Is Your Virtual Assistant Intelligent Enough?

The Smart Role of Today’s Genuine VA in an IVA Market

Are you looking for a virtual assistant who is intelligent enough to think on his or her feet, able to change direction at a moment’s notice, and provide practical solutions – instead of simply taking orders and giving canned responses?

It’s an important question for entrepreneurs to ponder when considering the option of working with human virtual assistants or today’s IVAs (Intelligent Virtual Assistants; Artificial Intelligence Software).

The Crucial Element

While there may be financial benefits to some organizations for employing the use of an IVA, it’s also smart to realize that the lack of the ‘human element’ can fail to translate well when it comes to building customer relationships – a crucial element for many online startups wanting to develop a product or service.

Virtual Assistant Defined

Investopedia.com offers this definition: A virtual assistant is an independent contractor skilled in social media, content management, blog post writing, graphic design, and internet marketing; a self-employed worker that specializes in offering administrative services to clients from a remote location, usually a home office.

At least, that WAS the definition…

Virtual Assistant Re-Defined

Today, a virtual assistant is also defined by Lifewire.com as: An application that understands voice commands and completes tasks for a user. Virtual assistants are available on most smartphones and tablets, traditional computers, and even standalone devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home.
They combine specialized computer chips, microphones, and software that listen for specific spoken commands from you and can answer back in a voice that you select.

The Impact of the Intelligent Virtual Assistant

An article published by Allied Market Research explaines that intelligent virtual assistants are the most human-like and intelligent digital avatars, which can dynamically read, understand, and respond to online customer queries. The article also notes the cost-effectiveness of employing an IVA: 

"Emergence of advance technologies such as artificial intelligence has propelled the adoption intelligent virtual assistant among diverse industry verticals. Majority of industries have implemented intelligent virtual assistant as a part of their customer service to provide exquisite customer services. North America dominated the market in the 2019 and Asia-Pacific is anticipated to register highest CAGR in the coming years."

Rachita Rake Research Analyst, ICT at Allied Market Research

Note: Grammatical errors in online content are, unfortunately, common. Fortunately, an experienced, skilled virtual assistant can help improve the quality of your content.

Here is what 99firms.com reported in their blog on virtual assistant statistics just two short years ago.

Are virtual assistants in high demand?

Many employers decide to take on virtual assistants. They are in high demand because they are more cost-effective compared to full-time employees. Businesses hire VAs to save money on office space, hidden costs, salaries, and benefits. VAs often offer better value for money, being more productive than permanent on-site assistants.

Who hires virtual assistants?

Virtual assistants are usually hired to perform administrative tasks such as email communications or answering services for a lower cost. Online businesses and entrepreneurs like the idea of virtual assistants, especially if they don’t want to spend money on office space. Also, many small and medium-sized businesses opt for virtual support for jobs like social media management, according to virtual assistant statistics.

• Companies save up to 78% of costs by hiring virtual assistants.
• Freelancers in the US are expected to reach over 86.5 million by 2027.
• More than 80% of companies want to use a more flexible workforce in the future.
• Permanent remote workers are expected to rise to 34.4% in 2021.

• In 2019, there were 3.6 million secretaries and administrative assistants in the US.
• Virtual assistants in the US make $32/hour on average.
• Virtual assistants see flexibility as the most significant advantage of their job.

Should Virtual Assistants Be Concerned?

As a virtual assistant, the concept of artificial intelligence taking my place has been in the back of my mind for some time, now. And I won’t deny that it appears my training and skills are quickly being replaced by IVA software.

However, I’m not convinced that the IVA can do everything a human can do. And, I hope that the one skill AI will never be able to master is the one skill that I will never lose – that being the Human or Personal touch.

The Customer Service Difference

“People want to know that brands care about them, and AI will be programmed accordingly. We have currently seen the opposite behavior on social media, where AIs learn from humans’ more negative remarks, but it’s highly likely that consumers will crave the impact. If bots can learn how to form sentences to convey an emotion, companies can soon teach them to offer comfort and products based on customers’ moods.”

Ron Smith, Editor in Chief, The Digital Outdoor

I would like to think that it would be impossible for bots to ‘learn’ to be able to convey emotion as Mr. Smith suggests. Even though we are witnessing changes in technology at a level that would likely cause even Walt Disney’s head to spin.

I prefer to believe that human virtual assistants could never be replaced by “things” that are capable of interpersonal skills, ideas, and emotions that create personalized results combined with sincerity and integrity – the hallmarks of a professional virtual assistant.

Excellent customer service has been the hallmark of every trusted business since mankind began engaging in buying and selling in the marketplace. Excellent customer service involves:

Should Entrepreneurs Be Concerned?

If you are a startup, you should know that a 2022 survey by Gartner showed that more than 65% of the decisions made today are more complex than two years ago. And, according to a recent article by Dmitry Dragilev, data-driven decisions help businesses to make better marketing decisions, with nearly 66 percent of decision-makers saying that AI-based applications help them increase profits and reach their goals.

But, you should also know that entrepreneurs who market products and services online continue to rely on skilled, virtual assistants (human models) to provide them with high-quality support and creative ideas, adding value to their company’s bottom line.

During unforeseen, difficult times (such as the Covid pandemic) the services and flexibility virtual assistants are able to provide continue to be the salvation of many solopreneurs and small business owners.

And, with online sales and interactions on the rise, virtual assistants continue to be a vital solution.

Note: As I write this, my husband is repeating his information for the THIRD time to an IVA on the phone. His frustration level is indicated by the changing tone and increasing volume level of his voice. However, the Artificially Intelligent Receptionist does not seem to notice…

What You Can and Cannot Afford

The bottom line for most entrepreneurs and startups is “What does it cost?” The fact is, there is a cost to operating and marketing your business online, and only you know what you can actually afford.

Businesses with large customer service operations can more easily consider investing in AI technology – and probably should – since Intelligent Virtual Assistants have shown to improve operations and efficiency.

But if you’re not made of money – if your bottom line can’t support the cost of IVA software – and you realize your need for the reliable and professional support of a trained, skilled, and experienced real person, you cannot afford to ignore the benefits of working with an affordable Virtual Assistant.

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