Virtual Assistants – self help to Customer Service Staff

Online Virtual Assistants are increasingly becoming the first point of contact for users who need help from customer service. However, sometimes it is inevitable that a real customer service agent steps in and deals with the customer query. And here comes the twist; to whom does the service agent turn to when he or she needs help in resolving a question? To a virtual assistant of course!

This is the reality for more and more companies as they discover the value of implementing an internal virtual assistant (VA) that is customized to answer staff questions. An internal VA can be part of an intranet solution and accessed by all staff helping them with company related questions about ongoing activities and projects, general information, staff activities, etc., and provides a great tool for internal communications and for departments like Human Resources.

However, an internal VA is not only valuable as an all-staff intranet assistant; it is also a perfect tool for big call centers. One major factor in providing good customer service is to give consistent answers in all service channels, and in a call center with maybe over 100 agents, this is not an easy task. Even more so if we are talking about big multinational companies where customer service agents are located in different countries speaking different languages.

In such an environment, the implementation of an internal Virtual Agent as the one main point of information will help secure that service agents will get the same answer to their questions no matter where they are located or which language they are speaking.

One big company that has had great recent success with their internal VA is The Co-operative Banking Group in the UK. The Co-operative Banking Group has implemented an internal virtual assistant which has been named Mia (My Interactive Adviser), and is already enabling staff to answer calls up to sixty-five percent faster.

Mia is an intelligent interface that is able to hold two-way, humanlike interactions with the Co-operative Banking Group’s call center employees, to quickly provide them with the correct answers to a wide range of banking and insurance questions. This reduces the need for staff to confer with team leaders over complex questions or refer to colleagues or other paper based reference material. To date Mia has delivered on average a thirty-five second saving in every call in which she assists.

Mia helps the Co-operative Banking Group’s eight million customers by ensuring that her call center colleagues are fully briefed on new products, services and changes in policy, such as the introduction of new regulations from the Financial Services Authority (FSA). As the core single point of reference, Mia ensures advisers always give a consistent, compliant response to customer queries. Call center staff can ask Mia questions using everyday language, updating the information given as the call progresses. Mia then dynamically reassesses the question to provide the right answer or to prompt the adviser to ask for further information where necessary.

“We want to offer our customers the most efficient service possible and that means not just resolving queries quickly, but providing a consistent response every time someone contacts us,” says Peter Rowbottom, Function Leader within the Co-operative Banking Group.

And Mr. Rowbottom has many reasons to be happy as this innovative implementation has not only increased the level of good customer service, but it has also won awards, such as the British Quality Foundation (BQF) Achievement Award for Process Improvement, with Mia being central to the success as well as a Special Award for Innovation from North of England Excellence.

It goes to show – an internal Virtual Assistant has many talents when it is implemented the right way.

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