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Virtually Speaking

Intelligent Virtual Assistants: More Critical Than a Knowledgebase?

Posted by Sam Fleming on May 21, 2012 12:50:16 PM


Knowledgebases provide the tools to enable research – allowing you to find content or documents related to a given subject. The problem for the end user is that they are not out to conduct research– they have a specific issue that needs resolution. This simple fact renders the associated knowledgebase articles an archaic means of discovery that places the burden of effort on the user to identify an answer, rather than placing it on the software tool itself. Associated with this burden are four primary constraints that call the efficacy of knowledgebase solutions in to question:

  1. Volume constraints - the multitude of potentially relevant articles creates the proverbial needle in a haystack situation
  2. Omissions - the necessary content does not exist or is not well represented
  3. Assumed understanding of the domain - assumption that the user has the foundation necessary to identify what it is they are looking for using appropriate domain terminology
  4. Measurable outcomes - just because a page is frequented often does not mean that it is successfully addressing any user issues

Virtual assistants resolve this on all levels. Volume constraints are eliminated because there is no hierarchy of navigation or competing documents that potentially muddy the waters – virtual assistants codify the one best answer or the most efficient path to resolution either in direct response or by pointing you to a very specific piece of content. While not entirely eliminated, omissions become much less of a concern through what we refer to as the ‘voice of the customer’ – the ability to identify very specifically what is important (topic and frequency) to end users and, based on business priority, ensure that all future occurrences are addressed. Inversely, having users searching and browsing content where you don’t establish any sense of what they were really after leaves you subject to guessing about what is important to them – and no amount of search tuning, keyword tagging or meta data can make up for the fact that your knowledgebase is crafted with fundamental lack of understanding of a user’s intent. This issue of findability is only compounded when you consider users who do not know exactly what they need or how to frame queries to identify the necessary content.

Let’s face it - knowledgebases are much more effective for internal employees – experts who have learned and understand the nuances of the application and the multitude of ways to form a query to improve their results. They also have the foundational understanding to know when they have identified the appropriate material, while less familiar users may walk away still in question. The result is that, according to the Customer Contact Council, 57% of inbound calls come from customers who were already on your website navigating content and searching through online tools such as a knowledgebase.

Intelligent Virtual Assistants White Paper

Topics: Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVA), User Experience, Technology