Advances in how we talk with each other has been speeding up, with new developments showing up every month. Waves of new applications, new devices and technologies multiply the ways we connect and get information. We mastered email and then social platforms arrived. Text messaging and chat evolved into Facebook Messenger, WeChat and WhatsApp. It seems like everything can become a way to communicate, including some clever users who utilize the Venmo payments app as a way to message friends not just pay someone back.

One area with sweeping growth is virtual agents, especially conversational user interfaces. These friendly automated pieces of AI software can carry on human-like dialogues, and, with the right technology and training, take care of many of the picayune and workaday duties that drain the bottom line.

AI chatbots are proliferating, with many platforms allowing third party virtual agent creators to inject their creations into the platform’s ecosystem. Slack, the enterprise communication software, had less than 500 virtual agents in 2016, but that number has now has exploded 30X. Facebook Messenger, which handles messages for over a billion users, has experienced even larger growth, now has more than 100,000 AI conversational agents.

The capabilities and variety of these agents is truly amazing.The first virtual agents were launched at the beginning of the millennium. The retail side of the banking industry is always driving their services to be automated and self-service to improve profitability. It is far and away the most fully online and have moved now to apps serving all but a few tasks for their customers. Banks have realized that the transition from online and apps to conversational agents almost 20 years ago. These first forays into chatbot software assistants had a limited set of capabilities and a rudimentary understanding of natural language, through the use of keywords to suggest answers and actions. The chatbot agents had to walk before they could run. Now, using natural language processing, the agents can not only understand and get users the relevant answers, but they can reply, take directions, and astonishingly, suggest products and complete the sales transaction by taking payments.

Bank of America’s AI virtual agent, named Erica, carries on conversations with customers using voice enabled devices or over chat. The high frequency requests are easily handled because they already have been well defined when the banks added online self-service and launched phone apps.

The direct savings of letting customers talk to virtual agents instead of banking customer service representatives is apparent. The conversational interface makes it fun and easy, but beyond this benefit, the machine learning capabilities of the advanced chatbots lets these agents anticipate what customers will request or welcome as an offer of new products.

Soon virtual agents will be ubiquitous and customers will expect them from the companies they deal with. Market leaders will need to move forward with their AI virtual agent initiatives to maintain market position. Chatbots and artificial intelligence open opportunities for firms which may mean a shake up in which are on top.

To see how Elafris Virtual Insurance Agents can help your company, speak with us to schedule a free online demo.

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