Organizations are arriving at a fascinating (and often unsettling) inflection point in business, where AI and virtual agents replace humans for more than rote tasks.
The complexities of customer support aren't lost on any CIO. Start multiplying a portfolio of products by all the potential problems, factor everything across support channels—phone, email, web chat, social media, an app and snail mail—and you quickly arrive at the intersection of unmanageable and impossible.
A study conducted by Zendesk and Loudhouse found that only about 7 percent of consumers are "extremely satisfied" with the quality of omnichannel support, and 87 percent say that companies need to work harder to create a seamless customer experience. In addition, 78 percent indicated that a company's customer service reputation is a key factor in choosing products and services.
All of this is motivating companies to push the boundaries on virtual agents. Last year, IPsoft launched Amelia 2.0, a virtual agent technology that the company claims is human-like and able to display near human cognitive capabilities. In fact, the company claims this makes her "difficult to distinguish from a human help agent."
But virtual customer support agents are only part of this nascent revolution. Accenture has introduced an intelligent automation platform, Accenture MyWizard, that aims to simplify and improve complex business and IT tasks. It uses "a team of virtual agents, powered by artificial intelligence, to analyze data, identify patterns and guide human workers to make better informed decisions."
Accenture claims that the technology makes people "approximately 60 percent more productive by automating task-related work and enabling them to focus on more strategic work"—primarily in areas such as data science, testing and scrum.
The MyWizard platform mines Accenture's "vast, cumulative knowledge base of vertical industry operating models, process flows and key performance indicators," the company notes. The cloud-based service is hosted on the Microsoft Azure platform.
Here's the virtual reality: we're arriving at a fascinating and yet somehow unsettling inflection point in business, where AI and virtual agents replace humans for more than rote tasks. These systems move beyond automation. They actually "think" and "analyze" situations and spit out answers—often far more relevant—than what human agents are generally capable of achieving.
As organizations look to operate faster and more efficiently, it's increasingly clear that AI and virtual agents are at the center of everything. CIOs must keep an eye on this space, test and pilot, and look for opportunities.