Virtual agents are the next step in the chatbot revolution. Here’s why.

By Tanya Newhouse, CEO at Clevertar

While chatbots have revolutionised the way we talk with consumers, the human touch is still important and that’s where virtual agents will fill the gap in 2019.

Chatbots have been one most talked about tech and customer service trends in 2018 and there’s no denying they’re gaining traction.

There is still ground to cover, however, in helping customers become more comfortable with using a chatbot for customer support.

Studies have shown consumers still want a human touch element in the customer service process.

Research conducted by PointSource shows that while consumer perceptions of bots are warming, 54% of survey respondents would still prefer to talk to a real person.

Most research highlights that consumers believe a human will understand what they need better than a bot.

And there lies the problem: customer service teams can only take so many calls and can only be in so many places at once.

This is where a virtual agent will fill the gap by putting a face and name to the experience for greater engagement and appeal.
I believe in 2019 the new type of chatbot should be truly relational, instilling a human-like interaction through a 3D animated body.

Based on my experience, there are several reasons why virtual agents will overtake chatbots in 2019. Let’s take a closer look at why.

A chatbot with a human face
We know from science that humans are social animals, so much so that people experience physical pain when they are socially rejected or disapproved.

Computers traditionally – and most chatbots in the market – have no social skills whatsoever – they are tools, not social companions.

That’s why a virtual agent offers a superior user experience.

Seemingly the best of both worlds, virtual agents combine human likeness and interaction with robotic perfection.

This means consumers are not only having a human-like interaction with a computer but a 3D animated body and face is delivering the content which enhances the engagement qualities and the relationship developed with the user.

Not to mention, virtual agents can interact with people through speech, gaze, gesture, and other behaviours that can communicate not just meaning, but also attentiveness, positive affect, and attraction.

This is powerful because as humans we don’t just communicate by typing words. We respond to visuals, body language and inflection.

Research has shown people like interacting with virtual characters
Research has shown people like interacting with virtual characters due to their human-like characteristics.

This has been proven in various health studies we’ve conducted which demonstrated patients enjoy interacting with their virtual agent more than they do with their doctors.

Plus, we know from the success of various animated movie/game/toy franchises that consumers have no trouble falling in love with artificial characters.

Bots with personality are preferred
Research by Liveperson and Survata (2017) asked whether respondents would prefer a customer service bot with a name and personality.

While US respondents were ambivalent, close to half of the respondents in Germany (45%), France (44%), Japan (42%)  and Australia (36%) believe customer service bots should have a name and personality.

Of those who would like a bot to have a personality or don’t care, most would prefer it to be friendly.

Virtual agents bring their consistently friendly personalities to all conversations.

They are able to remain constant with the same responses, keeping an upbeat attitude no matter the time or day.

Virtual agents will remember you
Virtual agents can even allow users to save profiles so they can pick up conversations where previously left off, allowing a more bespoke, personalised service as a result of deeper data exchange.

Virtual agents can handle complex queries
Difficult questions are part of the typical customer service journey.

For example, in our healthcare implementations, our ‘relational’ virtual agents sometimes have to ask difficult questions, like how a person is coping mentally. Amazingly, people are often MORE willing to answer such difficult questions when they deal with a relational virtual agent than with a real person because they know they won’t be judged.

Users readily engage with a relational agent in a private conversation to help them with their problem, and unlike a chatbot with its single-turn interactions, relational virtual agents can guide users down a personalised pathway which creates far deeper engagement.

These are just some of the reasons why virtual agents are the next step in the chatbot revolution and will overtake chatbots in 2019.

If you’re ready to implement your new virtual agent, you’ve come to the right place.

Clevertar helps clients create their complete virtual support team by introducing their innovative and cutting-edge intelligent virtual agent technology into your digital workflow.

We’ll work hand-in-hand with you to develop the personality, abilities, and processes of your agent, so that they can best engage with your customers on your behalf, collect useful data that will help you to better understand your customer-base, and increase the overall efficiency of your business.

Not only are Clevertar’s chatbots and virtual agents intelligent, automated, and customizable, they are also well built, thoughtfully designed, and highly personable.

Experience Clevertar for yourself:

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