On Monday, Verizon announced its new artificial intelligence (AI)-based "Digital Customer Experience" offering for businesses to integrate in its existing customer support pipeline, providing virtual assistance 24/7 via social media, chat services, email, text message, or phone, with support experiences based on past interactions.
Verizon's new platform is comprised of four components. Virtual Agent incorporates AI to "solve for customer challenges on the spot," the company claims in a press release. Usefully, this component is designed to escalate users to human support agents when presented with a situations in which it is unable to help.
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The Live Agent component is a bridge that enables communication via text, voice, or video, or through industry standard applications such as Virtual Contact Center or Unified Customer Experience. This agent connects customers to support agents while providing those agents with useful context, including history of prior interactions, conversation details, and browsing status.
The Knowledge Assist component combines authoring tools with machine learning to provide relevant answers and guidance for agents. It can scan internal and external data sources as well as contextualize that information with customer history data.
Finally, the Social Engagement component is a toolkit for social media outreach, helping businesses to find trending topics and conversations occurring about its brand on social media. It can also be used to operate social media advertising campaigns and engage influencers.
Verizon's new offering is more tailored for customer support experiences than general-purpose virtual assistant technologies, such as the Alexa Skills Kit, or Amazon Lex services in AWS, making it likely easier and faster to initiate deployments. Conversely, Lex provides effectively limitless flexibility in what it can do, though demands more programming work to shape Lex and associated AWS services into the solution needed.
The use of AI in customer service is likely to increase in the near future, with Verizon pointing to an IDC report indicating that "within the next year, 40 percent of digital transformation initiatives will use AI services, as will 75 percent of enterprise applications by 2021."
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- Verizon's new Digital Customer Experience platform combines four AI-powered components—virtual agent, live agent, knowledge assist, and social engagement—to improve customer support outcomes.
- The new offering is more tailored for customer support experiences than general-purpose virtual assistants, though at the cost of flexibility.
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James Sanders is a technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on Asia.