IntelliResponse: One Right Answer for Web Self-Service Questions

I receive a lot of requests for briefings from emerging customer support software vendors, and a recent request from IntelliResponse caught my attention because of this line:  “Our unique competitive differentiation is our ‘One Right Answer’ approach, versus all of our competitors who utilize search based paradigms.” Because of the huge popularity of Google, many vendors in this space are creating a ‘Google-like’ search experience, which is great when you are researching a topic, but not so good when you have a specific question or problem and need the One Right Answer, not a scrolling page of thousands of possibilities.

IntelliResponse, a 100% SaaS vendor, has around 100 customers and nearly twice as many deployments, but their focus has been higher education and financial services, with reference accounts including TD Canada Trust, ING Direct, American Express, Scotiabank, Ohio State, and Penn State University. After receiving inquiries from many high tech companies, IntelliResponse is now bringing their solution to our industry, with a commitment I think many tech companies will find attractive: Go live in 60 days and deliver one right answer to at least 80% of visitor questions.

As I have blogged about previously, people love these online virtual assistants which offer a rich, conversational customer experience.  The problem with these solutions historically has been the use of ‘answer pairs,’ meaning you have to anticipate every question and tell the system what to respond with when each question is asked.  The first generation systems were often useless and customers who didn’t phrase their questions exactly as anticipated were continually told to “rephrase and retry.”

Here’s an example, which I have been using as an example of how not to do self-service for over 5 years now.  When I ask the bot on the Miller Brewing website, “Where are your company headquarters?” it gives me the right answer: Milwaukee. But if I ask, “Where is your HQ?” the response is: “I’m sorry, I’m not following you.” When you factor in regional terminology differences, English as a second language, and the atrocious typing and spelling skills of most of us, obviously this technology is wrong more than it is right–even if you ask a question the system supposedly has an answer for.

How then does IntelliResponse guarantee a fast go-live with high accuracy? There are two things that convinced me IntelliResponse will not have the same problem as the technology used by Miller Brewing:

  • Word collocation. Search technology has come a long way since the days of the early chatbots, and IntelliResponse’s natural language searching (NLS) capabilities is a patented approach to dissecting questions to comprehend what people are asking, regardless of phrasing. For example, the search technology has identified 13,000 ways to ask, “What kind of credit cards to you offer?” This system is smart enough to know that HQ=headquarters.
  • QuikStart and SmartSource. IntelliResponse has developed industry-specific knowledgebases of common questions/problems so new customers don’t have to start from scratch. The QuickStart program offers a guaranteed 60 day go live, and the SmartSource option leverages complex analytics to identify content gaps and assumes the responsibilities of content maintenance as a value added service.

While this is not a solution for complex technical support, IntelliResponse makes sense for simple, repetitive questions, including eCommerce and website navigation. “How may I help you today?” is a great way to greet customers coming to your website, and using a virtual assistant to immediately deliver you to the product catalog, parts system, tech support library, download repository, etc., definitely improves the customer experience. As an added benefit, IntelliResponse also suggests upsell/cross-sell offers with a non-intrusive, contextual list of, “Other people who asked about X were also interested in….”

Though the vendor is new to the high-tech industry, there are some case studies for eCommerce available. For example, check out the great results from Budget Truck Rental: Since launch, daily email inquiry volumes have decreased 74%, telephone call volumes are down 28% and online bookings increased 35% in the first 45 days.

Does an online virtual assistant make sense for your website?  This may be a purchase decision made by marketing as much as support, or whomever owns the corporate website and the customer experience. Let me know what you think, either by email or by posting a comment.  And as always, thanks for reading!

Explore posts in the same categories: Consumer Support, Enterprise Support, Technology

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