Chatbot? Virtual Assistant? Digital Assistant? What’s The Difference?

By September 21, 2021Blog Posts
chatbot virtual assistant digital assistant what is the difference

Conversational technologies have been on our agenda for a long time, and these technologies are expressed with various concepts such as bots, virtual assistants, digital assistants, chatbots, etc. Is it really necessary to have so many terms that we witness new ones being added every day? Are these increasingly confusing concepts that important?

As someone who has spent 20 years in the technology field and believes that communication is a multi-channel experience, I have never liked the term “chatbot” since I first heard it. If we look at the history of this technology, which has become increasingly popular since 2016 and presented as if it were a new discovery; we can see that its foundations were laid in 1950 with the discovery of the “Turing Test” by a world-renowned mathematics professor named Alan Turing. The Turing Test determines whether a machine can demonstrate human intelligence. If a machine can engage in a conversation with a human without being detected as a machine, this means it demonstrates human intelligence.

The Evolution of Customer Service Automation

In fact, in the process triggered by the Industrial Revolution, the basic expectation of human beings from technology was the more effective use of machines in many fields that require manpower. The increasing use of machinery in the customer service area, which we, as Sestek, also focus on, has often resulted in customer dissatisfaction, especially in the first examples in the past.

Primitive versions of voice recognition, bots, and similar technological solutions started to be used in the 1990s. Although they provided cost advantages to companies, they were insufficient in terms of customer experience and therefore led to customer dissatisfaction. In recent years, rapid development in AI technologies such as deep learning, machine learning, etc., increased the success of such technologies positioned in the customer service automation field.

The Real Matter is the Right Experience Design

Bot, chatbot, virtual assistant, digital assistant… Whatever the name given to technology, the basis of a successful self-service solution lies in the correct design of the customer experience. Instead of only cost-oriented designs, bots that offer human-like conversations -except reflecting their emotions as humans do- and provide 24/7 service have entered our lives.

I’m sure that some people reading this piece will say, “When we call or text banks, we don’t want technologies that don’t make us talk to real people.”. But believe me, those who deal with a properly designed system integrated with the right technologies, within six months at the latest, report a better satisfaction result than their previous experience.

In this regard, I would like to explain with an example why technology has gained an unstoppable speed. You may think it would be more practical for a 70-80-year-old user to tell customer service about his problems with a live representative. But, let’s imagine that the virtual assistant provides personalized service to that person as soon as he calls customer service, understands everything he says, and performs his transactions five times faster than in the past. In such an experience, both the service recipient and the service provider will be happy.

An Undeniable Need: “Omnichannel”

We have seen in the pandemic that our service demands have almost completely moved to the digital environment, and our communication experience has changed irreversibly. One of the most important issues when positioning bots here is to offer an “omnichannel,” that is, a “single experience” independent of the channel. Namely, you get service from an e-commerce company, and when you contact customer service, you expect it to give you the same experience from every channel. When you call the contact center, submit a support ticket on a website, or communicate with WhatsApp or a voice assistant, you have only one expectation: You want your request or problem to be understood and answered accurately as soon as possible. At this point, there are many solutions that look like “chatbots” at first glance but can’t actually offer this experience. These solutions, which work independently of other customer channels, remain unaware of the dialog initiated by the customer in a different channel. This means that the customer has to express herself again and again in every channel, thus causing loss of time and customer dissatisfaction.

Conclusion

Whether it is called “chatbot,” “virtual assistant,” or a different term, these technologies, which are at the center of customer service automation today, are based on the principle that users receive service by communicating with systems. When designed correctly, these technologies enable transactions in a much shorter time for users. With the automation they provide, they offer cost advantages and efficiency to businesses. Regardless of the purpose of use, these technologies need to be developed based on customer needs and introduced to customers in a way that best meets their expectations. In other words, the customer is at the center of the business, and only the work carried out based on this fact can be successful.

Author: Serdar Karadayi, General Manager, Sestek