The Chat Button

Joy Mutoloki

Virtual assistants can provide insights into unmet customer needs and new potential ideas for business model innovation.

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The chat button has become an almost compulsory feature of every website in 2021. The websites of banks, municipalities and online retailers will all have one, and to an increasing degree, you will find a virtual assistant behind that chat button; a conversational robot that uses artificial intelligence to respond to your requests. In just a few years, this technology has made huge developments, making the virtual assistant a tool that can improve the communication between organizations and businesses, and their customers and users. The rise of the virtual assistant has been propelled by the digital revolution, which has brought forth and coincided with the development of new ways of working. The past decade saw organizations in the private and public sectors alike start using words like scrum, agile, Kanban, and design thinking. These may sound like buzzwords, but the essence in all of these is working smarter, user-centric, and iterative when developing new processes and services.

As the virtual assistant is a tool for communication, the very best are developed using methodologies such as scrum and agile, and often there is an emphasis on maintaining the solutions with the continuous use of the aforementioned methodologies. Organizations can now provide customer service platforms that enable users to self-serve by making content from existing systems more accessible to them. This means that organizations can

  • Reduce call volumes and free up internal capacity to deal with more complex tasks.
  • Gather and aggregate information about user needs in ways that other communication channels cannot facilitate.
  • Analyze anything from most sought-out topics to interaction with webpage, user sentiment, peak time for specific topic inquiries, and so much more.

In an age where data is like currency, a virtual assistant can thus act as the rainbow that leads you to the pot of gold.

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Virtual assistants are oftentimes launched as pilot projects and are ways for organizations to dip their toes into the digital waters to see if they like it. If the initiative is successful, the customer service or communication departments will maintain the solution, using the data they receive to continuously improve it.

This is in many ways like a restaurant using the reviews from the guests to only improve the feedback process. What you want to happen is for your review to improve the meal, not the pamphlet on which you wrote that the chicken was dry.

Data from the virtual assistant should therefore be shared with the rest of the organization and help other departments prioritize their work and efforts, as it is one of the most direct ways to receive feedback on their services. The digital initiative is bound to have limited success if the agile mindset starts and stops with the people involved in the pilot and does not spread to the remaining organization. Insights from the virtual assistants can uncover unmet customer needs and new ideas for potential business model innovation. The aim of the organizations and businesses using these new solutions should, therefore, be to use the data gathered through this new communication channel to improve their services to a degree that the customer does not need to seek out help in the first place.

Some food for thought is to consider harnessing the power in user data to make the chat button redundant in the future.

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