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Q&A: Jane Price on Creating a Persona for your IVA

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So you’ve decided you need an Intelligent Virtual Assistant. Your competitors have one, and your customers expect to be able to communicate with you this way. But an IVA is an extension of your brand that deserves as much thought as any other platform. Speech Technology Magazine recently asked Jane Price, SVP of Marketing, Interactions, about the ins-and-outs of constructing an IVA and giving it personality through a persona.

Q: When a brand begins to think about creating an Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA), what questions should it answer before getting to work?

A: There are a number of important steps an organization should take before starting to develop or selecting a company to develop their IVA. Some of the most important questions we recommend organizations answer are:

  • What are your company goals? It’s important to understand how your customer care strategy aligns with broader company goals. Define what you’re trying to accomplish, and this will inform your decision-making. Make sure to think about not just where you are now, but where you want to be 18 months from now -- and what you need to do to get there.
  • What do your customers think? Evaluate the current customer journey from start to finish. Does your current system make it easy for customers to get things done? Consider whether customers are able to effectively use self-service today, and where there is room for improvement.
  • Which channels are important -- to you and your customers? As customer preferences continue to evolve, it’s important that brands deliver a seamless experience across channels. But not all channels are important to all customers. Understand your customers’ preferences and make sure you have the proper tools and channels to engage with them -- effectively and efficiently.

Q: An IVA is, in essence, just another platform to tell your brand story. How can you use an IVA to enhance your brand?

A: At Interactions, we believe that an IVA is an opportunity to improve your customer experience, by ensuring a positive end-to-end customer journey. A well-designed IVA will not only reflect the brand’s voice, but will ultimately provide a seamless, efficient customer experience that drives loyalty. When done right, an IVA can actually help drive revenue by removing friction from the sales process.

Q: Let's talk about persona. How do you set your IVA apart from others?

A: Think of your IVA as part of your overall customer experience, similar to when a customer walks into one of your stores. It should feel consistent with the rest of your brand, and this means everything from the words that are chosen for the script, to how they’re said, to the overall tone.

Whether or not your organization conscientiously designs your IVA toward a persona, your IVA will have one by default. This is why it’s important to design your IVA for persona, because consistent persona delivery reinforces a user’s perception of what your brand represents. It improves self-service adoption, which ultimately frees up your agents to handle more complex issues.

Q: How do you approach deciding on a persona for your IVA?

A: It’s important to do your homework when developing a persona for your IVA. Start by getting to know your audience and your customer demographic. You should develop a character for your application, complete with a detailed biography. Include details like the character’s name, gender, age, and even occupation and hobbies. Name your character, regardless of whether or not your IVA will be introducing him/herself to your customers. When designing your prompts, ask yourself “what would our character say?” We also recommend listening to live interactions between customers and agents to understand how a conversation would normally take place. Then find a voice that embodies the physical persona biography.

Q: How do you know that you have the right persona?

A: Just like anything else, it’s important to test your IVA application to make sure you developed the right persona. We recommend conducting A/B testing to see how willing your customers are to engage with the system. A lack of engagement or a hesitancy to interact likely means that the experience feels off-brand. If you see that your customers are comfortably and naturally engaging with your IVA, then you know you’ve hit the mark.

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