Although our economic growth has weakened a little, the situation in the labor market, from the perspective of employers, has never been so difficult. Every month we are breaking new records of falling unemployment and rising wages. This, of course, is driving up costs and creating a shortage of skilled workers and rising employee expectations. Is there any way to slow down this marathon?
Unfortunately, when it comes to customer service, replacing an employee is extremely difficult. Even when we find the right candidate for the job, we need to train him and he needs to gain experience. Fortunately, modern technologies are getting better and more and more companies, including Polish ones, decide to employ… virtual employees (advisors).
Virtual advisors, also known as avatars, chatbots or lingubots, are computer programs that use artificial intelligence methods and techniques to talk to users in natural language. These systems are placed on the Internet websites. Their task is to provide customers with information about products and services offered, the specifics of the company’s operations, or e.g., trade terms and conditions. The first such solution was ELIZA created by Joseph Weizenbaum in the 1960s. ELIZA simulated the activities of a psychotherapist and made a simple dialogue with the user possible. It should be mentioned here that ELIZA was so “real” that many users were completely unaware of the conversation with the computer.
In the 80s and 90s of the last century there was a rapid development of the chatbot technology, mainly in the USA. Modern chatbots have gigantic knowledge bases, can associate certain information and learn based on the user’s statements. This is already a substitute for real thinking we have to deal with in the human brain. Thanks to this, the customer is having an almost natural dialogue with the chatbot by asking questions in natural language, and the system answers them taking into account the context and the knowledge base. This technology can be used, among others:
- to relieve the traditional hotline and take over some of the customer service,
- to make the website more attractive,
- to create interactive services, e.g., technical support,
- for information systems for employees or partners of the company,
- to create advisory services in specific fields such as medicine or law, etc.
A Virtual Advisor can be employed as, among other:
- a company spokesperson
- a salesperson to inform about the company and its offerings
- a technical support and after-sales customer service employee
- an interviewer
- a Website navigator
- a computer game character
- an advisor (legal, tax, medical, cooking, tourism, etc.)
- an intelligent teacher in e-learning systems
Of course, despite the many advantages of the presented solution, there will certainly be questions about the costs and profitability of the entire investment. Let us assume that your company employs 30 people for customer service. Let us also assume that hiring a virtual employee is an average national salary. Although initially it may seem like a lot, you have to remember that a virtual employee:
- can simultaneously handle several hundred customers,
- works continuously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,
- does not get sick and does not need vacations,
- he has no bad days, strange moods or hangovers after a party,
- does not belong to a trade union.
It is estimated that starting a Virtual Advisor reduces the number of customer inquiries to a company by 30 to 70%. Even if we assume that these numbers are exaggerated, reducing the number of contacts by, for example, 20% can mean a corresponding decrease in employment, which means that an investment in virtual employees can bring immediate measurable benefits. If we add to this the possibility to analyze conversations, greater customer satisfaction thanks to receiving an immediate response and the image of an innovative company, it is probably not necessary to convince anyone that it is worth investing in this technology.