#CV10Years – NRE’s Lisa Sets the Stage for Video Avatars

By Maria Ward, Head of Web Services, Virtual Zone Ltd

NRE's Ask Lisa

Ask Lisa’s different looks, 2007-present

Many of you who have travelled by rail in the UK have probably come across Ask Lisa, National Rail Enquiries’ intelligent virtual agent, perhaps even letting her help you plan your journey. Lisa has been a fixture on the NRE website since July 2007 when she was first launched by the The Virtual Zone in collaboration with Creative Virtual.

When Lisa debuted nearly seven years ago, she became the first virtual assistant deployed with this technology to use Flash Video of a real person for the avatar. While Lisa has undergone several makeovers and is now a static cartoon-like character, she set the stage for the video avatars that followed. Since Lisa’s first appearance, Creative Virtual has launched a number of different virtual assistants with video avatars, most recently within the internet banking area of UK bank first direct. This implementation joined the V-Person™ family in late 2013 and features various video avatars with accompanying voice over.

I’ve been involved with Lisa since her initial creation, and have worked closely with NRE to continuously improve the virtual assistant. I’m proud to say that an avatar swap isn’t the only change I’ve been through with Lisa! Today you can find Lisa on the NRE Facebook page as well as their website. She is updated with real-time travel information every two minutes so she can provide users with a list of current disruptions. She is also updated every night with revised station information so users can ask about station-specific information, such as car park prices and ticket office opening times. Her ‘hand hold’ feature means that she can collect travel information through a series of questions and then automatically complete the Journey Planner for the user. Lisa was so effective on the web, that a version of the system is also being used within call centres as a tool to assist live agents in answering customer enquiries.

Last year I joined Kathryn Daniels, Information Development Manager at NRE, and Creative Virtual for a case study webinar showcasing Ask Lisa and will be teaming up with them again for another webinar on 26th March. During the upcoming webinar, Kathryn and I will give a live demonstration of some of Lisa’s features and functionality. We’ll share insights into the benefits NRE has seen since first implementing a virtual assistant, and also discuss additional features and integrations planned for the future. Register here to join us next week!