When the world went rapidly digital, customer engagement solutions such as intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) became invaluable pandemic frontline first responders in the customer service realm. Today, IVA technology is revolutionizing how customer service is delivered and is changing the game for many organizations as they strive to come back stronger in the post-pandemic era with a renewed focus on customer experience and engagement.
However, in the recent past, IVA technology using advanced conversational artificial intelligence (AI) has been associated with costly IT overhauls and operational disruptions. But with the introduction of low-code/no-code solutions, this do-it-yourself (DIY) approach is helping companies deploy IVAs faster and more cost-effectively, further democratizing enterprise-grade technologies for all. What was once a time-consuming and costly task performed by highly skilled data scientists is now accessible to non-technical business users, allowing business professionals to quickly and easily deploy production-ready IVAs, among other self-service customer service capabilities.
Improved IVA Access and Utility Can Help Close the Engagement Capacity Gap
This newfound IVA access and utility couldn’t come at a better time. The critical need to lean into AI-driven customer engagement technologies such as IVAs to help manage the dramatic growth in the volume of customer interactions is backed by insights stemming from a survey of more than 2,000 global business leaders. In the Engagement Capacity Gap study, 88% of respondents say they expect to invest to a high or moderate degree in cloud-based customer engagement and experience solutions to close the gap, and that leaders expect to invest most in customer engagement solutions, such as workforce management and chatbots or IVAs to help close this gap.
On the heels of massive digital disruption and now, more than a year into the pandemic, only 50% of business leaders say they are well prepared to support customer engagement priorities moving forward, and 82% say the challenges of managing customer engagement will only increase in 2021. What’s more, only 54% of leaders consider their organizations well prepared to enable a remote workforce to effectively serve customers.
Effectively, the pandemic layered new challenges on top of an existing pressure cooker: the accelerated pace of change and swift shifts in consumer behavior matched by rising expectations as customers opt for digital-first self-service and social channels, and expect fast, informed and relevant interactions.
Today, business leaders have high hopes for AI. In fact, 78% have already made AI investments, but they want to see results.
Today, business leaders have high hopes for AI. In fact, 78% have already made AI investments, but they want to see results. Recognizing that authentic customer engagement is a major competitive differentiator in 2021 and beyond, organizations know that creating a frictionless experience for customers is essential. Rising to the rescue is a new AI-driven workforce empowered with low-code/no-code IVAs that are designed for quick setup and deployment, helping organizations achieve a seamlessly integrated team of humans and bots to deliver elevated customer experiences.
Low-Code/No-Code to Create Bespoke AI-Driven IVAs Leads the Way
The rapid adoption of low-code/no-code technologies—a market Forrester projects to reach $21.2 billion by 2022 with 40% compound annual growth—is accelerating significant trends in IVA solutions and effectively lowering the barrier to entry for advanced AI. Any developer will tell you that low-code platforms can be delivered and developed 10 times faster than the traditional coding counterpart, so it’s no wonder there’s been a recent influx in flexible DIY chatbot solutions, such as IVAs, to bring the power of conversational AI to the hands of business users as opposed to programmers and computer scientists.
Low-code/no-code technology is a way to simplify the deployment and everyday use of IVAs, making it more accessible to non-programmers. IVAs are among the top ideal candidates for this DIY approach because they allow the business to adapt to changing customer needs quickly. The pandemic is a perfect example of a significant event that upended customer expectations and needs nearly overnight while simultaneously disrupting longstanding business processes. As in-person interactions were restricted and online customer service surged, companies realized the value of automated self-service IVA solutions.
Forrester notes that “companies that had low-code and/or DPA platforms responded far better to the demands of the COVID-19 crisis than those that didn’t.” And this evidence is growing, putting IVAs at the front and center of enterprise-wide initiatives like never before.
Scaling IVAs into a Strategic Enterprise Initiative
IVAs and chatbots are increasingly becoming the main AI-based application used by enterprises and are no longer a merely “nice to have” solution. This trend is reflected in the market growth; the chatbot market is projected to grow from $2.6 billion in 2019 to $9.4 billion by 2024, at a CAGR of 29.7%, according to Markets Insider.
IVAs, among other self-service and conversational technologies, generate the most desirable and profitable outcomes when they are backed by clear-minded strategic planning. The first step in deploying successful chatbots that can grow into strategic initiatives is to ensure a conversational AI strategy aligns with business goals. Successful implementations should have an immediate impact on revenue and customer experience.
The goal is to look at the AI initiative holistically so that IVA technologies support unlimited use cases and can grow and mature from an initial stand-alone or ad hoc project into an enterprise-level IVA initiative that functions to support various complex use cases across the company—both outwardly for customers and inwardly for employees.
Closing the Gap
Now more than ever, it’s critical for organizations to move IVAs from proof-of-concepts to critical communications paths. And a DIY solution that uses low-code/no-code technology is the logical extension of this strategy. AI-powered IVAs are modernizing customer self-service capabilities, serving as a great enabler to close the engagement capacity gap.
Every organization is on its own digital transformation and self-service journey. For those in the earlier stages, DIY IVAs and chatbots offer a significant opportunity to catch up to competitors who are further along in their transformation. They can also improve the velocity of IVA technology deployment enterprise-wide for significant and sustained business advantage.