How virtual assistants change customer-brand interaction

Support is an often overlooked expense at companies of all sizes. Founders want to spend their limited budgets on engineers to improve their products and services or marketing and advertising to attract new customers, not on people to answer the phones. But when support is neglected companies start to lose customers to churn.

Attracting new customers always a much more significant expense than maintaining those already signed up, and so for a business to succeed it needs to both be finding new customers and investing in how best to support their current customer base. And a large part of that is making rapid support available, such as via web chat, where businesses can utilise virtual assistants and chatbots to reduce the volume of support requests handled by employees.

If we take the telecoms industry as an example, one of the most common complaints is that when customers face an issue with their connection they struggle to get hold of anyone to help. When issues start to happen in the network, the phone queues can last for hours, and people simply will not wait around to find out what is going on – they will start to look for another provider.

Instead of only offering support by phone, if the telecom customer experience was more online-focused, with a chatbot and knowledgebase of information, then many of these queries could be answered by AI, without ever troubling the limited number of local support staff. Unique and complex support queries would still be filtered through to local support staff, but all those simple questions from customers about whether an issue is at their home or affecting the whole, network, when an expected fix will be available, when their next bill is due, or other questions that will be asked over and over again could all be solved by a mixture of chatbots and well-trained virtual assistants. And if these questions are solved more quickly, it means that those with the complex questions would get through to a local support engineer much more quickly and so their problems would also be addressed without sitting in a phone queue for hours. Everyone is happier.

Whilst offering local support 24/7 is prohibitively expensive for many companies, utilising a combination of chatbots and remote virtual assistants based in other time zones means that offering such a service today is significantly more affordable. Whilst some support requests will still need to be filtered up the chain to local support engineers at the start of the next working day, the majority of support requests can be solved at the time, which means that there is not a large backlog of support needs waiting at the start of each day.

In the digital era, where local support agents can be assisted with both virtual assistants based in other time zones and increasingly cleaver AI chatbots, offering great support can and should be standard. We live in an immediate economy, where people expect answers within seconds, not hours, and a combination of virtual assistants and AI finally makes this affordable and companies that do not invest will be left behind.