claim. Our expectations for self-service extend to these devices where screen real estate puts strict restrictions on website design and access to information.
  3. Conversational, interactive speech: Thanks to the proliferation of well-known consumer brands releasing virtual assistants, we can now use our voices for everything from ordering pizza to turning on lights, to purchasing a plane ticket. Natural language understanding allows us to “talk normally” while interacting with intelligent systems to get answers faster and provide a more comfortable experience.
  4. Social media: The popularity of social media channels such as Facebook give consumers more ways to communicate with the enterprise, seek information, and instantly share their opinions with hundreds of thousands of followers. Increasingly, these channels are also seen as a source of revenue growth.  In fact, 66% of Facebook Messenger users also shop online. The bad news is many companies can’t keep up with the bigger conversation volumes. Nuance’s virtual assistant Nina integrates seamlessly with Facebook Messenger, helping businesses cost-effectively stay on top of social media interactions.
  5. Operating costs: Operating a large contact center is expensive – and growing more expensive by the day. More than 50% of customers call customer service when a company doesn’t reach them first, and according to Forrester, a typical transaction completed via a live agent costs upwards of $12 per call! Adopting a virtual assistant can significantly cut costs of each customer interaction, letting you reallocate that spend to other operational costs.

In the end, increasing the ratio of self-service to live service will have a dramatic impact on cutting costs, and if done using state-of-the-art technology and best practices, will not negatively impact customer satisfaction. Given the evidence at hand, it’s no surprise that the intelligent virtual assistant market has so much potential.

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Consumers wants conversational virtual assistants

Widespread adoption of virtual assistants has changed the way consumers interact with their personal devices. Today, consumers expect the same natural, conversational interactions when they engage with businesses to obtain service.

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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.