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Five Challenges to Growth & Adoption for Virtual Customers: Gartner Identifies

The needs and implications of virtual customers must be understood by customer service and support leaders in order for them to thrive, research from Gartner has shown.

With the thriving of technology which includes Internet of Things (IoT)-connected devices and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled virtual personal assistants (VPAs) gives rise to a new way to serve customers. However, Gartner, suggests that in order to find success in this type of client, there are a number challenges to think about before tackling the world of virtual customers.

“We are still several years away from creating autonomous virtual customers that can function with minimal human intervention,” said Tiffany Fountain, vice president and team manager at Gartner. “However, existing capabilities suggest virtual customers will become a greater presence in purchase and service activities.

Before this becomes reality, customer service and support leaders must understand how these virtual customers behave and what implications they may have for the enterprise.”

To enable to growth of virtual customer service and to let it develop on a bigger scale the following five challenges to growth and adoption will need to be addressed by customer service and support leaders:

Challenge 1: Technology Capacity and Capability

In order to for a virtual customer to be fully autonomous and act as a replacement for human customers there are two things to consider. The first being the depth of a customer’s preference and the second being the breadth of factors that could influence the actions of the customer. The two depend on each other in order to navigate the required trade-offs. Machine-to-machine communication also presents itself as another test when capability and capacity are taken into consideration, for the simple reason that compatibility issues run the risk of slowing down the pace of deployment and acceptance with virtual customers.

Challenge 2: Data Privacy Regulatory Environment

One huge aspect to be careful of when working with any type of tech is security and privacy. Unfortunately, there is a lack of technology and legalisation clarity within most organisations to make sure that privacy rights are upheld. This means that companies have the task of keeping on top of a number of regarding this. Such as making sure that the virtual customer is real, they have permission to act on behalf of the human user and they can understand and use the equipment. On the other side, places should decide if they are comfortable providing virtual customer support to devices which may interact with their own sales and service channels. They also need to think if they will accept personally identifiable information (PII) from third party virtual customers.

Challenge 3: Determination of Legal Liability

When it comes to virtual customers and being a virtual service customer agent, legal liability can become a major issue. Policies will need to be put in place for failed transactions and the potential sub sequential settlement process and adjudication which could follow. It is also important to understand which data collected by VPAs is protected under constitutional law.

Challenge 4: Brand Strategy

Because of the decrease in brand loyalty, Gartner predicts that 20% of brand equity will be lost from 75 of the 100 global consumer brands. Therefore, businesses will need to know how keep their relationship with the customer without having the benefit of face-to-face interaction. Algorithms will play a huge part in engaging aspects of humanism, such as emotion, to provide the best virtual customer support and this is also something that really needs to be taken into consideration.

Challenge 5: Human Acceptance

Growing distrust in technology is a major challenge to overcome for the growth of virtual customers. Gartner research shows that an increasing number of consumers would trade convenience for the assurance of data privacy. It will be imperative for organizations looking to deploy virtual customers to consider ways to foster human trust and confidence.

Virtual customers are fast becoming a part of the way that we go about our daily lives, so for companies to thrive, these 5 challenges should be measured and used to advance in virtual customer services.

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