Inference News

How Intelligent Virtual Agents are Transforming 5 Key Industries in the Wake of COVID-19

May 29, 2020

Presented by Inference Solutions: ALLAN SCHEBELLA

From the fashion houses pivoting to PPE production, to the restaurants serving patrons curbside, businesses across every vertical are reinventing themselves for the post-pandemic world. Technology will fuel these transformations, with automation and artificial intelligence poised to play a major role throughout the crisis and recovery. As organizations look for ways to operate and support their customers more efficiently, they are increasing their use of Intelligent Virtual Agents (anecdotally, peak use for our IVAs has gone up 46% since last quarter).

Let’s look at how IVA adoption is playing out across five key industries.


In an early May consumer poll by JD Power, 60% of respondents said their financial situation has been somewhat or severely hurt by COVID-19. Not surprisingly, 28% of respondents said they had already contacted their bank or lender to defer or postpone payment on a current loan, mortgage, or credit card, and 20% said they need to or may need to.

Ramping up support to meet the increased demand for financial services has been complicated by social distancing, which is why banks are enhancing their self-service channels. While some customer questions and concerns will still be better suited for live conversations, banks are finding that automating even a few routine requests can increase the efficiency of call queues, alleviate customer frustration, and improve the experience and productivity of support teams.

According to customer service benchmarking studies, the top reasons customers call their banks include login issues, making payments or transfers, changing their address or personal information, and checking their balance and recent transactions. Banks can deploy IVAs to handle all these requests over voice, chat, and messaging channels, and today’s technologies enable them to do so rather quickly.

For example, a pan-African financial services provider recently built and launched a WhatsApp chatbot for customer support in approximately four weeks. Customers are now using the application to check balances, pay bills, and manage debit cards, with all tasks automated by IVAs. Chat commerce applications like these are gaining popularity in emerging markets where WhatsApp has become the customer engagement channel of choice.


With so many people relying on government agencies for critical information and services to manage their health, safety, and livelihood, the need for citizen self-service options is accelerating.

The multilingual capabilities of IVAs make them a natural choice for government organizations seeking to automate support for their constituents. Some of the most common and beneficial use cases in this industry include applications for answering frequently asked questions, checking the status of unemployment claims, sending outbound notifications during emergencies, and processing payments.

For example, a large state government organization in Australia uses IVAs to process payments for several services, including driver’s license renewals and auto registration fees. The IVAs handle 25,000 transactions per day, with 25% of them occurring outside of regular business hours. As a result, the organization has been able to reallocate 35 full-time call center agents, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars each month in labor costs, while ensuring that payments comply with PCI-DSS regulations. The application yielded an ROI payback for the organization within two weeks.


As states begin to reopen, retailers will need to ensure that their stores are set up for safe shopping. Buy Online, Pick up in Store (BOPIS) is a smart solution for lowering store capacity, and industry experts say conversational AI will be used to enhance the pickup experience for customers.

For example, rather than waiting in line outside a store to pick up an order, a customer can call from the parking lot and speak to a virtual agent. The IVA can inform the customer of their place in line, notify them when it’s their turn to enter the store, or alert an associate to deliver the items to the customer’s car. (You can watch a video demonstration of this example here.)


Insurance is a highly complex business that involves intricate processes and regulations, so the transition to remote work has presented unique challenges for call center agents in this industry. Using IVAs that empower insurance customers to enroll in benefits, understand their coverage, and file and check the status of claims are helping insurers ease some of this pressure.

In the case of one national health benefits firm serving 650,000 members, the use of IVAs has decreased average call handle time by 31 seconds. Virtual agents have already handled more than 1 million calls for this organization in 2020.


Healthcare providers often deploy virtual agents for appointment booking and reminders, but they are increasingly interested in applications that can automate tasks related to testing. Some organizations are developing IVAs that will help patients locate testing centers. With this type of application, an IVA asks the patient to say or enter their address or ZIP code, finds the nearest testing location, and sends the address and/or directions to the patient via SMS. The IVA can also be configured to use Google mapping data so that a customer can geo-locate based on landmarks.

To learn more about how organizations in these and other verticals are using virtual agents, watch a free on-demand presentation of Conversational Service Automation to the Rescue.

Source: How intelligent virtual agents are transforming 5 key industries in the wake of COVID-19