What is an Intelligent Virtual Assistant?

Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) is an advanced AI-enabled chat assistant that can engage in personalized conversations using analytics and cognitive computing.

An IVA bases its responses on rich live data, like corporate knowledge and the customer’s information, purchase history, past conversations and location. As a result, IVAs help organizations quickly provide customers with helpful information and maintain outstanding customer service and satisfaction.

Before IVAs, customers engaging in self-service interacted primarily via chatbot. Historically, chatbots could only recognize words or phrases they’d been programmed to understand. But recent innovations, like conversational AI and generative AI, combined with voice and speech analytics, have seen the chatbot vs intelligent virtual assistant differentiation expand. This new generation of artificial intelligent virtual assistants engages in increasingly human-like dialog and helps businesses reduce costs and optimize workflows. 

Key features of intelligent virtual assistants 

IVAs are self-service applications that use AI capabilities, such as conversational AI and generative AI, to simulate human interaction. They understand both written text and human speech, enabling customers to speak to a bot like a human agent.

An artificial intelligent virtual assistant learns from previous interactions, customer conversations and other historical data sources they come across using advanced tools and techniques like voice analytics and AI. As a result, businesses can constantly evolve their knowledge base with AI-powered insights that improve efficiency and address challenges before they occur. The key features of IVAs include:

Natural language processing

Natural language processing (NLP) is an AI technique that enables computer programs to understand spoken and written human language. NLP uses machine learning and rule-based approaches to help IVAs and chatbot applications understand the meaning and structure of text and spoken language. It also uses elements like sentiment analysis, stemming, tagging and tokenization to help IVAs identify keywords, recognize a customer’s emotional tone and break down sentences. NLP benefits businesses that process vast quantities of unstructured or text-heavy data, helping them interpret and understand faster than ever.

Contextual understanding

In addition to recognizing words and sentences, IVAs also need to understand the context in which human language is used. Natural language understanding enables machines to identify elements of speech like idioms, intent, jargon, sentiment and cultural references, which requires advanced algorithms and extensive training data. Developing a more profound knowledge of context and how human speech works enables IVAs to manage customer issues more effectively.

Machine learning capabilities

IVAs are powered by machine learning algorithms that help the technology continuously learn from the data it encounters. IVAs can identify patterns across the vast quantities of data they analyze, which helps to improve understanding of human language, adapt to nuances in human speech and refine response quality.

Multichannel integration

IVAs are ideal for use across every channel customers use to interact with brands, including mobile apps, social media and SMS platforms and webchats. Deploying these integrations across every digital channel can be crucial to enhancing customer engagement. Getting it right provides an interactive and engaging experience every time a customer gets in touch, regardless of their device or platform.


Utilizing IVAs also enables companies to provide an individual, personalized experience to every customer whenever they get in touch. IVAs can answer specific queries, provide tailored recommendations and provide live support.

Continuous learning and improvement

The more data IVAs have to work with and the more conversations they have with customers, the more they’ll learn and be able to handle more complex challenges. Machine learning algorithms ensure IVAs continuously learn from every customer interaction, allowing them to understand and solve similar future requests.

Benefits of using intelligent virtual assistants 

Deploying IVAs across your customer service process can improve the user experience and lighten the load on human agents. The benefits of implementing IVAs include:  

Steps to implementing an intelligent virtual assistant 

Gaining the maximum benefit of IVAs relies on implementing them correctly and in the most appropriate areas of your business. Recommendations for implementing IVAs in your workflows include: 

Define objectives

The first step to IVA success is to have clear objectives for what you want the technology to achieve and how and where you want to deploy it. Defining the objectives and goals you want to accomplish before implementing IVA technology will help you accurately monitor its success and then constantly optimize it for future success. 

Choose the right technology

As with any solution you implement into your technology stack, exploring various options is vital to ensure you select the right one. Assess how different IVA solutions work and how they’ll align with your needs and objectives. Start this process by evaluating the problem or challenges you want IVAs to address, then research, test and compare the options before making your final decision. Selecting the right IVA technology is critical to maximizing the efficiency of your contact center and delivering the best possible customer experience.

Data Preparation

The success of any IVA relies on having the correct data to guide its knowledge and shape its customer responses. Assess the current state of your data and objectives, such as improving data quality and accessibility and reducing deduplication. Then, develop a strategy built around data management solutions that help you enhance the quality and value of data that IVAs have access to.

Development and integration

When developing IVA workflows, ensure they have access to and are integrated with the appropriate digital channels and data sources. Integrate your IVAs with other customer-facing apps and systems, including customer relationship management (CRM) and knowledge bases, to provide seamless user experiences.

Testing and training

With your IVA system selected and integrated, it’s crucial to test its performance. Conduct tests to ensure the technology provides the level of assistance you expect, appropriate responses and valuable insights based on various requests. It’s also crucial that human agents understand how IVAs work and the tasks they will perform. Schedule training sessions before the IVA solution is rolled out and carry out regular catch-up sessions. 

Deployment and monitoring

Your IVA solution won’t succeed if you simply plug it in and leave it alone. The technology must be monitored to ensure it performs as expected, provides useful responses and delivers on customer expectations. Also, be sure to leverage the data generated by IVAs, which can reveal new insights into customer needs, preferences and pain points.

Boost customer service with intelligent virtual assistants

IVAs are crucial to helping businesses across all industries create human-like interactions that transform customer experience. Advanced tools and technologies like emotion AI, generative AI and knowledge AI help you better understand customers and deliver seamless, engaging interactions every time.

Uniphore’s IVA technology humanizes the self-service experience by deploying virtual agents that understand your customers, empathize with their issues, and quickly solve their challenges at scale. Our customer self-service AI solution, U-Self Serve, automates conversations over voice and digital channels to deliver the hyper-personalized self-service your customers increasingly demand.

The technology helps you understand the emotional drivers that shape every customer interaction, identify tone and sentiment and generate accurate, contextual responses. As a result, customers no longer have to spend hours searching high and low for solutions to their challenges, and human agents can focus on challenging tasks that deliver the greatest business value.

Discover how Uniphore can help you transform customer experience with a next-generation intelligent virtual assistant