Consumers want conversational virtual assistants.

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1 Consumers want conversational virtual assistants. Research Now study reveals insights into virtual assistants usage and preferences.

2 1 Table of contents 1 Survey says... / p2 2 Speak easy: how conversational virtual assistants are transforming the self-service experience / p2 3 What is Natural Language Understanding (NLU)? / p2 4 Conversational virtual assistants: the new face of customer service / p3 5 IVR virtual assistants: transforming over-the-phone self-service with natural conversation / p4 6 Mobile virtual assistants: facilitating effortless interactions with mobile apps / p5 7 Web virtual assistants: emulating your best marketing, sales and service agents / p6 8 Self-service with a human touch and bottom-line impact / p7 9 About the study / p7

3 2 Survey says... Widespread adoption of virtual assistants has changed the way consumers interact with their personal devices. Today, consumers expect the same natural, conversational interactions when they engage with businesses to obtain service. To better understand these evolving expectations, Nuance sponsored a Research Now study that surveyed consumers about their virtual assistant usage and preferences. This white paper outlines the study findings, providing key insights into best practices for implementing virtual assistants for customer service across multiple channels. 74 % of people report that, in their daily use of technology, they have to adapt to the technology instead of the technology adapting to them. 4 Speak easy: how conversational virtual assistants are transforming the self-service experience Remember the saying, If you want something done, and done right, do it yourself? It turns out this old adage still holds true. Demand for self-service continues to increase because it allows customers to get things done wherever and whenever they want in a way that s fast, simple and efficient. The popularity of full-service ATMs, movie rental kiosks and supermarket self-checkout suggests that people are more than willing to use self-service if it s truly quick and convenient. In fact, a recent survey shows that 58% of consumers use self-service options between 1-5+ times per week. Of those who use self-service, 75% choose that option because it s faster and 66% because it s more convenient. 1 When it comes to self-service, it s not about delighting customers; it s about making things easy for them. A Corporate Executive Board study of more than 75,000 customers interacting with contact center representatives or using self-service channels found that over-the-top efforts make little difference to customer loyalty. What customers really want is a simple, quick solution to their problem. 2 As consumer expectations evolve, the same old approaches to self-service just aren t getting the job done. 57% of people say they can rarely get the answer or information that they need from a company or service provider when they connect via an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, Web site or mobile app because the process is far too complex with multiple menus, options and buttons. 3 The good news is that companies can now take advantage of innovative technology that can significantly improve the selfservice experience regardless of time, place or channel by streamlining interactions and removing frustrating obstacles. 1 Nuance Communications, The Tide Has Turned: Nuance Research Finds Most Consumers Would Rather Self-Serve Over Speaking with A Live Agent, May 10, 2012, room/press-releases/media-advisory-self- Service_Web.doc 2 Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman (2010). Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers. Harvard Business Review. 3 Research Now, 2013 Conversational 4 Research Now, 2013 Conversational

4 3 What is Natural Language Understanding (NLU)? NLU enables users to interact with intelligent virtual assistants in a conversational manner without being constrained by a fixed set of automated system responses. NLU teaches your virtual assistant to be more forgiving and understand a wider range of conversational input, resulting in higher automation rates and more satisfying, effortless and personalized customer experiences. NLU delivers faster, easier and more efficient interactions across multiple interaction channels: IVR Recognizes the meaning of spoken input, determines caller intent and routes the call accordingly Asks the caller questions to clarify ambiguous intent Handles corrections and verifications by dynamically embedding confirmations in the next prompt for a smooth conversational flow Web Recognizes online dialog including user slang, misspellings, acronyms and grammatically incorrect sentences that make up real human conversation Detects sentiment like frustration based on use of CAPS and punctuation to better understand customer needs Uses appropriate protocol for greetings and farewells, criticisms and compliments Mobile Supports human-like spoken or text-based conversations with multi-turn and contextual dialogs Understands what information is needed to complete a task and prompts for what s missing Remembers the context of what users have said and can refine their results without asking them to repeat information 40 % of survey respondents reported using a virtual assistant on their mobile device multiple times a day. 5 This paper discusses how conversational virtual assistants are transforming self-service by enabling businesses to deliver a natural, personalized and effortless customer experience across IVR, Web and mobile channels. Conversational virtual assistants: the new face of customer service Over the past several years, consumers have not only embraced virtual assistants with conversational interfaces, but they ve actually come to expect them. So it s not surprising that consumers are now demanding the same kind of conversational interactions when they engage with businesses through other channels. In fact, 51% of people say that a conversational interface would make it easier to get things done when engaging with a company no matter whether they use an IVR, Web site or mobile app. 6 Forward-looking companies are responding to this demand by implementing conversational virtual assistants: digital personas that deliver personalized, effortless customer service via a human-like conversational interface. Instead of forcing customers to sort through long lists of search results or navigate complex menus and screens, virtual assistants use natural language understanding (NLU) to engage users via voice- or textbased conversational dialog and guide them to successful outcomes. The latest virtual assistants are even multichannel aware, knowing when to connect the customer to the right place or person and sending along full context of the interaction up to that point for a seamless cross-channel experience. 4 Research Now, 2013 Conversational 5 Research Now, 2013 Conversational 6 Research Now, 2013 Conversational

5 4 Providing personalized service that emulates your best live agent, a conversational virtual assistant serves as the ambassador for your brand, the all-knowing guide to your content and the reassuring voice of your customer service organization. By improving the effectiveness of self-service interactions, a virtual assistant can also reduce inbound call volume to the contact center for bottom-line impact. IVR virtual assistants: transforming over-the-phone self-service with natural conversation Although the Web and mobile channels are growing by leaps and bounds, a significant percentage of customers continue to use the phone for selfservice. Even when it s not the first mode of contact, consumers turn to the phone when they can t find the answers they re looking for on the Web or their mobile device. The problem is that too many IVR systems have failed to keep pace with customer expectations. Some IVR systems still employ touch-tone interfaces that force callers to choose from a fixed set of menu options by pressing buttons on their phone. Others use directed dialogs that limit callers to a small number of specific spoken inputs and a simple, rigid call flow. But neither of these approaches delivers the kind of natural, effortless caller experience that today s consumers expect. Even as the Web and mobile channels experience explosive growth, the phone continues to be a widely used channel for customer self-service. 7 Mobile Web Voice Contact Volume Touch-tone and directed dialog systems are not only difficult to navigate; they tend to be pretty inflexible. When interacting with these systems, callers cannot easily change their minds, recover from mistakes, skip steps or add relevant information. Given these constraints, it s no wonder 57% of people say they often can t find the information or answer they need easily with an automated phone system. 8 In addition, speech recognition accuracy can vary widely depending on a system s underlying technology. A recent survey revealed that only 11% of people feel that automated phone systems understand them really well and 44% say that they have to repeat information. 9 These findings suggest that businesses are missing an opportunity to differentiate themselves and better serve callers by improving IVR self-service. Powered by Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology, a welldesigned IVR virtual assistant delivers a superior self-service experience by engaging in a conversation with the caller. It asks an open-ended question like How can I help you? and allows the caller to describe his or her needs in their 7 Nuance Communications, Customer Data, Research Now, 2013 Conversational 9 Research Now, 2013 Conversational

6 5 own words, such as Yeah, I have a question about my statement. The IVR virtual assistant recognizes the meaning of the spoken input, determines the caller s intent and routes the call appropriately often in a single step. Openended dialogs continuously adapt to the information provided, letting the caller control the conversation for a more personalized and enjoyable interaction. This conversational approach not only increases customer satisfaction, but results in higher call containment rates for significant costs savings. 60 % Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology allows easy and precise navigation through a conversational interface, rather than forcing callers through a fixed set of lengthy and often times tedious menu options. of survey respondents said they would use a conversational interface for mobile app self-service if their bank, retailer, insurance company or other service provider offered it. 11 Mobile virtual assistants: facilitating effortless interactions with mobile apps Mobile app growth is skyrocketing and shows no signs of letting up. Since mobile apps exploded onto the scene in 2008, consumers simply cannot get enough. A recent Berg Insight VAS Research study found that worldwide mobile app downloads in 2012 totaled 60.1 billion, and the number is likely to jump to 108 billion by As a result, mobile apps have become an increasingly important self-service channel for today s businesses. According to a recent survey, 86% of people use a mobile app to engage with a company or service provider. 10 Popular voice-enabled personal assistants are making smartphone users comfortable with asking a device, rather than a person, for information in a natural, unstructured, and conversational way. Mobile virtual assistants enable companies to meet this growing demand by turning smartphones into voice-enabled customer service assistants that reflect the personality of your brand. These conversational virtual assistants not only understand what is said, but who is saying it, thereby transforming mobile apps into powerful engagement tools that make it easy for customers to serve themselves successfully. Given that 90% of 10 Research consumers say that a positive experience with a company s mobile app makes them more likely to continue doing business with them, 12 offering a mobile virtual assistant can have a big impact on customer loyalty and ongoing revenue. Virtual assistants provide a multimodal interface that makes interacting with mobile apps easier, more productive and more enjoyable. Users can choose the interaction type they prefer and move freely between conversational speech, touch, and/or type within a given task or transaction. Rather than navigating through multiple menus and screens to get what they need from the app, users can simply say a command, such as Pay my credit card bill and the right functionality is delivered instantly. This means faster outcomes in fewer steps and less reliance on your contact center agents. 10 Research Now, 2013 Conversational 11 Research Now, 2013 Conversational 12 Research Now, 2013 Conversational

7 6 Web virtual assistants: emulating your best marketing, sales and service agents A company s Web site is often the first place people go to find information or get answers. After all, it s available 24/7 and accessible from any PC, tablet or smartphone. But current Web self-service technologies don t always make it easy to get immediate, accurate answers to questions. Why? Depending on how users phrase their queries, search and FAQs have difficulty extracting their specific intent, forcing them to sift through pages of potential results for answers often with limited success. Assisted service channels like live chat offer a higher resolution rate and a more personalized experience, but they are expensive to staff and are typically not available around the clock. Limited hours and long wait times fail to impress customers seeking 24/7 access and immediate responses. With the advent of intelligent Web virtual assistants, businesses no longer have to choose between offering excellent service and improving operational performance. 63% of people surveyed said they would be more likely to use a company s Web site if it offered a more natural conversational interaction for self-service, 13 and that s precisely what intelligent Web virtual assistants do. Leveraging NLU, they engage customers naturally using a human-like textbased conversational interface to bring brands to life, increase conversion rates and provide an easy, quick and accurate way to obtain information and service. Nina: Hello, my name is Nina. How can I help you? Customer: I forgot my online banking password. Nina: I m sorry. You can reset your password by clicking here. 13 Research Now, 2013 Conversational

8 7 Web virtual assistants can serve as a brand ambassador, a trusted advisor, a personal shopper or a helpful, knowledgeable customer service representative. They leverage existing Web site or knowledge-based content to provide the one right answer or guide the customer to complete transactions with the least amount of effort eliminating the need to navigate menus and scroll through long lists of search results. They can even up-sell or cross-sell products and services to drive additional revenue. Whether your customers need to research offerings, make a purchase or get pre- or post-sales support, intelligent Web virtual assistants can emulate your best marketing, sales and service personnel to provide an easy and effective experience with a human-like touch. Self-service with a human touch and bottom-line impact As consumer demand for conversational interfaces continues to grow, companies need to respond with innovative self-service solutions or risk being left behind. Conversational virtual assistants can transform self-service interactions to provide customers with a fast, effortless, and personalized brand experience that keeps them coming back for more. But the benefits don t stop there. Serving as a helpful, knowledgeable marketing, sales, and/ or service assistant across the IVR, Web and mobile channels, conversational virtual assistants can also have a positive impact on the bottom line. They not only reduce contact center costs by improving automation rates, but they can drive revenue by increasing conversions, up-selling and cross-selling. For businesses looking to differentiate themselves through exceptional selfservice, conversational virtual assistants are a natural choice for enabling fast, easy interactions with an intelligent touch of humanity. About the study The Conversational Interface Survey findings were fielded by independent panel research firm Research Now and responses were generated from a survey among 1,017 smartphone owners from their online opinion panel. All respondents are between the ages of 18 to 64 and living in the continental United States. The margin of error for the survey is ±3.1%. About Nuance Communications, Inc. Nuance Communications is reinventing the relationship between people and technology. Through its voice and language offerings, the company is creating a more human conversation with the many systems, devices, electronics, apps and services around us. Every day, millions of people and thousands of businesses experience Nuance through intelligent systems that can listen, understand, learn and adapt to your life and your work. For more information, please visit nuance.com. Copyright 2015 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Nuance, and the Nuance logo, are trademarks and/or registered trademarks, of Nuance Communications, Inc. or its affiliates in the United States and/or other countries. All other brand and product names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies. NUAN CS WP, Mar

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