TouchCommerce Launches Virtual Assistant (Just Don’t Call It a Chatbot)

  • Philip Ryan
  • July 20, 2016
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touchcommerce2TouchCommerce, which serves many Fortune 500 companies with customer engagement tools such as livechat and FAQs, launched a virtual assistant today called TouchAssist.

By the end of the third quarter, TouchAssist will be live at a Top 3 bank, CMO George Skaff told Bank Innovation. With its other tools, TouchCommerce already serves RBS Citizens and a number of large banks it is not allowed to name, Skaff said.

The company specializes in omnichannel customer engagement, helping companies field inquiries in whatever form customers prefer. That little chat window that pops up when you visit certain sites is likely theirs. But that window is staffed by humans. TouchAssist is staffed by a virtual agent provided by Nuance Communications, known for developing Nina, used by USAA and U.S. Bank’s card division.

TouchCommerce is careful to be clear that TouchAssist is virtual. When a user engages it, the service says, “TouchAssist: Hello, I’m the TouchCommerce Virtual Assistant ready to answer your questions.”

Why not give it a name and let people think it’s human? “Customers get more frustrated if they think they’re talking to a human and it turns out to be a bot,” Skaff said. “So today we call it out. We leave it up to our customers how they portray it.”

But in terms of livechat, no matter where an agent is or what his or her name is, you may see the name “Jessica” frequently.“Studies show ‘Jessica’ is the best name for livechat and gets the best customer response,” Skaff said.

The virtual assistant is backed up by humans in case of customer frustration, but the idea is most customers will self-serve aided by the bot. “It’s an intelligent, automated conversation leading to self-service,” Skaff said. Transcripts are kept of all conversations for a clear audit trail.

This hybrid approach is likely to back up many of the proliferating bots consumers encounter today. Another announced funding today — a personal finance bot named Trim. But TouchAssist is far more than a chatbot, Skaff said. “Chatbots are simpler, with canned responses,” Skaff said. “Virtual assistants are enterprise-level, smarter, with real engagement.”

In digital customer service situations, you won’t go far these days without encountering a bot.

“The use cases will continue to expand with increased trust and intelligence,” Skaff said.

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Philip Ryan is Senior Editor of Bank Innovation and Senior Director of INV Fintech. He began covering financial services in 2012 and has more than 15 years' experience in online journalism. He can be reached at pryan@royalmedia.com.

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