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The Promise and Peril of AI Avatars for Customer Support

An online shopper

The rise of AI avatars presents an exciting opportunity for businesses to transform their customer service and support experiences. Lifelike digital humans that can converse naturally with customers can provide a more personalised, engaging alternative to traditional FAQs and chatbots. However, this emerging technology also comes with risks that must be carefully addressed.

What opportunities do AI avatars present for customer support?

AI avatars have the potential to revolutionise customer interactions. An AI avatar equipped with deep learning could pull up individual customer data and have personalised conversations, making recommendations based on purchase history. They could answer common questions on the spot without having to transfer to a human agent. Their ability to display human-like empathy and emotional intelligence could lead to higher customer satisfaction.

Transforming the customer journey

AI-powered avatars present immense potential to transform customer interactions for brands. When deployed strategically across the customer journey, avatar technology can make experiences more personalised, conversational and emotionally intelligent.

Customer journey

In the awareness stage, avatars can be used in FAQ videos on websites and social media. With computer vision and NLP, avatars can answer common questions in a conversational, engaging video format. This helps educate prospects during initial research.

During consideration and purchase, avatar-powered chatbots can serve as personal shopping assistants. With access to customer data and purchase history, they can make tailored product recommendations and compare options based on individual preferences.

For post-purchase onboarding, avatars can guide users through setting up, registering and personalising products. New customers may feel more comfortable learning from an avatar guide than static instructions.

Finally, for customer support, AI avatars powered by deep learning and sentiment analysis can handle common issues in a more lifelike way. They can pull up user profiles, apologise for problems, display empathy and even inject humour when appropriate.

An online shopper on mobile

AI avatars for customer support provide a more personalised online experience

Across all stages of the customer journey, avatar interactions can deliver a more personalised experience compared to FAQ pages or rigid chatbots. However, responsible design is crucial. Realistic but not overly perfect avatars help avoid the uncanny valley.

Ethical use of data and disclosing the AI nature will build trust.

With strategic implementation, AI avatars can transform static brand touchpoints into ongoing conversations. Lifelike digital humans feel more relatable and humanise the customer journey from awareness to support. AI gives brands an opportunity to reinvent brand interactions. But human-centric design will be key to unlocking the promise while avoiding the risks.

An AI-generated avatar on a mobile phone

What are some of the risks and challenges of using AI avatars?

Businesses will need to walk a fine line to avoid the pitfalls of this technology. There are still limitations around how human-like avatars can be without falling into the uncanny valley, where subtle imperfections make them seem creepy. Ethical risks around data privacy and transparency will also need to be considered. And security will be paramount to avoid potential spoofing or misuse of brand avatars.

While challenging, these concerns aren’t insurmountable. With careful design and responsible implementation, AI avatars can usher in the next evolution of customer experience. The key will be striking the right balance between advanced personalisation and natural conversation flow, while ensuring brand safety and ethical use of data.

What strategies can help companies adopt AI avatars successfully?

  • Start with a limited pilot programme - Roll out AI avatars to a small group of customers first to work out any issues before expanding more broadly.

  • Focus on specific use cases - Target AI avatars for narrow customer service scenarios where they can have the most impact rather than try to replace human agents entirely.

  • Integrate with existing systems - Ensure AI avatars integrate smoothly with your company's CRM, knowledge base, and other systems to leverage existing resources.

  • Co-design with customers - Get customer input during the design process through surveys, interviews and testing to create an avatar aligned with their needs.

  • Set expectations about capabilities - Be transparent with customers upfront about an avatar's capabilities and limitations to set appropriate expectations.

  • Prioritise continuous improvement - Use feedback loops, data analysis, and ongoing training to continually refine the avatar's knowledge and conversational abilities.

  • Monitor performance metrics - Track customer satisfaction, issue resolution, call/chat time and other metrics to quantify the avatar's customer experience impact.

  • Develop ethical guidelines - Create company principles to ensure fair, transparent and ethical treatment of customer data and interactions.

  • Provide human escalation - Have a clear handoff option to a human representative if needed to avoid getting stuck in limited avatar-only conversations.

  • Conduct regular testing - Test avatars regularly with real users to identify areas for improvement across diverse customer groups.

How to mitigate against a poor experience

  • Carefully design realism into avatars to avoid the uncanny valley - imperfections and asymmetry make avatars seem more natural.

  • Be transparent about capabilities and limitations - clearly disclose it's an AI avatar to set expectations.

  • Limit personal data collection and access - only allow avatar access to necessary customer data to have personalised conversations.

  • Implement authentication safeguards - use biometrics or security questions to confirm identity before accessing sensitive account areas.

  • Build in ethics and values - work with experts to identify and avoid potential harmful biases in avatar behaviours.

  • Proactively monitor for misuse - use AI to detect anomalies in avatar interactions and quickly intervene.

  • Create fallback options - have a handoff option to a human agent to avoid getting stuck in limited avatar-only conversations.

  • Conduct ongoing testing - solicit feedback through surveys and interviews to continually improve the avatar experience.

  • Prioritise data security - encrypt data and access logs to protect customer privacy and prevent breaches.

Companies should balance personalisation and data privacy with AI avatars

If executed thoughtfully, AI avatars can transform static FAQ pages into engaging customer advisors. The future for brand-to-consumer interactions is more lifelike, personalised and conversational. AI avatars can get us there if deployed strategically. With a human-centric approach, companies can tap into the promise while avoiding the pitfalls of this powerful technology.



Q: What is the cost/benefit analysis of using AI avatars?

A: The upfront and ongoing costs of developing and maintaining AI avatars should be weighed against expected benefits like improved customer satisfaction. A financial model can determine if the investment is justified.

Q: How can companies manage the organisational change of adopting AI avatars?

A: Introducing avatars requires changes to customer service workflows, staff training, etc. Developing a change management plan can help ease adoption across the organisation.

Q: How will AI avatars integrate with existing systems?

A: Integration with knowledge bases, CRM systems, and human agents should be considered. There may be technical challenges to integrate avatars with other systems.

Q: How can avatars be improved incrementally over time?

A: Outline processes for continuing avatar training and optimisation to deliver incremental enhancements through ongoing deep learning.

Q: What compliance requirements need to be considered?

A: Avatars may need adjustments to meet accessibility standards, localisation, or other compliance needs for the regions they serve.

Q: How can avatars build emotional connections?

A: Guidance on facial expressions, tone, personality development can help avatars feel more relatable and emotionally intelligent.

Q: What metrics determine the success of AI avatars?

A: Key performance indicators like customer satisfaction, issue resolution rate should be defined to measure if avatar adoption is successful.

Q: How do companies choose between avatar options?

A: Guidance on use cases for the type of avatars can help pick the right avatar format.

Q: How can potential biases be mitigated?

A: Processes to detect and minimise harmful biases that could emerge in avatar behaviours or conversations.


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