It’s the Attack of the Sales Bots
MyCyberTwin, which has developed an avatar-based virtual agent for financial institutions that boasts a three-second response time and an astonishing 94% accuracy rate (better than many human reps), is moving downstream. That is, today the company is rolling out a low-cost version of its intelligent virtual agent, affectionately-dubbed Sarah by some of the institutions that use it.
Sarah’s primary purpose is to help customers with their accounts. But she’s also had an impact on sales as well, John Zakos, founder and CIO of the company, says. “We found that when customers chatted with her they were more apt to ask for additional information about products they were thinking about buying. It seems to happen more with her than a real human, I guess, because people have a tendency to want to avoid prolonged sales pitches. Also, if they change their minds they can just cut her off and say ‘never mind.’ It can be hard for some people to do that with a real rep.”
I think Zakos is on to something and not just because his prospective customers might be intrigued with the idea additional ROI from a self-service application.
Consumers, in short, are moving beyond from just barely accepting automated self-service to starting to prefer it in some cases. What not take advantage of that and push the functionality into sales?
I am not going to claim that most consumers prefer, or don’t mind confusing voice mail systems when they call a company seeking help.
In fact, a recent study by STELLAService finds that 21 of the Internet’s top 100 retailers, including Amazon.com, Blue Nile, LL Bean, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus, go out of their way to offer customers live representatives – and at far shorter hold times than average. Jordy Leiser, CEO and co-founder of STELLAService cited a July Consumer Reports survey when he released the results in August. That found that 71% of consumers were “tremendously annoyed” when they couldn’t reach a human by phone, which frankly seems low.
But there’s always room for a tricked-out, glamorous new technology that entertains as much as it serves.
You can see this with the Apple 4S’ Siri app, which arguably is one of the drivers behind its huge pre-sales. Like MyCyberTwin, Siri, originally a spin-off from Stanford University, is a mix of cognitive, self-learning software and advanced voice-recognition. The result: smart software that quickly learns a user’s preference or speech patterns or, possibly, what it might want to buy next.