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What is a Virtual Agent and How To Choose One?

  • Harina Rastogi
  • Dec 30, 2021
What is a Virtual Agent and How To Choose One? title banner

Have you ever visited the customer support centre of any site like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra? You must have gone there to check the status of your order, check refund status, or maybe for some other help. You find the option “chat” in this section. When you start chatting you get quick replies and if your problem is not solved they connect you to the executive.


Now have you ever thought about those quick replies or the auto-generated messages? It will come as a shock but, you talked to an artificial person who was sending you those messages. Creepy right? 


That artificial person is none other than the virtual agent or a chatbot or a virtual rep. You can call it anything. Let us learn more about a virtual agent and understand the whole concept step by step.


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What is a Virtual Agent?


Virtual agents are programmed softwares that have language processing ability and predetermined answers. These include chatbots, virtual rep, voice response systems. These agents can process everything because of artificial intelligence. 


On many e-commerce platforms you can find these virtual agents providing basic conversational services. In terms of business, agents help in interacting with the clients. So, you can think of virtual agents as your “digital assistants”.



Difference between Virtual agents and chat-bots


Virtual agent is a broad term and chatbots, voice response systems, virtual rep etc are a part of it. People often confuse the terms chatbot and virtual agents. 


The basic difference between the two is that: chatbots only communicate via messages, email or chats. On the other hand Virtual agents can communicate via any medium. It can be chat, messages, phone calls.


There is also a thin line of difference between virtual agents and virtual assistants. People are confused with these two terms as well. A virtual assistant is a service role using technology that can provide service without customer’s need. The similarity between both is that both use artificial intelligence to interact.


Here is a quick example:


Suppose you put a query on Amazon “I want to cancel my order” both chatbots and virtual agents will have a different outlook. Let us see.


The chatbot will focus on the “cancel order” keyword and look for something that can describe how to cancel your order and send it to you.


The virtual agent on the other hand will ask you questions related to it. Your order number, if you wish to cancel it etc.


It is therefore evident that Virtual agents have a better language based programming and AI system that gives it an edge over the chatbots. Chatbots can be monotonous after some time if you repeat the question.


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Advantages of virtual agents


There are many reasons why companies can choose virtual agents. But some of the most important and prominent reasons are here:


  • Consistency in answers


Virtual agents and especially the chatbots are designed in a specific manner that they provide consistency in their answers. They focus on the keywords and then provide solutions.


Every customer that asks a similar question like order cancellation, refund, order tracking etc will get the same type of response. Voice response systems can go a little different but the chatbots are always consistent.


  • Supreme quality of answers


Customer satisfaction is what the companies aim for. So, they program the chatbots in such a manner that the quality of answers is what the customers might expect from them. 


A customer centric approach is followed here. If you ask a certain question the agent will always stick to the point and answer accordingly. Unlike with the service centres where humans solve the query.


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  • Response time is minimized


When you put a query the answer you get is almost in seconds. The responses are quick because the agents and bots are programmed in such a manner that answers are ready with them. 


They just see the keyword there and immediately answer. In cases where there are no chatbots, humans might take time in thinking and typing the response. It is one of the biggest perks of using a virtual agent.


  • Efficiency of the enterprise is increased


If the customers are satisfied and revenue is increasing, it means the efficiency has increased. More queries can be taken in minimal time. It implies more customers will get their issues resolved. So, the efficiency of the customer support system has increased.

Virtual agents do not need any kind of training or experience like human resources. The main point is choosing the virtual agents. Established companies use on the premise deployments and it might take a little time for it to be launched.


The stats according to a research by Gartner has showed that:


  • By the end of 2021, more than 25% of the digital workers will adopt virtual assistants for their day-to-day tasks.


  • By 2020,  25% of the customer service and operations segments of the companies will be engaged in operations with the help of virtual assistants.


Because of the Covid-19 pandemic businesses shifted to online medium. Due to this the use and adoptance of virtual agents has significantly increased. Some example of virtual agents include- 


  1. Alexa, Amazon


  1. Siri, Apple


  1. Cortana, Microsoft


  1. Bixby, Samsung


  1. M, Facebook


  1. Google assistant


Vika and Amy are both virtual agents of smaller businesses and they are consumer use based. They can have real time conversations with users. The interest of people in virtual agents arose after they interacted with Siri and Alexa. Daily basis tasks could be easily managed by them. Voice commands are given to call people, set alarms, open a website, play a song etc.


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Steps in choosing the right Virtual Agent


There are 3 steps that a company should take care of while choosing the right virtual agent. Here are those-


  1. Installations


Virtual agents can be installed by the IT team. The installation takes time and the whole set-up requires cost. During the pandemic most of the companies gave the work from home facility to their employees. Mainly companies were in losses so they preferred an internal team to set up and install the virtual agents. 


But this was not possible. Remote installation was not an option. Therefore, while selecting a virtual agent companies should look for the installation process. The more simple the process, the less costly and easy it will be. The team can easily manage a simple installation process.


  1. Integration


The virtual agents have to be integrated with various modules like Customer resource management, call centre, service support software etc. 


Companies also integrate the virtual agents with the mobile apps, web pages and websites to actively look for lead generation. These virtual agents can also be integrated with Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram. 


You must have seen the chatbots on telegram that text you with the updates, new features and options on the app. It is because the virtual agent has been integrated with the messaging app as well.


  1. Automated Features


Every virtual agent has different automated features. Therefore the company has to look for their needs and then select the virtual agent. The one that improves the productivity and efficiency of the support team should be chosen.


Therefore, the virtual agents need to be chosen keeping in mind the budget, features and the integrations. The whole IT team needs to sit and decide on which system will be best. There are so many different websites that can offer solutions to the issues. 


Virtual agents can also help in lead generation and thus increase the MQL to SQL rates. They can also help in collection of more personalized information about the customers. It includes their interests and visits. The increasing dependence on digital marketing has definitely raised the need of virtual agents to cope up with the demands of people.

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