Is the Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) market over before it has even begun? Does the emergence of chatbots mean that the IVA is destined to go the way of Vista, Betamax, the LaserDisc and Nest (only kidding) as another brave tech failure?
IVAs attempt to humanize web self-service by delivering knowledge and information to customers via a human like interface. IVAs can be embedded within a web page or mobile app. The attraction for businesses is obvious. Unlike a customer service representative IVAs can serve thousands of customers at once, they are available 24/7, across all channels and the experience is consistent. Many organizations, particularly in the retail sector are today using IVAs as an opportunity for differentiation and a visual extension of their basic web self-service technologies.
The problem for the IVA market is that chatbots have the potential to offer the same feature set with fewer of the negative overheads. Similar to IVAs chatbots
enable users to interact via text or using speech recognition. Speech recognition has the potential to transform the self-service user experience, making it a more natural experience and most importantly hands free. Speech recognition can deliver service to users anywhere and in any situation or context. IVA vendors have recently augmented their solutions with speech recognition capabilities to offer voice driven information search and retrieval such as video on demand. Already retailers have begun to explore the potential of voice driven self-service with for example Domino’s Pizza introducing Dom their virtual voice ordering assistant.
The problem for IVAs is that they expect the web page and mobile app to remain the dominant customer engagement interfaces. As I have discussed in previous posts users are not downloading business apps. In addition artificial intelligence and speech recognition threaten the future dominance of text based web search and the text based company web page.
Chatbots will be able to provide all of the features of an IVA without having to download an app or go to a web page and invoke the IVA client. Most importantly they’ll be built within apps that customers (e.g. Kik, WeChat, Messenger) are actually using providing convenience and simplicity that is the cornerstone of successful customer service.