Gartner Identifies Five Challenges to Growth and Adoption for Virtual Customers

Customer Service and Support Leaders Must Understand Implications
of Virtual Customers on the Enterprise

STAMFORD, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#AI–The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT)-connected devices and
artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled virtual personal assistants (VPAs)
gives rise to a new way to serve customers and a new, virtual customer
to serve. However, five challenges to growth and adoption must be
overcome before this emerging trend becomes reality, according to
Gartner, Inc.

“We are still several years away from creating autonomous virtual
customers that can function with minimal human intervention,” said Tiffany
Fountain
, vice president and team manager at Gartner. “However,
existing capabilities suggest virtual customers will become a greater
presence in purchase and service activities. Before this becomes
reality, customer service and support leaders must understand how these
virtual customers behave and what implications they may have for the
enterprise.”

Before intelligent virtual customers are developed and deployed at
scale, the following five challenges to growth and adoption will need to
be addressed by customer service and support leaders:

Challenge 1: Technology Capacity and Capability

There are two key domains of knowledge that must be mastered for a
virtual customer to be truly autonomous and a realistic substitute for a
human customer: the depth of a customer’s preferences and the breadth of
factors that may influence a customer’s actions. Without each, the
virtual customer is unable to navigate required trade-offs. Another
challenge is machine-to-machine communication. These system
compatibility issues will slow the pace of deployment and acceptance
with virtual customers.

Challenge 2: Data Privacy Regulatory Environment

Another key challenge to virtual customers is the current regulatory and
operating environments. Most organizations face a lack of clarity in
legislation and internal policies, not to mention insufficient
technology to ensure privacy rights are upheld. Organizations will need
to ensure a virtual customer is authentic, appropriately permissioned to
act on behalf of the customer and can interact with other organizations’
channels and technology. In addition, organizations will need to decide
if they are comfortable with devices interacting with their sales and
service channels, and whether they are willing to accept personally
identifiable information (PII) from third-party virtual customers.

Challenge 3: Determination of Legal Liability

Legal liability is a major barrier to adoption for virtual customers.
When it comes to failed transactions, organizations will need to
establish policies for determining liability and what the adjudication
and settlement process will be for a failed transaction. On the other
hand, in the case of crimes, organizations and legal institutions must
also determine if user data collected by VPAs is protected under
constitutional law.

Challenge 4: Brand Strategy

Gartner predicts that 75 of the top 100 global consumer brands will lose
20% of their brand equity value due to decreasing brand loyalty and the
increasing influence of digital gatekeepers that virtual customers are
likely to exacerbate. Organizations will need to explore how to keep
control of the relationship with the consumer without having direct
contact. The key will be in how organizations engage virtual customers’
algorithms in place of engaging human customers’ emotions.

Challenge 5: Human Acceptance

Growing distrust in technology is a major challenge to overcome for the
growth of virtual customers. Gartner research shows that an increasing
number of consumers would trade convenience for the assurance of data
privacy. It will be imperative for organizations looking to deploy
virtual customers to consider ways to foster human trust and confidence.

Additional details on the adoption and growth of virtual customers and
the impact on customer service leaders and their organizations are
available to Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leaders clients in
the report “When
Things Become Customers: What Customer Service Leaders Need to Know
About Emerging Virtual Customers.”

About Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leaders

The customer service and support function is vital to maintaining
customer loyalty and influencing brand perceptions. Gartner
for Customer Service & Support Leaders
provides indispensable
insights, advice and tools needed to achieve service and support
leaders’ mission-critical priorities, specifically improving the
customer experience while managing costs. Gartner’s research, advice and
best practices equip customer service and support leaders to design an
optimal service channel strategy; measure and reduce customer effort;
and hire, develop and retain high-potential frontline talent.

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT), is the world’s leading research and advisory
company and a member of the S&P 500. We equip business leaders with
indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve their
mission-critical priorities today and build the successful organizations
of tomorrow.

Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner-sourced and
data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the
issues that matter most. We are a trusted advisor and objective resource
for more than 15,000 organizations in more than 100 countries — across
all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size. To learn
more about how we help decision makers fuel the future of business,
visit gartner.com.

Contacts

Kelly Blum
571-303-5745
[email protected]

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