Stay ahead of the game and expand your employee and customer experience with Power Virtual Agents. Here are a few reasons to implement virtual agents and a step-by-step tutorial to put it into practice.
By now, you have likely heard the buzz words omnichannel, AI, machine learning, chatbots, and the latest trend within these themes, virtual agents.
The concept of interacting with computers conversationally to solve problems might have seemed like sci-fi not too long ago. Recently, however, this area of technology has begun to explode – and for good reason. Virtual agents can drastically improve user experiences both as consumers and employees.
We will provide an overview of the current chatbot and virtual agent trends and the differences between these two tools. We will also cover, from a high level, the top five reasons why you should implement them in your business and how you can create a virtual agent using Microsoft Power Virtual Agents.
Chatbots vs. Virtual Agents
Chatbots have been around for a long time – over 50 years! Back in 1966, developers at MIT created the first-ever chatbot known as ELIZA. Since then, we’ve come to know Siri, Cortana and Alexa – some pretty smart gals.
As chatbots have evolved, there have been various versions of the technology. We now loosely group chatbots into the following three categories:
Note: In some instances, you may hear people say hybrid chatbots to refer to the combined effort of chatbots and live chats with humans to enable communication.
As a general practice, the term chatbot typically refers to bots that fall within the decision-tree category. NLP-based or AI chatbots represent the category of virtual agents (customer-facing AI chatbots) since they’re extremely intelligent and communicate with human-like dialogue.
Typically, virtual agents (also referred to as virtual assistants) are extremely complex to create. With Microsoft Power Virtual Agents, though, users have the flexibility to quickly create chatbots that can be as simple or as complex as needed spanning the three categories we’ve mentioned above.
But what does this movement towards a smart world mean for your business? Several things! So, before we dive into how to create a virtual assistant using Microsoft Power Virtual Agents, we’ll discuss why you want to in the first place.
Five Reasons to Implement Microsoft Power Virtual Agents
Virtual agents can transform a customer’s experience with your brand and solidify their loyalty through a seamless buying journey. They allow you to:
1. Provide 24/7 availability
Recent surveys identified availability as one of the top customer expectations, with customers expecting responses in as little as one hour, chatbots are a low-cost and effective solution that can address this need. If you are thinking big – this also means a low barrier to entry into global markets. A true win-win for all.
2. Reduce customer wait time
One of the top reasons, if not the top reason consumers use chatbots, is to get a quick answer. Studies show customers value fast response times over accuracy in the response itself. With chatbot interactions, customers can immediately start a conversation and receive a variety of alternative solutions and responses until they resolve their requests.
In addition, the nature of a chatbot requesting clarification and repeating the understood information to a customer enhances the experience. Customers feel heard, which contributes to a positive engagement.
3. Enable a self-service experience
Accomplishing something on your own is a rewarding experience. 88 percent of U.S. consumers expect companies to have offer self-service options. Allowing customers to solve their own problems with tools and resources creates this same feeling, which means major brownie points for your brand.
Through a self-service experience you can also build a stronger brand identity through the voice you give your chatbots and virtual agents. If you sprinkle a bit of personalization into the experience, the result is the perfect trifecta your business needs to have the competitive edge of a superior customer experience.
4. Increase sales through upsell, cross-sell and abandoned cart follow-ups
With the ability to follow-up with customers who have abandoned their carts, provide personalized product recommendations, and collect customer information to qualify leads, chatbots are the secret sauce when it comes to closing deals. In fact, business leaders have reported that chatbots increase sales by an average of 67 percent.
Chatbots and virtual agents have much to offer regarding the customer experience, but the same holds true for your employees. Tasks a chatbot can automate and handle allows employees to focus on more complex tasks. Virtual Agents can assist with:
- Sales process optimization
- Prioritization of Sales Calls
- IT Help Desk service and support tasks
- Routing calls
- Delivering relevant knowledge articles
- Answer commonly asked questions
- Form processing to capture information automatically
- HR (Human Resources) scenarios
- Signing up for benefits
- Time off requests
Low-Code Setup Makes Creating Power Virtual Agents a Breeze
Now that you can fully appreciate the benefits a virtual agent provides, you or your teams can use Microsoft Power Virtual Agents to create what you need. Here is what you need to do.
- Sign in at the Power Virtual Agents introduction website.
- Note: A license is required to create and manage Power Virtual Agents, however, for individual users you can sign up for a free trial to explore the functionality and quickly get started. A license is not necessary to use or interact with the bot as long as users have access to the publishing location.
- Give your bot a name and select create.
- Start using your bot right away with available templates or create your own templates also known as topics.
- Topics serve as the guide on how your bot should respond to requests from end users. You can build in actions here, leverage variables (used to store customer responses the bot can later use in a conversation to provide relevant responses) and entities (used to categorize user input for recognition through natural language processing techniques) and integrate with Flows and PowerApps.
- The authoring canvas allows you to build out the tree and rules for your bot with guided steps throughout the process. Power Virtual Agents initiate a conversation using a trigger phrase that kicks off the conversation path comprised of questions and responses or actions.
- Actions can be either a simple response to a question from the user or result in a call to Power Automate flows.
- Test your bot.
- You can test your bot in the left-hand conversation box throughout the build process.
- Publish to your site.
Tip: A starting point can be a simple dialog tree that can evolve into a sophisticated AI bot. To read about complex AI capabilities for Power Virtual Agents, check out this Microsoft Documentation.
Integration with Your Microsoft Dynamics Business Applications
As part of the Power Platform, Power Virtual Agents is natively integrated with the Dynamics CE world for data stored in the Dataverse, which allows your bot to have all the answers right at their fingertips (that is, if cloud AI had fingers). Examples of what this could look like in practice include:
- Accessing knowledge articles from the Customer Service business application to provide answers to user questions or issues
- Giving users their purchase order history by accessing their account profile in the Sales business application
- Providing your warehouse employees with inventory updates, or perhaps, coupled with AI Builder, running a prediction and sharing when you should submit the next order for a new shipment of inventory
- Assisting the user by completing a hand-off to a live agent with Omnichannel for Customer Service once a user provides foundational information to the power virtual agent.
Chatbots and virtual agents are trending towards the Gartner Slope of Enlightenment phase within the Hype Cycle, a methodology for understanding the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications. Advanced virtual agents also landed a spot in the Gartner Impact Radar for 2022 as a technology posed to make a disruption, transform markets and contribute to a “smart world.” New trends are gravitating towards focusing on voice-based chatbots that can converse and are multi-lingual.
The future of chatbots and virtual agents is exciting! And the benefits for your business are abundant. Now with Microsoft Power Virtual Agents, adding them to your company doesn’t have to be an extensive process. It is time to decide: will you be an early adopter or let your competition get ahead?