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Virtual Agents in the Latin American Market

  • August 2014
  • 42 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 2317617

Summary

Table of Contents

Companies Win 3 Ways—Operational Costs Drop, Productivity Rises, and Customer Interaction Improves

The development of new, diverse channels such as the interactive voice response (IVR), social media, chat, and short message service (SMS) has driven customers to demand more qualified, personalized services, which has led to a greater adoption of virtual agent (VA) applications. Furthermore, specifically in Brazil, the increase in purchase power has had a relevant impact on the market by increasing the demand for products and services. In turn, some companies have begun to adopt VAs to revamp their customer service offering, most importantly due to the reduction in operational costs and the productivity increase provided by them.

Key Findings
-The development of new, diverse channels such as the interactive voice response (IVR), social media, chat, and short message service (SMS) has driven customers to demand more qualified, personalized services, which has led to a greater adoption of virtual agent (VA) applications.
-The main outcomes derived from acquiring VA applications are increased sales volume and value, reduced operational costs, and improved customer retention and acquisition.
-Increased productivity is a major driver for companies in adopting VAs as part of customer service offerings.
-Even though companies are still skeptical of the benefits provided by VA applications, many have been investigating how functions currently filled by live agents can be replaced more rapidly and with higher quality results by automated systems.
-In Brazil, important companies such as Magazine Luiza and TAM Airlines have added VA applications as a means of customer self-service, marketing, and sales.
-Increased purchasing power in Brazil drove the demand for products and services. Thus, companies have been obligated to adopt alternative customer service solutions to deal with new demands.
-Genesys Prime, Next IT, Direct Talk, Indra, and Atos in partnership with SpeechBlue are examples of companies in Brazil that currently have a VA offering.

Definitions
The term virtual assistant (VA) has been around for a long time, but over the years other terms have entered the lexicon, including automated assistant and personal assistant. All these agents or assistants use speech technologies and provide varying levels of functionality. As such, they are not solely focused on live agent replacement. There is much overlap in how they are used, but even though the terms are often used interchangeably, it is worth better defining the different labels.
Personal Assistants

The concept of a speech technology-driven personal assistant first surfaced in the early to mid-1990s. By 1996, over 40 companies had developed products in this space. These solutions were launched primarily to provide access to office productivity functions and general consumer information. For instance, companies such as HeyAnita, Webley, Wildfire, and General Magic allowed users voice-enabled access to calendars or telephony functions, such as conference calling and placing calls. They also provided access to information sites about weather, sports, horoscopes, stocks, and even soap operas.

On the consumer side, these automated assistants were the precursor to today's Siri—Apple's iOS personal assistant. However, their scope was limited, and monetization by solution providers focused on the application rather than making the phone itself more useful.
VAs

Today's personal assistants—now more commonly termed virtual assistants, or VAs—are speech-driven applications designed to assist consumers complete tasks, such as accessing information on mobile devices. VAs take advantage of the broad capabilities provided on smartphones, making the phones themselves more useful in hands-free mode. A well-known example is Siri, a consumer-grade virtual assistant, that makes it easier to use a mobile device. "She" enables users to do numerous tasks including:
Chat Bots, also termed Chatterbots or Chatter Robots, are artificial intelligence (AI)-based computer programs that simulate an intelligent conversation with a person through text or speech. Using natural language processing (NLP) and knowledge databases, they are typically used to "chat" or engage in small talk with the user. Chat Bots can be presented as an avatar, which is an engaging graphical representation of the Bot's alter ego or character. Chat Bots can be used as companion robots in software programs. They also can be used to chat with in software programs or online in the same way that virtual chat agents are used.

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