January 11th, 2013 by Leonard Klie

Gartner recently reported that half of all online customer self-service search activities will take place via virtual assistants by 2015.  A similar Forrester study found that 1.4 million virtual agent conversations take place for business each day.  Nuance Communications apparently wants to own most of them.

The company, which is certainly no stranger to acquisitions, is rumored to have inked a deal to acquire virtual assistant technology vendor VirtuOz for an undisclosed amount. Neither company has confirmed—nor denied—the rumors, which first surfaced a few days ago.

The news, if it’s true, comes just days after Nuance released the results of a recent consumer survey it conducted; among its findings was a surprisingly deeper connection between users and those assistants than I think anyone could have predicted.

Nuance’s Personal Mobile Assistant survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers found that 90 percent of those who have personal assistants installed on their phones use them because of their convenience, speed, and ease of use.  Nearly 60 percent use these apps every day.

So what are people asking their personal mobile assistants to do for them? The most common uses were for driving directions (84 percent), the weather (72 percent) and restaurant recommendations (61 percent), but then there are others who expect just a little too much from these assistants. Reportedly, 20 percent have asked their mobile personal assistants for the meaning of life, and 5 percent even admitted to asking for dating advice. I’m just guessing, but “Siri, find me a girlfriend,” might fall outside of the iPhone app’s capabilities.

Nuance’s study also found that consumers are getting more personal with their mobile assistants, as revealed in some other very telling findings. Among them are the following:

  • More than half of all respondents cited a personal connection with their mobile personal assistants.
  • Women actually name their mobile personal assistant more often than men, 71 percent compared to 66 percent of men.
  • 73 percent of men feel comfortable asking their mobile personal assistants for directions…but 79 percent of women ask for help more often.
  • More than 80 percent of all those surveyed – men and women – would want that same mobile personal assistant to be with them at all times, and travel with them across all of their devices, including phones, tablets, PCs, cars, TVs, and cameras.

VirtuOz’s technology, though, is more business-focused, and would add to Nuance’s own personal assistant app, aptly named Nina. Nina has been called the business version of Siri.

These types of apps are a new area for the virtual assistant market, but it’s definitely one that’s growing.

David Lloyd, CEO of IntelliResponse, comments: “This acquisition further validates the market potential of virtual agents at a time when more and more organizations are seeking to improve customer experience through advanced Web, social, and mobile self-service. The next step in this market will be trying to capture customers’ self-service interactions and harness that data to draw a real picture of what customers really want from a business.”

Having used a Virtual Assistant from PA Direct Online I can see the real benefit to a small business like mine. I called up with some tax return issues and I then sent her all the details she needed. PA Direct Online then did all the filling in for me and it cost me 75% less than it would of for an Accountant. The way forward for the future entrepreneur is to use a wide skill set of different virtual assistants

Comment by Richard — — January 16, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

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