Digital People: Getting real with the new face of digital
It’s time to face facts. The future of digital marketing and customer service has arrived – and it’s the face of digital people. Increasingly lifelike, artificial humans are not only giving brands a face and personality online - they are transforming impersonal online transactions into meaningful, personal customer connections powered by conversational AI. And they’re doing it at scale.
Gone are the days when ‘connecting’ with customers meant answering the phone, replying to a message or acknowledging an online form has been submitted. Today it’s not only about connecting through technology that enables access – it’s about connecting through technology that enables emotion and empathy too.
As the AI technology matures, organisations are increasingly using digital people to create powerful conversations that change the way they engage with customers in industries from healthcare to real estate, banking to higher education.
A digital what?
Digital people are human-like virtual assistants or avatars.. They humanise a brand online by giving it a face and a personality. They use conversational AI to help brands build emotional connections and empathy with customers at scale in ways humans simply can’t. They take old school offline experiences of personalised customer service and deliver it online.
Digital people ‘read the room’. They don’t just take into account what customers say, but how they say it. They use a camera or microphone to pick up tone, facial expressions, mannerisms, body language and other subtle non-verbal cues and respond appropriately.
Show and tell
Customers don’t have to tell us how they’re feeling. They show us. That’s important when the words we utter only make up seven per cent of what we communicate. When a person tells you they’re ‘fine’, a slight narrowing of the eyes, pursing of the lips or slump of the shoulders can tell you they’re not fine at all.
A digital person responds appropriately to those cues in the same way you might react during a conversation. A furrowed brow and a head nod that says ‘I understand’ to a frustrated customer. A smile for the greeting or farewell. Those capabilities deliver multiple business benefits.
Building connections and loyalty
When you show kindness and consistency to customers and make them feel heard and valued, it builds empathy. Empathy makes us feel human and connected.
When you build those emotional connections, you build trust and loyalty too. Research by Forrester shows brands that make customers feel appreciated, happy and valued grow emotional loyalty. They keep their customers longer, eight in 10 customers buy more from them, and they become brand advocates – nine in 10 recommend the brand to family and friends.
Personalisation at scale
Digital people bring together two previously separate options for marketers - speed of service, and personalisation. It is no longer an either/or choice. With a digital person, you can deliver fast, hyper-personalised service at scale - to all customers at any time.
They can help smooth tricky and painful online experiences – like navigating an application for a loan from a bank or finding the most appropriate deal for a new mobile phone. These virtual beings can analyse your account history, data usage and phone timelines instantly and immediately. Recommending new plans, phone models and checking stock availability in the time it would take a human customer service agent to input your phone number.
As the underlying AI continues to improve, we’re starting to see digital people handle more complex queries. In the real estate world, a digital person could take you on virtual property inspections after narrowing down options by asking about your specific needs like parking, pets or local schools for kids. During the inspection, they could instantly answer questions or concerns - from council rates to recent sales in the area, development applications to long term price trends – instantly. Our partner Soul Machines created one for their client Madera Residential. Check out the demo here.
A consistent message and tone
Like all of us, customer service agents have good days and bad days. They can be overstretched and overwhelmed. It can be challenging for humans to deliver the right message with the right tone consistently.
Digital people ensure consistency of message and tone across all platforms. Their language is always appropriate, their demeanor always calm. This allows businesses to deliver a unified brand narrative that is the same across all communication platforms and digital agents.
And that makes the digital person a critical touch-point across the customer journey. Under an omnichannel strategy, the digital person will serve as another channel customers can find you on – or a constant presence on all your channels, seamlessly integrated into apps, websites and products.
More than looks
There’s more to digital people than human-like looks. To be effective, they need to be built on a foundation of conversational design that guides and navigates the conversation. Without good conversational design, virtual conversations would be boring, robotic, inappropriate and ineffective. Conversational design is what gives digital people the ability to engage in fluent conversations that successfully mimic human interactions to build connections.
That’s what we do at VERSA. We design and write empathetic text to not just provide information, but to convey warmth, personality, empathy and emotion in conversations. All of that needs to be built into the AI to build the connections brands want. We work with partners like Soul Machine, a world leader in humanising AI to create astonishing digital people, to revolutionise customer and brand experiences. Soul Machine designs the avatar and we support the journey by designing the conversational experience.
As with any industry-shifting technology, engaging with a digital person can take some getting used to – but as the technology improves, so does acceptance. Soul Machine’s research found 85% of customers trust Soul Machines Digital Person in the financial services industry and 81% find it likeable.
The digital genie is out of the bottle. We’ve reached the point where we can now start to answer a lot more questions and solve a lot more customer problems through a digital person.
Digital people are delivering the scale and cost benefits of automation brands crave when it comes to customer service - and the emotional connection humans need and want in interactions.