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The virtual human touch

User stories from the knowledge front

What’s new in the world of automated customer service? Television and radio have their “on air” personalities. Now Web sites can have online virtual personalities to add a “human” element to software solutions, including automated customer self-service. One such personality is Bill the virtual Brewmaster who answers customers’ questions online for Miller Brewing.

Bill the Brewmaster is powered through technology from NativeMinds and Fullhouse Media, a Milwaukee-based interactive agency. NativeMinds provides online customer self-service solutions called virtual representatives or vReps, which are created using the company’s flagship product, NeuroServer.

vReps are designed to emulate human customer service to reduce the costs of e-mail support and live call center agents, according to a recent news release from NativeMinds. They also help integrate corporate information with Web pages, CRM systems and databases to give customers direct and immediate access to information they want.

“We really wanted to add a ‘personality’ to millerbrewing.com, and the vRep technology made that possible,” says Eric Zoromski, Fullhouse Media’s director of interactive services. “It actually emulates a live conversation rather than simply doing a search, and it provides a level of differentiation and personality that other technologies simply don’t offer.”

So, how can Bill the Brewmaster help a customer? Well, he can answer questions, for instance, about Miller brands and types of beers. If a customer wants to know the difference between Porter and Ale, or between “lite” and regular beer, Bill has ready responses.

Ask the brewmaster what lager is and you’ll get this reply: “Lagers, like Miller High Life, are the most common type of American beer. Lagers are made using bottom fermenting yeast. They’re typically sparkling, delicate in flavor and aroma, and have a light amber color.”

A stout, on the other hand, “is a beer with a darker color, a heavy body and some carbonation. Stouts are top fermented and best served a little warmer than most beers--about 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

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