Why channels matter when building a virtual assistant

With new communication channels sprouting up every day and traditional channels continuing to evolve, there’s an abundance of ways for businesses to communicate with customers. But while these new channels provide opportunities for companies, they also create challenges as businesses must learn to seamlessly and effectively communicate on a growing number of media. Read on to learn how virtual assistants can help businesses deliver the experience customers want across multiple channels.
In today’s multichannel era, businesses should leverage virtual assistants to communicate with their customers.

We’re in an era of significant channel proliferation – new communication channels are constantly being added (Pokemon Go is the most recent example of this evolution) and mature channels are experiencing powerful changes. There are the traditional communication channels, such as IVR, email and websites. But there’s also an exciting wave of channels experiencing tremendous growth, including mobile, text and social media. And let’s not forget the Internet of Things, which is creating a seemingly never-ending number of innovative ways for businesses to interact with their customers, from connected cars and homes to wearables.


New channels mean challenges and opportunity

However, while these new channels present great opportunities for businesses, they also create challenges, as companies must figure out how to effectively and seamlessly communicate with their customers on a growing number of media. To navigate this evolving landscape, companies need to ensure they’re providing consistent self-service experiences no matter how their customers choose to communicate. Here’s why multichannel virtual assistants allow companies to do exactly that.


But why multi-channel?

Let’s backtrack for a moment. Why is multichannel support so important for businesses in the first place? Multichannel matters because it’s what consumers want!  One-third of respondents say digital channels provide them with information they need, with less person-to-person interaction. And research shows email, mobile, and text are all rising as preferred communication channels. It’s definitely not a question of if businesses should tap into multiple communication channels. It’s how companies can best implement these channels. Savvy businesses must evolve how they communicate or run the risk of losing touch with their customers’ needs and expectations.


Self-service is the secret sauce

So what’s the secret? To start, businesses need to leverage self-service. Ninety percent of those who use automated self-service, compared to sixty-seven percent of those who don’t, say customer service has a significant impact on their decision to do business with a company. In addition, 59 percent agree that automated self-service options have improved customer service – with 15 percent of respondents saying it improves customer service significantly. Among Millennials, the preference is even stronger: three-quarters of Millennial respondents say automated self-service has improved customer service.

It’s clear: customers want to be able to find answers and solve their own problems – on their timetable. If it’s 3am and your customer needs answers, you need to provide a friendly and cost-effective way to meet that expectation. Which is why a virtual assistant is so beneficial: a virtual assistant never sleeps. Virtual assistants empower the customer to self-serve 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And they’re as engagingly upbeat and professional the first time a question is asked as they are the millionth time.


Ensure consistency at every call (or email, or click)

Along with self-service, businesses need to ensure consistency across channels in order to make multichannel service successful. Consumers are using more channels to communicate with businesses – often in tandem. Therefore, it’s critical that the same information be communicated across all channels and that interactions be seamless when consumers move from one channel to the next.

Virtual assistants can do just that. A virtual assistant can hold hundreds of thousands of conversations simultaneously and communicate identical messages every time. And when information or processes change within a business, that change can be implemented everywhere all at once. The customer calling the IVR will get the same updated answer as the customer interacting with the corporate social media account on their mobile device at the same moment in time – from different parts of the world, even in different languages.

With so many channels through which to reach customers, businesses must expand their horizons and move beyond traditional communication methods. They need to follow the market and follow their customers. But to be successful in the multichannel era, businesses must focus on consistency across channels and empowering customers to self-serve. With virtual assistants, companies can provide exactly that.

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Susan Daniel

About Susan Daniel

Susan Daniel is a principal lead Nina interaction designer in Enterprise R&D at Nuance Communications. Susan has contributed design work to many virtual assistants for international customers, including: Fidelity, USAA, Dominos, and ING, among others. She also has ownership of multiple issued US patents in the virtual assistant domain.