Next IT Releases Next Gen of Virtual Assistant, Designed for Live Chat Handoffs
If computer scientist Alan Turing were around today, he might be hard pressed to verify if the virtual agents we commonly encounter on websites are software programs or live, breathing humans. Virtual assistant provider Next IT is committed to making a would-be Turing’s task all that much harder, and in an exclusive with CMSWire talked about its next generation of virtual assistant, called Alme for Chat.

The new solution utilizes the company’s main product, its Alme virtual assistant platform, to provide a first point of contact with customers that is integrated with live chat. Sometimes, websites have just virtual assistants, just live chat with a human, or both in separate channels, but Alme for Chat is part of the generation that can begin with a virtual assistant answering questions and, when needed, give the customer the option of being turned over to a live agent in the same window.

Sgt. Star, Alex, Jenn - Virtual Agents

Next IT says that its virtual agents -- including Sgt. Star for the U.S. Army, Alex for United Airlines and Jenn with Alaska Airlines -- are able to answer over 80 percent of customer questions almost immediately, using intelligent understanding of what the visitor has said, page awareness of the website context, concept-based understanding of customer questions and advanced natural language responses. This means, of course, that live operators can focus on the harder stuff, like trying to trick Alan Turing.

Mitch Lawrence, EVP of Sales and Marketing at Next IT, told CMSWire that his company’s natural language processing and artificial intelligence technology is being used in a variety of channels, including even holograms and robotics, so it is natural to offer a bridge between virtual assistant and live chat channels.

Previous incarnations of the company’s Alme virtual assistant product, he said, wasn’t as directly tied into live chat handoffs, and was more commonly linked directly to customer service departments. Alme for Chat can be deployed to a website through JavaScript, either as a premise-based or a software-as-a-service solution, and is designed to integrate with Next IT’s or other live chat systems.

Smartness, Seamlessness

“Live chat,” Lawrence said, “can be so slow,” and virtual agents are much faster. Because of virtual agents’ ability to process so many more visitor questions, he added, some companies have dropped live agents entirely, “but lots of people like the live chat channel.” The company said that this Alme for Chat release was intended to improve customer experience without asking a company to replace their existing chat support.

Other virtual agent providers can also hand off to live chats, but Lawrence said Next IT offers several competitive advantages. Its technology mines chat logs, call transcripts and other data to create personalized language tailored to a given company’s virtual agent, which he said can “help make a virtual agent smarter.”

Another advantage, he said, is the seamlessness with which the virtual agent hands off to a live agent, when the questions get too tough or a live human’s touch is needed.

Lawrence also noted that the virtual agent is integrated with CRM, ERP, transactional or other backend systems, providing some context for the live agent. For instance, Lawrence said, the live agent might be able to immediately see that the handed-off visitor is a frequent flyer.