With every passing day, customer expectations are perpetually being set at higher levels. Regular upgrades are being made to operating systems throughout the spectrum of personal technologies, exposing users to more refined, intuitive interfaces. These innovations will undoubtedly affect the perception of what it means to provide superior customer service.

To deliver the best possible service to customers, businesses also have to contend with rising frequency of customer calls and requests without the appropriate amount of labor to support such a high volume of activity. To remedy the lack of labor resources and boost performance levels and work output within support centers, many businesses have resorted to chatbots as a means of reducing the workload of customer support agents. Having been preloaded with scripted answers for specific queries, chatbots are effective for answering straightforward questions commonly seen on a FAQ list. These answers are devoid of emotional understanding and contextual comprehension.

Cognitive virtual agents (CVA’s) such as Amelia, on the other hand, can assume and excel in several roles within a customer service department because they can empathize with a customer base at an emotional level and can understand the meaning of words, not simply react to them like triggers built into chatbots. CVA’s possess superhuman abilities that accent their human features such as machine-speed data analysis, large-scale data capture and being available 24/7 to help customers with their needs.

So how exactly do cognitive virtual agents complement existing customer service teams? Here are some of the ways organizations can leverage the advanced capabilities of a CVA:

Taking the hassle out of your ‘hassle’ tasks

In the process of resolving an issue, there are certain tasks that are particularly tedious and time-consuming for a human agent to complete over a live conversation. In these scenarios, virtual agents can exist solely in a “whisper” capacity to advise human agents on a better course of action and act as an informational resource capable of retrieving client data quickly and accurately. CVA’s are tapped into native back-end systems so the gathering and analysis of business data is fast and seamless. This also allows companies to simplify the training requirements and systems knowledge their frontline staff requires.

Bear in mind, the human agent is still communicating directly with the customer while the virtual agent is working diligently in the background. Combining the reassuring, human communication factor of a live agent with the superhuman capabilities of a virtual agent means customer calls are made shorter, equating to higher customer satisfaction and productivity levels. At the moment, Amelia is being deployed as a “whisper agent” in the call centers of one of the largest investment companies in the world. In this role, she leverages her ability to process large quantities of data and produce the analytics human agents need to address customer queries and issues.

Dividing and conquering work

Incorporating virtual agents into a company’s workforce means realigning the distribution of tasks. AI-driven digital labor takes over repetitive, low-level issues and allows for human agents to handle incidents of greater complexity. This type of realignment creates inter-departmental efficiency without resulting in drops of customer satisfaction (CSAT). Cognitive virtual agents possess natural language processing (NLP) combined with semantic, episodic and emotional capabilities to help them communicate with customers in a natural, human-like way.

Establishing that human connection with a customer is important in any business, but perhaps none more so than in the gaming industry. A gaming company of global renown has placed Amelia at the forefront of its phisher-detecting team. Gamers have actually taken a liking to her as suggested by her 86% CSAT scores. Amelia’s ability to understand human sentiment and react appropriately made her stand out from regular chatbot solutions.

Making destinations (and companies) unforgettable

Imagine a concierge desk that’s always open and accessible. Whether that be in the lobby of a hotel, museum or cruise line. What if it was also available on the web or as your new BFF via sms/iMessage/What’sApp? Ready to offer suggestions on the best restaurants in the area or help answer any other questions. A virtual agent can fill this role and provide people with more time to enjoy themselves instead of having to research where to eat or locating the nearest tourist attractions. Not only that, a virtual concierge employee will ensure that every customer interaction is a positive one by leveraging its facial recognition, emotional detection and natural language capabilities to deduce how a customer is feeling and communicate with them in a way that develops trust and comfortability throughout the conversation.

Recently, a CIO from a major cruise company commented on how confusing and stressful it is for their customers to board their cruise liners. He envisions AI playing a significant role in streamlining this process for their customers so they can simply board the ship with greater ease and cut out unnecessary wait times.

With the overall scalability of a virtual agent and its capacity to engage in natural, humanlike conversations, virtual agents can be leveraged within any aspect of a customer service operation.

It’s important to note, virtual agents can be successfully deployed in a wide range of environments, customer-facing or not, mainly because subject matter experts can teach digital employees industry-specific processes and data. In addition, they can feed them previous dialogue transcripts so they learn how to properly engage with customers during different scenarios.

When you consider the increasing expectations of customers and the volume of calls and requests hitting customer service departments on a daily basis, artificial intelligence in the form of virtual agents is the only technological force capable of keeping a company’s customer satisfaction rates high while at the same time boosting workplace productivity.

CVA’s and their emulation of human, neo-cortical activities have reached a point where more and more organizations have realized the potential of AI to completely reshape the face of customer experience (CX) and provide them with a way to differentiate themselves from the competition. As I’ve mentioned above, some corporations have already embarked on their own CX transformation through AI and started to carve out their own competitive advantage for the future. The question is who will turn AI into a competitive advantage first in their respective markets.