5 Best Practices for Deploying an Intelligent Virtual Assistant

In the age of the Google search box, we instinctively look for answers on our computers or smartphones. If we're curious about what movie an actor has been in or when our favorite take-out place closes, we reflexively turn to the closest Web-enabled device for insight. When it comes to engaging with brands, consumers are increasingly demonstrating their preference for finding answers online, rather than picking up the phone to speak with a live agent or finding a representative at a brick-and-mortar store.

One response to this widespread demand for self-service has emerged in the form of intelligent virtual assistants, also known as virtual agents. This technology allows Web site visitors to ask questions around the clock by typing them into a text box and receiving immediate, accurate responses. While intelligent virtual assistants are becoming increasingly common, the process of deploying this technology from scratch can seem daunting to executives tasked with this job. If you are exploring products on the market, you are probably wrestling with many concerns: Do you have a comprehensive knowledge base in place to power automated customer service? What are the top queries that your customers have? Should you include a voice-activated option? Should it resemble an online chat? Should you use an avatar or stick to a generic question box?

To help with this process, here are best practices to help you filter out the noise and focus on the most important elements for a successful virtual agent deployment.

Intent Recognition

While intelligent virtual assistants are built on a foundation of machine learning and natural language processing technologies, not all products on the market are created equal. You can tell that a virtual agent is working when it is able to identify the intent behind a customer's question, no matter how it is asked. For instance, if one user wants to know "Where is the closest location to me?" while another asks "Is there a store nearby?" the virtual agent should understand that the intent behind both questions is the same and generate the same answer. As you test various products, keep this in mind.

Visibility Across Channels

It's important to think carefully about where your intelligent virtual assistant is situated on your Web site. The more visible it is, the more questions you will receive, and the more questions that are answered correctly, the more satisfied your customers will be. Virtual assistants can also exist in multiple locations across your site, from your homepage to your contact page. But why limit yourself to the Web? It is now easy to incorporate a virtual assistant into your social media pages or your mobile app, so 

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