Intelligent Virtual Assistants: Gaining Traction but Confronting Challenges in the Enterprise

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Attacking from Different Vectors

Part of the reason is that some IVA vendors come from niches that have nothing to do with the contact center or customer service industry. Another problem is that consumer-focused suppliers are lording over the market. “This market is data-centric,” Miller explains. “Vendors like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have access to a lot of data, which helps them build conversational interfaces.”

The growth of the market is attracting many suppliers, but many of them still struggle with how to monetize their solutions. “In terms of business models, the industry right now is the Wild West,” Miller points out. “Vendors are testing a number of options.” 

Further complicating things, vendor professional services and systems integration have almost always been needed to install enterprise systems. Solutions need to be tailored to individual workloads and application infrastructures, and most systems only come with predefined hooks that will get the companies looking to deploy them about 80 percent of the way, with the remaining 20 percent requiring unique programming skills. 

To help defray some costs, a new IVA-as-a-service model is emerging. Here, the customer typically pays on a per-query basis, though in some cases, the service is provided at a set monthly fee instead. 

A success-based pricing model is also being tested. In this case, the solutions are commissioned to perform certain tasks, such as offloading contact center interactions. When they do it successfully, the customer is charged. If not, the customer does not pay.

A final model treats the IVAs like virtual employees. Here, the business outsources work to the vendor and its virtual workforce for completion. 

Furthermore, as with other emerging technologies, vendors of IVA technologies need to build up their sales and support channels and better train their clients to deploy and use them

With revenue growing, third-party suppliers from different market segments are vying for attention. These tools rely on an intimate knowledge of the business and touch on a number of areas: executive management, process automation, and IT automation, to name a few. 

But in the end, the bottom line is that IVAs offer companies the ability to interact more effectively with customers, employees, and partners. The market potential is great, but the infrastructure remains immature. Eventually, top suppliers and proven business processes will emerge, but the immediate forecast calls for a turbulent gestation period. 

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