What if you could speak to an AI you actually like?

By Ryan Falkenberg, 13 May 2023 – Originally published by IOL.

If your mobile phone is due for an upgrade, you probably know already. Maybe you love tech and have been eagerly anticipating getting your hands on the latest offering from your favourite manufacturer. Maybe you’ve noticed your device getting slower and more buggy. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because of the incessant calls from your mobile network telling you that it’s time to upgrade (which inevitably come just as you’re sitting down to dinner or are in the middle of an important meeting).

But even if the call comes at a time that’s convenient for you (Millennials and Gen Zs would argue that there’s no such thing), it’s probably not going to be all that useful. After all, you’re generally dealing with call centre agents trained to read a script and, well, not much else. They don’t know you, or whether you need more data than airtime or vice-versa, or whether camera quality or device storage is more important to you.

Fortunately, there is a better way and it involves the use of artificial intelligence (AI) products that a) people actually like talking to and b) are actually useful. Called virtual agents, they can turn the upgrading process from a right royal pain into one that’s pleasant.

Nicer than a chatbot, more helpful than a human

Virtual agents are conversation specialists that can have richer, more helpful conversations than traditional chatbots. Plus they can make sure resulting actions get done.

Importantly, they can also be deployed in a wide variety of ways, meaning that customers can interact with them at the time and on the channel they’re most comfortable with (no more invasive phone calls!).

Let’s say, for instance, that you’re sitting on your couch after dinner and you remember getting an SMS or email reminder that you’re due an upgrade. Maybe that reminder contains a link that allows you to choose if you want to continue the process via the web or an instant messaging app.

From there, the virtual agent will advise you on the right package, given your feature preferences and historic data usage. It is more like having a conversation with a phone and package expert, rather than a simple assistant. That should come as a massive relief to anyone who’s ever tried to work out that phone and package to choose based on the overwhelming number of choices available.

Unlike traditional chatbots, the virtual agent can dynamically adjust the questions it asks according to your answers. And like a human expert, it can shape its recommendations based on known data plus your expressed preferences. Implemented effectively, it might even be able to guide you through the upgrade process without you having to go into a store and sign a law library’s worth of documents.

Let’s get down to business

Investing in virtual agents is, in other words, something that businesses should view as imperative. Not only do they improve the overall customer experience, but they also ensure that the business doesn’t waste time and money on conversations that do the exact opposite. Not incidentally, that also means that when people do need to speak to a human, those call centre agents will be able to focus on what they’re best at: being human.

And let’s be honest, wouldn’t the world be a better place if there were fewer unsolicited phone calls at inconvenient times? Millennials and Gen Zs certainly think so. And given that they currently represent upwards of 42% of the South African population (and therefore a significant consumer base) in South Africa, that makes investing that much more crucial.

View original article here.