What is Power Virtual Agents? (Video)

Power Virtual Agents allows you to create bots that can help answer questions from your customers, employees, or viewers of your website. These powerful chatbots use built-in content building blocks, trigger phrases, and pre-authored bot conversations to keep you connected in real time.

Transcript below:

Melissa: Hi there, everyone. Thank you for joining us today. My name is Melissa. I’m a marketing specialist here with Encore and today we’re gonna be talking about Power Virtual Agents with Ziad and Pierre. So Ziad will start us off. Hi there.

Ziad: Hey. Thank you, Melissa. Hey, my name is Ziad and I’m the strategic account executive with Encore Business Solutions and I really wanna talk about and explore a couple of things around Power Virtual Agent which basically resides under the Power Platform family and we’ll kind of follow this agenda here at a high level as to what Power Virtual really is and what the business value of Power Virtual Agent is. Many of the organizations and people we talk to often, you know, will recognize the value of other applications that are there but maybe not understand clearly what Power Virtual Agent can be utilized for, and then to even emphasize it further we’ll do a short little demo for you guys to show you some of the capabilities and functionality within Power Virtual Agent and how it can be incorporate it in your business today.

So before I begin I always try to lay out a landscape of the market that we are in, and the landscape of the market that we’re in now is that organizations are trying to look for effective ways to essentially deliver their customer service solutions or just even solutions to their customers in general, and customers, on the other hand, are seeking a faster and a more precise, perhaps, support mechanism or self-service portals where they’re able to, you know, satisfy some of their requirements and requests from the organizations itself. And a couple of steps here as well in terms of, you know, organizations that behave in terms of a customer-centric or a customer experience view actually perform 80% better than those of their competitors and 84% of those companies who’ve improved their customer experience actually generate a very, you know, incremental amount of increase in terms of their business revenue as well and all in all leads to, you know, customer loyalty and brand loyalty and all of these other components that are there from a marketing perspective as well. In fact, five times more likely that they will purchase from you again than go anywhere else to look for their product as well.

And so to shape that kind of landscape in the world we live in today and the remote work and all those components that are involved, we introduce, as a solution, Microsoft Power Platform, and for those of you who are maybe new to Power Platform, in general, there’s essentially four key applications that are embedded inside of this family of products. And so the first one is Power BI, and Power BI really is a business analytical tool, great for using dashboards or creating, you know, interactive real-time applications, amazing job in terms of generating reports and integrating with the entire Microsoft family as well, and we’ll talk more about Power BI as well. We’ve got lots of different blogs and webinars on our website as well on all of these applications as well.

Power Apps, it’s basically application development. So there’s the ability for you to create canvas versus mobile apps and, again, build solutions out of Power Apps that can essentially be, you know, utilized and you really don’t need a lot of code, actually, it follows the no-code/low-code platform just as all of these applications do that I’ve mentioned here right now.

Then you’ve got Power Automate, which really is to automate and create workflows that would, you know, kind of automate the rudimentary task or transactions and allow, you know, smoother automation throughout your systems and talking in between systems as well. So, you know, there’s lots of value there in terms of how these workflows can be built, and the focus of today’s presentation is really gonna be around Power Virtual Agent, and these are intelligent virtual agents, intelligent bots essentially, that can actually help you, you know, increase the flow of data as well as gain more insights from your customers and the business processes that you’ve had as well.

So just as a recap, here’s, you know, a screenshot of a Power BI dashboard. You could see the visualizations, the active, you know, real-time data that is being, you know, synchronized from a whole bunch of different platforms. It’s very much data-driven insights that you get and can share out with the entire organization. Power Apps, a similar idea in terms of an effective solution. It helps you not only analyze the data but also build certain solutions for it, and the idea is to create, you know, applications that will meet and solve your business challenges as well. Power Automate, right, so this is where you can create those productivity workflows and automate the processes in general, and for today’s purpose Power Virtual Agent, which are basically easily chatbots that can actually help not only customer-facing but also employees internally. And again, there’s no code required here at all, which segues really nicely into, “Well, what the heck is Power Virtual Agent?”

And Power Virtual Agent is basically a platform where you can create graphical interfaces and chatbots with not much coding at all or no coding at all, and Pierre will kind of address that as well. You can integrate a whole bunch of different pre-built connectors that are available as well as create custom type of topics and components that you need as well to suit your business requirements and essentially then automate that experience by, you know, using, for example, Power Automate to connect that bot to other, you know, components or solutions you have as well. So essentially it allows you to quickly create, you know, bots that would essentially do, you know…hang on. Let me show you an image as well…You know, by a few clicks or by, you know, certain amount of integration to your systems can actually be deployed and solve problems for you, you know, using some AI technology as well.

You know, essentially Power Virtual Agent is a software as a service offering, so it’s a SaaS offering that can be embedded in your website, for example. There’s no real infrastructure to maintain or any complicated system here in terms of deployment. It’s actually very, very user-friendly as well as it allows you to have a fuller experience as it’s integrated with, for example, Dynamics 365, let’s say, customer service, right? You can bring those insights and get, you know, a fuller or a holistic view of your customer service, for example, or, you know, the trends that are there for how consumers are responding or asking questions, and essentially automating those processes for you and changing…and you can make those changes in real-time once you’ve collected more data from your customers to be able to, you know, fix those bots and modify them as needed.

So again, as a recap, right, there’s lots of components that are involved within Power Virtual Agent that essentially has business value to you, starting from the ability for your team to essentially build those bots yourself. Like I mentioned, there’s not much coding experience or AI experience that’s required. You can really get in and start utilizing these bots and make them work for you, and essentially you can, you know, reduce the cost by automating those components as well, whether it be the cost of, you know, having, you know, an actual person sitting there and filling that role or instead of allocating resources that way you can also allocate a scenario where the bot maybe takes the more simpler or smaller issues and then escalates the scenario to, you know, an actual agent when required, right? You can also authorize it to not solve certain things as well if we need, you know, more communication as well. So you can create simple responses here with your bots as well, and we’ll show you how that’s possible.

Task automation is a big business value to Power Virtual Agent as well so you can create, for example, follow-up functions and actions. For example, if you wanted to schedule meetings or sign a particular case or do surveys, you can initiate all of that through a bot. And again, like I mentioned earlier, with Power Automate, you can then bring in, you know, custom workflows and automate the actions as well so when the bot is running with the customer’s permission and with your authorization, you can automate the resolution of that case and create and action from your bot as well. So, you know, the technology has advanced to an extent where we can actually become effective in utilizing that and putting it in front of our customer as well. And then, of course, increasing customer satisfaction, right, from not only these bots being available 24/7 but also this self-service component that customers can come in, ask their questions, have their answers, and then move on and essentially be pleased with the service that’s provided.

I already kind of addressed the integration with other systems and how it’s very conventional in terms of doing that and pretty natural and seamless as well, and again, you know, the next slide here I’m gonna talk to you more about what the different components of a Power Virtual Agent is, and then I’ll hand it over to Pierre to kind of show you these ideas. But essentially, there’s three main components of a Power Virtual Agent. There’s topics, entities, and there can be actions. And topics really are…you know, there’s two types of topics. There’s system topics that are there out of the box and then there’s user topics that are available as well. You can define how those chatbot conversations play out by addressing these topics and putting these topics into the context that’s there.

And again, like I mentioned, there’s templated topics as well as there’s others that you can create. So an example of a topic might be, you know, open hours, right? So someone types in open hours into your chatbot, the AI can actually match that to the topic of, let’s say, store hours or office hours and, you know, you can begin a conversation from there, right? And those hours can be displayed and, you know, you can actually have a resolution at the end of it.

Entities are also a big part of chatbot conversations. We know that in Power Virtual Agent the natural language or understanding the natural language is very, very crucial and that’s the ability of the AI to understand the user’s intent and that’s essentially what entities are. So when you define those entities you can actually put a subject for [inaudible 00:11:37] and some of these entities…you know, like I said most of these are out of the box that I’ve listed here as well like phone numbers or a name or city or whatever and others are custom entities that you can have as well. So there’s pre-built and custom entities, and again, we can kind of show you where those entities as well if you need to.

The action components are what the chatbot does after it’s, kind of, understood the problem. So this can enable the chatbot to actually perform a specific action and you can automate these actions as well, and once you’ve kind of done the automation of the action, essentially the next step is to publish your bot and once you’ve published your bot and everything is set, you know, the publishing process will actually…within the publishing process the bot and the technology that there will actually check for errors and when it’s published it will tell you, you know, all these components were complete, you know, there’s no errors that are detected. So it kind of guides you throughout the process of building an effective bot or chatbot, and then once you’ve done that, you can share your bot, and once you share your bot you can test it out on a demo web page, for example.

You can interact with it, play around with some of the phrases that you’ve put in there and the pre-built functionality that you’ve enabled, and then once it’s ready and you’ve tried it out, you know, make it live on your website and then analyze the performance of your bot so you can then take that information to the customers you’re interacting with and how the bot is performing, go into analytics section, which I’ve highlighted here as well, and understand if the bot is accurately or effectively engaging to resolve user issues or if the customers are being satisfied by the responses of your bot, or if it’s escalating, you know, correctly or appropriately as you need to and then, in fact, there’s actually even a file that you can download that you can see the history and the transcription of the conversations that have taken place and then you can adjust your bot and the content to improve continuously.

That’s the high-level overview of Power Virtual Agent and its ability to enhance business processes and business conversations that happen with employees as well as customers. With that being said, I’m gonna pass it over to Pierre who’s gonna do a demo of the abilities of Power Virtual Agent as well.

Pierre: Good morning, everybody. My name is Pierre Manaigre and I’m a technical pre-sales consultant with Encore. So today the bot experience I’m going to show you is focused on a bot created inside of Microsoft Teams. Ziad was giving a great overview as well of web bots. So this is what that canvas looks like and you can activate a 30-day free trial if you did wanna experiment with that, and the Microsoft Teams bot are available within the context of your team’s license so this might be a great starting point for you, and what you need to do in order to engage with the bots for the first time…so here I have the Power Virtual Agent app installed. But within Microsoft Teams, you could type it here to see if you could find the app but you might have to click on more apps which will then take you to this page and then you can just type Power Virtual Agent and then when you click on that it’s going to have an install button. In my case, it says open because I created or installed the application already.

However, it will need to install an environment so there’s potential that you might need to get your IT’s assistance on this if you don’t have the appropriate permissions to complete the task, but once you have that done then you’re able to create bots. So what I wanna do first is show you the human resources support bot that I’ve created before taking you to the canvas studio and showing you how the bot itself was created and how simple it is. So this particular HR bot responds to a few simple queries and it’s a conversational bot but it doesn’t always fully understand, so there’s some mechanisms built in there to right the path, if you will, if it’s confused by something you’re saying.

So here I’m just going to ask it what are the national holidays and we’ll see if it’s…yeah. So here’s a list of the Canadian national holidays that I created when I set up the bot, and you’re going to see how I did that in just a moment, and then what it does afterwards is it just wants to confirm if it did, in fact, answer your question, so you can say yes or no in this case. So I will say yes and what it does is it says please rate your experience form one to five. So as Ziad mentioned earlier with the analytics portion, this is why you have this quick survey mechanism built in so you can start getting some analytics about how satisfied your users are with the particular bot.

So here I’m going to ask…there’s two more questions that I have in this scenario and the next question is around vacation time. Okay, so let’s rate that again. All right, okay, so we’ll get it to help again and…yeah. A lot of times when the bot is gathering the information that it needs or is waiting on the service to respond, it gives the impression that it’s actually typing so it shows the user that it is still retrieving the data so at least when you have some delays in the bot it, kind of, gives you the impression that it’s typing. So we’re all used to waiting for other people to type…all right, so it didn’t type a related topic on that. I’ll try that again. And we’ll see. It should actually come with a multiple-choice option when it doesn’t understand the query, but it is possible there’s some confusion happening right now with some earlier testing sessions that I was doing and so the system is just retreating right now.

And there’s a number of different bots that you can create as well. So within Microsoft Teams, you can use something called FAQ Plus which will allow you to create a frequently asked questions database. A lot of times you can use existing information that you have in the form of PDFs or user manuals so you can import the content of those items into your bot and then it will go ahead and…yeah, it will go ahead and create a series of questions and answers based on the content of what you’ve imported and then you can refine those decision trees further in another dashboard. So there’s quite a bit of ways for you to get a good, sizeable content bot in order to go ahead and help you with creating this content and giving it to your users.

So now I’ve chosen the option for the paid vacation and so it’s routing me to the corporate website and telling me that there I can find a report from HR that will go ahead and provide me, you know, the details of the vacation time I have left and how to book that vacation through the company process. So here I’m going to say that yes, you did answer my question and I’m going to rate it poorly because of the confusion the bot head earlier. So here I’m going to say no thanks, so just to terminate this session.

So the final example I wanna show you before I dive into the dashboard itself and what that looks like is within…for a user specifically that’s looking to have extended leave…So here, what we’re gonna do is invoke power automate just as…Okay, so again this bot’s a little confused. So this is going to invoke an automation that is going to say, “Okay, well, extended leave needs HR expert approval, so let me connect you with them. So how would you describe the issue?” And so the automation that I chose and I said, “Okay, take the entire context of this text message that I’m going to send and then post it in the Teams channel.” So here, I’ll just say, “I need extended leave to take care of a parent,” so the bot is gonna go ahead and just provide that and say, “Okay, we have notified the experts.” So here, within Teams, we can go to this HR expert and, as you can see, it’s now posted this request in the HR expert’s team. In terms of privacy issues, you can activate channel-level permissions so the HR expert’s channel could be set to private and only allow the HR team access to that. So that’s how you would accomplish that if you did choose to use this particular example in your organization.

So now, if we go back to our Power Virtual Agent’s Teams application, I can show you quickly how this bot came together. And so here we look at this HR expert’s…or HR support chatbot, and I’m just gonna click on the edit screen and now [inaudible 00:22:07] gave you…sorry, Ziad gave you a great primer in the different…the three areas where you need to create. So there’s topics which we’re gonna go to the topics, and here’s an employee time-off topic that I created and you can also click on analytics and also go to the offering canvas. So I’m going to just quickly click here. So these are the topic phrases that are currently active and you can create additional phrases if there’s too many issues with the application not understanding. There’s some leeway that it does build in based on the language understanding, but as you saw, it does also need a fairly robust access of different ways of saying a certain topic so that it goes ahead and it can understand and interpret that information.

And so now we’ll just wait a moment while it brings up the canvas. So it’s a very straightforward canvas where you have your trigger phrases and then afterwards, it says okay, you just click a plus sign set to continue activating further down the tree. So here I just have a message item that I put in there and I can just type in manually what I want that to be, and oh there’s the plus symbol when you wanna add a node. So as you can see, there’s no code really necessary here. Basically, again, I want to ask a question so I add the question node with the multiple choices and have the three choices attached. And as you add options, it automatically creates these branches for you, so again, you don’t really need to do anything there. What you do wanna do when you get to these conditions is you wanna click this little edit pencil because it is going to name everything a default function or a default type. So you wanna give it a good name so that you’re not having type one, type two, type three, and so on. You wanna make it meaningful so that as you’re creating these bots that you’re able to ascertain what the different functions are doing in which particular bot.

And so here are the condition, paid vacation. I just created a message again node and just copied and pasted my message in here that I want them to go to the HR website and then ending the conversation with a survey. And then I go ahead and in the second condition, here we have national holidays. So again, I just created this as a message, national holidays for 2021, and you can just copy and paste these and update them each year and then again ending the conversation with a survey. And then finally, we go to…just see if I can move this over. I guess we’ll go this way. And then so if we move this…oh, there we go. So here we ask a question again. How would you like to…or pardon me. Would you like to describe the issue? And here I have user’s entire response. So basically, there is a description for text, and you saw when I typed in my message in the Microsoft Team’s channel that it went ahead and used that information to post into the HR expert’s private channel.

And so here’s where I start invoking Microsoft Power Automate and basically have it retrieve the value from the text value that is up here and then go ahead and message that over to the Teams channel and then…so here, if I click on view details, it’s going to go ahead and open up the automation here. And so, as you can see, these are the different runs and successes from that, and I’m just gonna quickly click the back button, and then after the automation is done we ended with that same conversation and survey right here. So this example is available online as well and if you wanna pursue that, we can provide it for you later or you can go ahead and find it in the Microsoft documentation. And yeah, it’s incredibly straightforward, very easy to quickly get up and running, and again, very minimal investment on your part, especially if you’re dealing with the context of the Microsoft Teams deployment because a lot of times those licenses are already built-in to what you’re currently paying for. That’s the end of our demonstration today. I guess I’ll pass it back to Melissa in case we have any questions in the river.

Melissa: Great. Thank you so much, Pierre. I haven’t seen any questions coming through, and of course, if anyone does have questions, please feel free to contact us. And yeah, that was really interesting. Thank you so much to both, you know, Ziad and Pierre, and I guess we can close this off. So I hope everyone has a good afternoon.

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