Apple's Siri raises profile of mobile virtual agents


Siri, that sweet-sounding personal assistant on Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) mobile devices, has raised the profile of mobile virtual agent technology, noted Forrester analyst Kate Leggett.

"Siri provides the right engagement paradigm--ask a question and get an answer--a right answer. Because of Siri, companies focused on increasing customer satisfaction scores to move the needle on customer loyalty are often asking 'why can't we offer Siri-like experiences on our web or mobile sites to help customers ask questions in their own words?'," Leggett wrote on her blog.

A recent Forrester survey found that 66 percent of those surveyed use search engines to get answers to questions, but they reported only a 51 percent satisfaction rating using that method, the lowest of all communication channels tracked by the research firm.

By contrast, VAs use natural language and artificial intelligence to provide answers to questions, which are asked with a user's natural speech pattern.

"These answers could be a straightforward response, knowledge base content, data (like 'did my check clear?' or the result of a transaction (like 'book me on the next flight home out of San Francisco') With the right tuning, and integration to back end systems, virtual agents are able to personalize and contextualize customer interactions," wrote Leggett.

The Forrester analyst cautioned that using VAs successfully requires continuous monitoring of conversations and tuning algorithms.

Leggett offered the following best practices to improve VA use: align your virtual agent with your brand; understand the conversation that customers want to have with you; build out a corpus of industry-specific terms; integrate with back end systems; monitor the success of virtual agent conversations; consider the user experience if the interaction fails; and leverage the expertise of vendors.

For more:
- check out Leggett's blog

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