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The 6 steps to designing a great virtual agent

There has been a massive increase in the use of enterprise virtual agents in the past few years. Unfortunately, many of these are weak and underperforming generally due to a lack of good planning.

At Wysdom, we have designed and launched dozens of the best virtual agents in the world and have developed a real-world design methodology that delivers the best results every time.

By using a tried and tested methodology every detail of a virtual agent can be planned in advance, resulting in the best performance and customer experience possible.

These are the 6 steps that your team should consider when designing a virtual agent customers will love. We call the output a virtual agent “blueprint”.

1. Topics

Virtual agent design begins with an understanding of all of the topics that will be covered by the virtual agent. Using historical data and machine learning technology, you will identify hundreds of topics that the virtual agent is expected to handle.

Whether the virtual agent will engage in a conversation and try to resolve an issue or hand off directly to a live agent, it will need to accurately identify the topic. Every topic will be rated for its ability to generate revenue, save money or impact customer satisfaction.

During this stage the virtual agent design team will:

  • Determine which topics customers contact you most about
  • Validate which topics should be handled by virtual and/or human agents
  • Prioritize virtual agent topic training based on business objective and feasibility
  • Create a phased topic roadmap based ROI per topic

2. Channels

Channels are where your customers connect with your virtual agent. Choosing the right channels and understanding their capabilities is a key part of design.  

Text and voice will both be investigated here and a plan will be put in place. Generally, starting with text-based channels (Webchat, Facebook Messenger, Apple Business Chat, SMS, WhatsApp, etc.) are best suited for the early stage of your virtual agent program, and voice is typically included at a more mature stage. 

In this stage the team will:

  • Identify which channels customers currently use and prefer
  • Consider the capabilities and limitations of each channel and align this information with topic priorities from the work above
  • Consider the journey and timing to migrate from text channels to voice channels
  • Create a phased channel roadmap based on ROI per channel

3. Architecture

There are a lot of moving parts surrounding your virtual agent platform. Getting the right technology is critical to the long-term success of your virtual agent program. Choosing the virtual agent platform that meets your requirements and then considering integration to back-office systems, long-term conversation data storage, security, compliance, and performance should all be taken into account when designing your virtual agent architecture.

During this step, the virtual agent design team will create an architecture that will scale and address all of your customer needs including:

  • Select the best virtual agent platform and components to support your requirements 
  • Consider integrations to back-office systems, conversational data storage, and third-party tools
  • Prioritize integrations by evaluating customer value and implementation complexity
  • Deliver a phased architecture plan

4. User Experience

UX covers everything about how your customer will experience your virtual agent. This might include what personality it will have, how many languages it will speak, will it combine voice and text channels, what journeys will be configured, how will hand-off to a live agent take place, and more.

The virtual agent design team defines placement, behaviour, and other best design practices that will ensure exceptional customer experiences by:

  • Leveraging Wysdom’s Conversational AI user experience best practices guide
  • Plan chat client design, placement, customization, and trigger behaviours
  • Formalize virtual agent persona, branding tone, and manner

5. Team

It takes an experienced team to design, build, and operate a great virtual agent. This isn’t something that will be handled by one person or two part-time employees. The best virtual agents in the enterprise have sizeable teams behind them continuously improving and adding capabilities to the virtual agent program.

Wysdom has created virtual agent teams for dozens of organizations and has a structure that delivers results. There are 10 key positions that require unique skills. Recruiting, onboarding, and developing a great team will pay dividends in virtual agent performance.

During this phase the team will:

  • Review what skills exist within your organization, which are needed, and what model to use (outsource, build in-house, hybrid, etc.)
  • Identify part-time specializations required to be successful
  • Design a team for multiple phases of the virtual agent program
  • Cost out options for use business case evaluation

6. Business case

A virtual agent is a significant investment for any organization and determining the return on that investment is key as you venture into this new space and align objectives across departments.  All of the steps above are going to provide the costs and benefits you can expect from your well-designed virtual agent program.  

Pulling all of the pieces together into a business case is critical before you train the first utterance into your virtual agent platform.

The final step in creating your virtual agent blueprint is adding up the numbers and finalizing the business case:

  • Review virtual agent architectural components to understand all associated costs
  • Review expected KPI’s to assess impact to revenue, costs, and customer experience
  • Ensure you have ROI goals for each stage of the program roadmap

After these 6 steps have been completed, you will have a comprehensive virtual agent blueprint. This process has been used to build hundreds of successful virtual agents, and the tools have been honed to deliver fast and effective plans. 

If you want to add some Wysdom to your virtual agent program planning process, let’s get started.

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