The Rise of Virtual Assistants – A Modern Customer Experience

Our world has been revolutionised by technological advancements. Think about it. We now carry the internet in the palm of our hands. The smartphone. With the introduction of the iPhone about 11 years ago, this little device forever changed how we live and interact with each other. Steve Jobs and the Apple team combined the computer, music player and phone all in one product. When the iPod first came out more than 17 years ago, the world was so excited at the prospect of shuffling songs with thumb strokes. Now more and more brands are developing smart phones with all sorts of functionality, shapes and colours. So, what’s next?

There has been a lot of talk around the globe about Voice Activated Virtual Assistants. The big tech heavyweights are racing to the top to make their Virtual Assistants sophisticated and more human-like to fulfil our needs accurately, and in some cases, anticipating our needs before we thought we need it. Apple has Siri, Amazon has Alexa, Google has Google Assistant and Microsoft has Cortana.

Another form of Virtual Assistant, in terms of text entry, is the Chat Bot. Companies are starting to look at introducing Chat Bots to replace Live Chat with a real person. I had a recent encounter with a Chat Bot during my research of one of the Super Funds. The conversation went like this:

Me: “In what year did the fund launch?”

ChatBot: “Sorry…I’m still learning, let me pass this on to one of our team.”

I thought, “Just great. It’s a basic question which could have been answered if the ChatBot knew the FAQs.”

I later exited the website and went about doing other work. Within an hour, I was shocked to receive a Facebook Messenger message from the ChatBot with the answer to my question. Immediately I thought, “How did the Fund website know to contact me on Messenger?”. I felt stalked. Then I realised that I’ve logged in using Google which connected all the different apps with one login, including Messenger. Still rather unnerving from a customer experience perspective where our data is used in ways we are not expecting.

I heard at a conference a term used ‘frictionless customer experience.’ It’s defined as ‘a mindset of business that pursues continuously the right product to customers at the right moment and in the right channel.’ It’s about removing the grit, the hassles and thinking through how different customer segments will react or respond to the change. It’s a concept about anticipation. So if I took the scenario of my interaction with the Fund ChatBot, I guess I would have liked the ChatBot to ask me whether they would like to email the answer once it has the answer so it would have appeared they got my details with my permission. That would have removed the grit of feeling my privacy was invaded.

Voice technology experts gave some great advice at a recent conference I attended:

  • Always ask ‘What’s the problem you are trying to solve for customers?’.
  • Research, prototype, test, test, test and validate. Get the end users to drive the learning of this technology.
  • Understand the customer lifecycle first. Technology second.
  • Start now because Virtual Assistants will be the new search engine for all brands

What has been your experience with Virtual Assistants? Share with us. We’re listening.

Written by Cynthia Cheong, Practice Leader, Learning, PM & Change


Further Reading:

To learn more about how improving on the customer experience can help you in your business, check out our Customer Experience Management courses. Set your brand apart from your competitors, win the affection, loyalty and trust of your customers, and build your organisation’s eco-system – consisting of people, process and technology – in a way to work holistically and deliver memorable customers’ experiences. Read More.