What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase “Intelligent Virtual Assistant”?

You wouldn’t be alone if you answered: “Chatbots.” Many people think that IVAs are synonymous with the bots they see pop up in the corner of their screens while perusing company websites.

However, an Intelligent Virtual Assistant is more sophisticated than a simple chatbot and is specifically designed to drive top-line growth for businesses.

Read on to learn what an Intelligent Virtual Assistant really is, how far it’s come in the past decade, and what the newest innovations in IVAs can mean for your business.

What Is an Intelligent Virtual Assistant?

Some might describe an Intelligent Virtual Assistant as a user interface that mirrors chatting with a real person. That’s a start, but it doesn’t give you the whole picture.

Intelligent Virtual Assistants are the next generation of intelligent automation helping businesses scale human interactions that attract, acquire, and grow customers. To accomplish this, IVAs learn from previous interactions via machine learning and make recommendations or take actions based on a lead’s or customer’s history. Additionally, an IVA is able to understand responses from a contact and respond appropriately without having a set of pre-program responses.

Here’s an example: If a contact requests a meeting with a Salesperson or Customer Success rep, the IVA should be able to comprehend the request, alert an employee, and autonomously coordinate a meeting between the lead/customer and your employees.

A well-built IVA also needs to be able to identify customers based on past transactions. If you’re sending the firm an email about your poor experience with a given product, the platform must be able to find your account within multiple databases and pull up your information.

Continued Evolution: From Simple Chatbot Responses to Intelligent Conversations

A chatbot is a simple piece of rules-based software meant to field questions from web users in real-time with pre-programmed responses. This is a helpful time saver for customer support teams who no longer need to respond to common inquiries or issues. Recently, chatbots have also been adopted by Marketing and Sales teams to nudge website visitors into completing lead forms or subscribing to email newsletters.

But still, the technology is fairly simple and no one ever confuses a simple chatbot for a real person. If inquiries and requests from the contact veer away from the limited predetermined path, the chatbot will need to pull a human-in-the-loop to solve the issue.

AI-driven technologies like an Intelligent Virtual Assistant, on the other hand, leverage natural language understanding (NLU) and natural language generation (NLG) to engage contacts in human-like communications. This is not an easy thing. It took researchers decades to learn how to improve the way AI systems communicate with people. In the early days, these systems could hold simple conversations with contacts, but it would become evident that after a few turns of the dialogue, you were talking to software with strict limitations.

Thanks to advances in NLU and NLG, AI systems now have more sophisticated communications with people. They possess a deeper understanding of language and can quickly respond in a way that’s highly convincing. Some AI platforms perform so well that people talking to them have no idea they’re machines.

How Can Intelligent Virtual Assistants Help Your Business?

Intelligent Virtual Assistants make your organization and teams more productive while cutting costs and directing resources to their most efficient uses.

We’ll use the example of Marketing. One of the biggest problems in Marketing is engaging qualified leads. You don’t want to waste time following up with dead leads. You want to be approachable yet professional, so your leads trust you and are willing to buy your product or service.

An IVA automatically sends out an email to an interested lead, asking if he or she is interested in more information about a product. Let’s say the lead wants to learn more. In fact, he or she wants to talk to a Sales representative to gain a deeper understanding about your products or services. The Intelligent Virtual Assistant would follow up with the lead through email or text, scheduling an appointment with a Sales rep at the lead’s convenience.

What happens if the lead doesn’t answer the first email? The Intelligent Virtual Assistant will send multiple emails to make sure that the lead is still interested. If the lead still doesn’t respond or opts out, the platform will stop trying to reach the prospect.

This capability to autonomously engage leads or customers allows your employees to focus on higher-value work—like building relationships, closing deals or creative problem solving—by automating redundant and routine tasks.

The best AI solutions place an emphasis on conversation. Intelligent Virtual Assistants take this one step further by actively driving contacts to the next best action, such as identifying hot leads and scheduling meetings with your Salespeople.

There’s More to Intelligent Virtual Assistants Than Chatbots

The Conversica Sales AI Assistant proves there’s more to engaging contacts that

AI than just chatbots. With our solution, you can free up your Sales representatives to pursue highly qualified leads. Your Marketing team’s efforts go further, too—you’re only reaching out to leads that are interested in your product or service.

To learn more about how Conversica increases your sales effectiveness, read our Fourth Annual Sales Effectiveness Report – The 4 Ps of Lead Follow-Up.