Where Business & Marketing Collide with Human Nature

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Hiring Virtual Characters to Engage Customers for Business Success

Virtual assistants, avatars, and virtual characters can be hired with a click and may help the entrepreneur to achieve business success.   Using virtual characters is still a new way of thinking that requires a large paradigm shift.  For a quick review of virtual characters, we will reference an expert on the topic.

Recently Erwin Van Lun started a discussion in a LinkedIn Group.  The group is:  Masters of Customer Engagement. (MOCE) The group's objective is to induce smart, nuanced discussions of advanced digital marketing, multichannel analytics, and technologies driving the customer engagement cycle. 

The discussion Erwin Van Lun MBM MSc. began with a question which he then expands on:

Ever searched for information on Virtual Characters engaging consumers on your website? You could have entered 130 different terms, all synonyms, in Google.

We're living in an era where we automate the dialogue between consumers and brands, as opposed to the monologue which we automated last century. Brand agents (artificial characters) having personal, spoken and emotional, though automated, conversations with consumers, will represent every brand in a not too far distant future.

Did you ever search for information on this topic? What did you enter in the search engines? Chatbot? Conversational system? Virtual agent?

chatbox virtual characters resized 600

Chatbots.org has revealed 130 different terms for virtual assistant, brand agent or dialogue system you could have entered. Various fields within businesses, independent professionals and academics all use different terminology. It is a mess!

Hopefully this list with 130 synonyms relieves a little bit from the pain. Eight of them are introduced below, a full list is available on chatbots.org/synonyms

Virtual human:  A 3D animated human being with conversation skills. Although generic, the drawback of ‘virtual human’ is that it still cannot be used for all AI characters. A zoo for example, might want to employ an intelligent virtual ape to act as a host on the website or on site to inform and engage visitors. Furthermore, virtual human is also often used for 3D models of the body: organs, bones and nerves, instead of the social skills of the human being. chatbots.org/virtual_human

Virtual agent:  Although widely used by businesses for automated chat services in their customer service pages, ‘virtual agent’ is also used by academics for embodied agents (chatbots.org/embodied_agent) explicitly lacking conversational skills. Neither community respects the meaning of the other, so a compromise between businesses and researchers is not very likely. chatbots.org/virtual_agent

Avatars:  Although traditionally used for the visual part of animated 3D characters, ‘avatars’ is now also being used to address their behavior, intelligence and language skills. It is being used by corporate buyers of virtual assistants for call centers especially, even more so in the US market. Being a homonym, i.e. a term with multiple meanings, the movie ‘Avatar’, as well as the deep religious meaning of the term makes the usage controversial. chatbots.org/avatar

Conversational agent:  Despite being used often in the academic field and being well defined within the community, conversational agent is rarely used by businesses and amateurs. This term deserves more attention by businesses. chatbots.org/conversational_agent

Chatbot:   The oldest term, a contraction of chat and robot; an automated chat system. The term chatbot is slightly more informal than conversational agent and is therefore widely adopted by many AI developers, businesses and academics around the world. Due to its informal implications, however,chatbot it is also explicitly avoided by a few companies for serious web self-service applications. chatbots.org/chatbot

Virtual assistant:  Although used for deployment of virtual humans in customer service web pages or companies, virtual assistant is used far more often to describe someone assisting another person over a distance, such as a personal assistant working from home. Nevertheless, the popularity of using virtual assistant as a chat bot (</a> ) synonym is growing. chatbots.org/virtual_assistant

Brand Agent:  A brand agent is defined as an artificial representative acting on behalf a company, product brand, or governmental organization. It is well defined and no other, significant meanings exist, so its popularity is growing. hatbots.org/brand_agent

chatbots erwin van lunThe full list of 130 synonyms is available on www.chatbots.org.

Author:  Erwin Van Lun

CEO and founder at Chatbots.org
Speaker at Erwin Van Lun Future Trend Research

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The takeaway: 

  • If there is a hesitation to put faith in others, faith in technology to replicate the entrepreneur may be a preference.  Adding a small bit of automation and a virtual character can create more efficiency and create a consistent message.  It's too bad lazy entrepreneurs become so reliant on virtual characters to do most of the work and then ask: "Why is no one responding?"  The answer is pretty obvious:  "It isn't real.  It is a virtual character, not a real person."
  • Google:  "Masters of Customer Engagement".  The LinkedIn group will be in the first spot.  When starting a LinkedIn group, think about how the title might help you get found.

Social media is a part of inbound marketing and using virtual characters can be a part of an inbound marketing plan. 

If you are interested in learning more, start here:  Inbound marketing training.

Topics: Business Technology Guerrilla Marketing Ideas Internet Marketing Guest Blog