According to a Gartner study, 50% of online customer self-service search activities will take place via virtual assistants for at least 1,500 large enterprises by 2015. And a Forrester study says there are already 1.4M virtual agent conversations for business each day.
These stats were pointed out to us during VirtuOz’s presentation, which sounds like great news for provider of a virtual agent platform who’s gunning to be the Siri for the enterprise market. Founded in 2004 in Paris, VirtuOz moved their headquarters to the US in 2009. They are venture-backed, with investments from Mohr Davidow, Galileo and Inventures.
VirtuOz creates branded digital personas (virtual agents) that emulate marketing, sales and support professionals of an organization to help customers navigate and complete transactions across the customer service lifecycle. Capabilities include:
- Multi-access: VAs are available via the web, mobile and social
- Multi-modal: customers can text VAs, speak to them, and can tap them (on tablets)
- Multi-channel – VAs are aware of and designed to complement a business’ existing channel structure
Virtual Oz has patented a predictive-intense dialogue management system that allows their VAs to understand conversations – written or spoken in the context of a conversation with a customer. They have processed 500M customer conversations since late 2004 – with 166M processed in the last year alone.
NLP engines improve with more use, so when a new customer comes on board, with 500M + conversations, VOz can get a VA live in as quick as 3 months and functioning on their website, accessible via mobile or in a social community, and will be expected to have an 80% or higher performance out of the gate.
The natural language engine (NLE) is proprietary, and is optimized for online communication. Other features include:
- Doesn’t need to have grammatically correct sentence structures (can be sentence fragments)
- Doesn’t need proper punctuation
- Doesn’t need to have proper spelling
- Will understand common acronyms (like LOL, OMG, etc)
Supports multiple language
- English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese
Has 3 levels of dictionaries
- Industry specific
The VirtuOz VA functionality can be broken into:
- Being accessible on devices and social networks that consumers use
- Not relegate to working off of keywords - will ask for sentences
- Semantic and syntactic analysis can be cross-language and able to understand intent to drive the response
- Support direct response, guided response to more complex content, (integrates with KB and CMS products for consistency and to cut down on extra maintenance)
VA can complete transaction on behalf of customer
- Can I see an order
- Can I return an order
When VA can’t respond
- Channeling capability
- Multi-channel aware
- Integrated with call center via click-to-call, or live chat
Triggers can be programmed into VA to offer up alternate channel based on customer profile or need, then determine best place to send user
- Will calculate wait time
- Will transfer the transcript to customer service rep
- VA can complete transaction on behalf of customer
- Each VA Profile in use (marketing support, sales support or service support) has KPIs tailored for that profile to track their performance
- VirtuOz provides benchmark data and analysis across all their customer base to help them understand how effective their VA is performing vs. the total customer population
There’s also a voice of the customer app that sifts through unstructured conversations and produces trending topic reports (what’s new what are your customers asking about). And according to VirtuOz some customers report issues that usually would have taken 4-5 days to identify are found in less than 24 hours with using the VoC app.
During the demo VirtuOz demoed the integration with Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud, showing:
- Customer visits support portal to get help with a problem
- VA starts chat after customer initiates contact, asking which product the customer is having problems with – creating a product list based on past orders
- Customer clicks on laptop link
- VA gets customer service entitlements and creates a response
- VA opens case and provides case #, and checks to see if phone number in CRM database is correct.
- Customer types in new phone number, and VA updates contact record
- Actual Customer Service reps logs into ServiceCloud and sees the new case in their queue.
- The dialog with the VA and customers is included in the case record in Salesforce.com
The VA can use the SFDC knowledgebase, or use its own lightweight knowledgebase if it doesn’t have a knowledgebase app.
VirtuOz’s 23 customers are in the Fortune 2000, with including companies in telco, retail, CPG, finance and insurance. And Marquee customers include Coke, AT&T, Loreal, Michelin and P&G to name a few. Coke is using VAs as brand ambassadors to support the rewards and loyalty programs, while and Loreal uses VAs to help people select the most appropriate products for their needs to complete the purchase cycle. AT&T adopted VAs to support DSL, U-Verse, mobile and landline products, receiving 72% CSAT rating with VA.
With the popularity of Apple’s Siri growing even in its infancy, the rise of personalized digital assistance is more of a question of when, than if. And VirtuOz has put together a powerful conversational interface platform that has them in a great position to capitalize o this growth. Having a patent-protected NLE with 500M conversations (and growing rapidly) gives VirtuOz a very nice foundation to build on. We were also impressed by the integration with Salesforce.com, but would like to see more integrations with major CRM vendors. And while they aren’t there yet, VirtuOz is looking at SAP and Oracle integration in a future release.
One slight concern we have is that they have a relatively small number of customers since starting in 2004 – possibly due to being slightly ahead of their time (some similar vendors started in the early 2000s and are now bankrupt), but adoption of the technology has caught up so we feel now is the time to scale or die. But overall we are very impressed with VirtuOz’s offering. They are the only ones in this year’s contest focusing on this area, and their presentation presented a strong case for them to be a major player in the space.
Reviewed by CRM Idol 2012 Primary Judges
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