Welcome to the Creative Virtual blog! Here we cover all of the hot customer experience topics in mobile, social, web, IVR and so much more. We also share company announcements, details about upcoming events and give you a peek into what happens behind the scenes.

Our regular contributors have over 90 years of combined experience specifically with customer engagement, natural language virtual assistants and knowledge management. When you add in the experience of our guest authors and the other Creative Virtual team members who occasionally contribute, there is no better place to get expert insight.

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Conversational AI for Financial Services

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

Traditional banks and financial institutions can no longer count on lifelong loyalty from their customers. Gone are the days of people selecting and staying with a bank simply because their family has been banking with that institution for generations. Fintechs and digital start-ups are disrupting the space, and customers are increasingly willing to take their business to a financial brand that offers them a personalised, easy experience that fits with their lifestyle.

Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and analytics can help financial brands keep pace with customer expectations, but these types of digital transformation projects aren’t always easy to get off the ground. At the AI & CX Transforming Financial Services Directors’ Forum at the end of June, the expert speakers and panellists addressed some of the customer experience (CX) challenges the industry is facing.

Our Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel’s opening keynote – Taking Your CX into the Future with Conversational AI – got the day started with a look at AI-enhanced chatbots, virtual agents and live chat. Chris gave insights into what is possible with conversational AI technology and then backed that up with real examples through a series of live demos. He emphasised the need for the contact centre to be a part of digital transformation initiatives, which had many in attendance nodding their heads in agreement.

One theme that ran through the various presentations and panel debates was the great opportunity the financial services industry has to make life easier for customers and employees with new AI solutions. Whether it be giving customers easy, 24/7 access to smart self-service or helping compliance teams stay on top of changing regulations, AI technologies should be approached as positive additions to transformation strategies. However, internal education about the real benefits and limitations of the technologies and getting executive buy-in continue to be major challenges in many organisations.

During the networking breaks, there continued to be insightful discussions about AI and machine learning, including lessons learned through both successful and unsuccessful projects and ideas on how to overcome anti-AI sentiment based on misunderstandings of the technologies. We had a number of attendees stop by the Creative Virtual table to see more live examples of chatbots and virtual agents. They were excited to see how financial brands are using the technology today to provide customer self-service, assist agents in the contact centre and provide internal HR and service desk support. We even had one attendee say she had specifically come to the event to hear Chris’ presentation because his live demos always provide her with great use cases to share in her consulting work.

If you’re thinking about adding a chatbot to your digital strategy, or have a failing chatbot project you’re ready to abandon, download our Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019. Our team would also love to show you our AI-enhanced self-service solutions in action, so I encourage you to request a live demo.

Our thanks to the Informed.AI team for putting together an insightful forum agenda and a delicious lunchtime spread. We’re looking forward to joining you again for the CXtech Conference & Showcase in October.

AI & CX in Financial Services

AI, Customer Experience and the Financial Services Industry

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

When I founded Creative Virtual over 15 years ago, our very first customer was a financial organisation. Not only are they still a customer today, but they also became the first on a long list of brands our team would work with in the financial services industry. Over the years, we’ve developed an expertise in creating, implementing and maintaining chatbot, virtual agent and live chat solutions for major financial organisations. I’m looking forward to sharing some of those insights with you in my opening keynote at the AI & CX Transforming Financial Services Directors’ Forum.

This one-day interactive event will be held on Thursday, 27 June at The Shard in London. The agenda features a combination of presentations, case studies and panel debates designed for attendees to gather insights and advice from leading experts and practitioners in the financial services space.

In my keynote, Taking Your CX into the Future with Conversational AI, I’ll explore the growing role customer experience (CX) is playing in customer acquisition and retention and address the specific challenges financial brands are facing as they look to incorporate new CX technologies with legacy systems while still maintaining compliance with strict industry regulations. Through a series of live demonstrations, I’ll show best practices for implementing chatbots, virtual agents and live chat. I’ll also explain why a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and human input is necessary for successful and reliable CX solutions.

In today’s highly connected digital world, customers expect the same level of personalised, easy-to-access service and support from their financial institutions as they receive from companies across all other industries. It’s important for financial brands to work with an experienced team that provides best practice expertise – both specifically in the financial services industry and more generally in current and developing customer service trends – alongside innovative technology to deliver conversational AI solutions that are reliable, compliant and futureproof.

I’m also looking forward to being on a panel debate hosted by Martin Hill-Wilson, an expert in customer engagement strategy and implementation. Creative Virtual is the official sponsor of the Directors’ Forum, and we’ll have members of our team on hand to share more live demos and tips to help attendees build their business case for conversational AI.

There are a limited number of tickets still available for the AI & CX Transforming Financial Services Directors’ Forum, so reserve your spot today!

You can also learn more by downloading our Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019 and see our conversational AI platform in action by requesting a personalised demo.

Creating a Better Experience for Indian Customers

By Anand Gupta, Knowledgebase Author

The Customer Experience Management (CXM) 2019 event that took place in Mumbai on 25th April at the Hilton Hotel turned out to be a wonderful experience for Creative Virtual. The Founder & CEO of Creative Virtual, Chris Ezekiel, and Executive Director India, Shantanu Purandare, participated as representatives of the company. The event also witnessed the participation of market leaders in an array of fields. Business Heads, Chief Executive Officers, Marketing Heads, Vice Presidents, Chief Operating Officers, and other dignitaries belonging to Book My Show, Edelweiss, Future Group, Indigo, GVK, and Craftsvilla presented their perspectives of the market and customers during the day. Creative Virtual sponsored the event as the CX Product Leader Partner.

Customer Experience Management 2019Discussions were held among representatives to magnify the solutions granted to customers. Taking up the dais, Shantanu began with a pun and jest before drawing the audience’s attention towards losses incurred in the market due to fallacies. He sought heed on the loss of thousands of crores of rupees due to bad customer experience the previous year (2018) in addition to the year before that. In his presentation, he emphasized the importance of providing a delightful customer experience. Shantanu discussed key elements needing to be addressed by the industry to improve CX that repeatedly arise in customer surveys year after year. He also stressed the importance of providing support in the customer’s language. For example, Creative Virtual is helping organizations in India provide self-service in Hindi, Tamil and Marathi.

After this, Chris took over the platform and deciphered the real business benefits of chatbot solutions. He noted the strength of Creative Virtual’s chatbot technology through illustrations and highlighted best practices for using chatbots, virtual agents and live chat. He explained that the chatbot is capable of conversation which bridges the gap of human interactions through a live example. The emphasis remained on the personalized interaction. He displayed the customized integration of the chatbot with different devices and channels like Facebook, WhatsApp and WeChat. The company founder also demonstrated the integrations with voice technology and live chat during the presentation before handing the podium to Shantanu again.

Exhibiting the varied aspects of our company’s chatbots, Shantanu demonstrated some of the features of the retail chatbot Swara designed to assist with the selling and purchasing of items. It showcased the capacity of reminding the logged-in user when the transaction remained incomplete after re-opening the bot on another device. He presented one of the features that allowed for human intervention while maintaining a seamless customer experience. The chatbot provided options that enabled the customer to connect with a customer care executive by selecting to receive a phone call to the user’s own device. Shantanu placed an order during the live presentation using the chatbot on both his laptop and his mobile. He then showed the integration of Swara with Amazon’s Alexa device and rescheduled the delivery of that purchase. This demonstration of an omnichannel experience left everyone in awe and thinking about how they could integrate chatbot technology to provide a similar experience to their own customers.

You can watch the full presentation from the CXM event below, and then request a personalized demo to learn more about how Creative Virtual’s chatbot and live chat solutions can help you provide a delightful customer experience. Special thanks to the CXM event organizers for putting together a wonderful event and to all the attendees who stopped by our table throughout the day.

The Campaign to Win Over Customers

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

In electoral campaigns, candidates share their ideas, come up with catchy slogans and make promises to gain the support of voters and best their opponents. For businesses, every day is like a day on the campaign trail. There is a constant battle with competitors as they try to outdo each other with a superior product or service, lower pricing and an easier customer experience. As customers, we are choosing the winners and the losers every day by deciding where to spend our money.

I wrote recently about the prediction that 2020 will be the year that customer experience overtakes product and price as the number one way companies will differentiate themselves in the marketplace. While we don’t have long to wait to see if that prediction comes to fruition, businesses don’t have the luxury of taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach. If they haven’t already been putting time and effort into improvements to their customer experience and cultivating the company culture needed to make that a priority, they’ve put themselves at a great disadvantage.

I’ve also written before about the so-called ‘Amazon effect’ on customer experience expectations. Amazon and other companies that are delivering high quality experiences, including excellent service and support, are creating a customer base that is now expecting that same level of customer experience from all the organisations they engage with, regardless of industry. This is helping to push customer experience ahead of product and price in purchasing decisions.

Case in point: over the weekend I got a text from a friend that read ‘Lesson learned…I’m sticking with Amazon from now on…returns are super easy!’ She had been dealing with a drawn-out and frustrating return process for an item that, had she purchased it from Amazon, could have been sorted out in minutes on their website. That business had just lost a customer because of the poor experience they delivered; an experience that didn’t meet the expectations created by a customer knowing there could have been a simpler, quicker process in place.

Customer service and support is one area of the overall customer experience where organisations have often struggled to keep customers happy. One reason is the rapid change in how we communicate both with companies and each other, driven by technology and increased internet access. Not that long ago, businesses were only dealing with providing support in person, over the phone or via email. Now customers are looking for answers and information on websites, social media, messaging apps and smart speakers, too.

Forward-thinking companies understand that the future of customer service lies in automation. It’s not feasible to support customers on every communication channel with humans alone – and customers don’t expect that. Conversational chatbots and virtual agents are a smart way to deliver automated self-service for customers across multiple channels. These automated solutions can also be used to assist customer service agents in the contact centre to improve both the customer and agent experience. The key is to be smart about this automation, though. Work with a knowledgeable team to implement the right combination of automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and human input to set your efforts up for long-term success.

In the relentless campaign to win over customers, it’s easy for businesses to promise a seamless, easy and positive customer experience. But as customer experience becomes more and more important in the decision-making process, it will be the companies that deliver on those promises that will come out victorious.

Is Your Customer Experience Ready for 2020?

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Every one of us has a story we can share about a bad customer experience – and we love to tell those stories. In fact, a survey conducted in 2018 across six countries found that 60% of customers said they had shared their bad experiences with others, either in-person or online. And for many of us, we also love to hear or read about those experiences before we make our own purchasing decisions, meaning that a single poor experience can have a negative knock-on effect on countless other potential new customers.

It’s certainly no secret that your customer experience (CX) has a direct impact on your company’s bottom line. The results of that same survey also showed that 56% of customers had stopped doing business with a brand or switched to a competitor after a single bad customer service experience. According to Frost & Sullivan, US companies are currently losing more than $83 billion annually because of poor customer experiences. Despite being armed with this understanding, many organisations are still struggling to meet the expectations of today’s highly connected, digitally-savvy customers.

In their The Future of IT report, Forrester drives home the point that soon nearly all companies will operate as digital entities with their ability to maximise on the potential of new technologies determining their success. One force behind this change are customers:

“Digitally insatiable customers have a marginal and fickle loyalty to traditional brands, are willing to experiment, and are conditioned to switch affinity and spend based on a single poor experience. Customers have an affection for novelty brands and, notably, brands that ‘get’ and tap into their day-to-day lives.”

When it comes to service and support, tapping into a customer’s day-to-day life means providing the options to find information and resolve issues on a growing number of channels. More traditional channels like the phone are still important, but customers now also want to engage with brands on newer channels like messenger apps and smart speakers – channels that are becoming more integrated into other aspects of our daily lives.

Yet just being present on these channels isn’t enough to create a positive customer experience. As Gartner points out:

“It’s not just what channels customers use to resolve issues, but why they use them that leaders need to understand.”

Service leaders must understand the entire customer journey and the realities of what it takes to solve a particular issue in order to optimise each channel appropriately and then guide customers to the correct channel as needed. While all channels should aim to make customer resolution easier, every channel can’t be viewed with a one-size-fits-all mindset.

To be able to guide customers to the right channels and create an easy, seamless experience, organisations need to approach their digital CX initiatives with an omnichannel view. For example, adding a chatbot on a messenger app is a great way to provide customers with quick self-service, but it can’t be a standalone tool. It must also be integrated with other channels so users can be properly guided or handed over to a different channel if needed, such as live chat or the contact centre, to have their issue resolved.

There have been lots of predictions over the past several years about how important CX will become for brands. A recent report identifies the year 2020 as the point when customer experience will overtake product and price as the number one way companies will differentiate themselves from the competition. As we quickly approach the middle of 2019, organisations need to take the time to really evaluate their experience and identify the technologies that will prepare their customer service for the future.

Digital Growth Around the World

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

It seems like everyone is talking about ‘digital’ these days – digital assistants, digital data, digital marketing, digital art, digital footprint. We’re increasingly reliant on digital devices – smartphone addiction, anyone? – and the need to be constantly connected. On a flight recently, there was a passenger a few seats away from me having a mini-meltdown because the onboard WiFi wouldn’t be available for the entire flight.

According to the Global Digital 2019 reports from We Are Social and Hootsuite, the digital world shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the number of internet users around the world is growing by an average of more than one million new users every day! The research, published earlier this year, reports a 9.1% increase from last year, bringing the number of internet users to 4.388 billion. In areas like Northern Europe and North America, 95% of the population are online.

2019 internet users

It’s likely no surprise that of those internet users, 84% searched online for a product or service to buy, 91% visited an online retail store on the web and 75% purchased a product or service online. The growing number of mobile users (up 100 million from last year) is reflected in the fact that 55% of internet users had made an online purchase via a mobile device while only 42% had done so from a laptop or desktop computer.

With so many consumers researching and purchasing goods and services online, it’s important for companies to provide the right service and support online as well. According to Frost & Sullivan, US companies are losing more than $83 billion annually due to poor customer experiences. On the flip side, they also found that 74% of customers have spent more with a business due to a history of good service.

Organisations everywhere are taking on digital transformation projects and searching for the best way to join up digital channels with more traditional customer contact channels. Implementing and executing successful digital customer experience (CX) initiatives is crucial for companies, particularly those in regions where a majority of the population are internet users. Offering a seamless and efficient CX that delivers consistent and reliable information to consumers regardless of whether they self-serve or talk to a contact centre agent has a direct impact on a business’ bottom line. Companies must also consider the popularity of other touchpoints, such as messenger apps and smart speakers, with their target customers as they evolve their digital strategies. Some organisations like Rest, one of Australia’s largest superannuation funds, are using a virtual agent across multiple channels – including Google Home – to successfully engage a customer base of digital natives.

57% of the world’s population are now online, and the number of internet users is growing every day. Is your organisation positioned to stay competitive in an increasingly digital world?

2019 digital world

C+UX: Innovations and Tips for Your Customer Experience Strategy

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

According to Frost & Sullivan, customer experience will overtake product and price as the number one means of differentiation for organisations by 2020. Companies that get their customer experience (CX) right are rewarded, with 74% of consumers spending more with a business due to a history of good service. While most companies understand the importance of delivering a positive CX, creating and deploying the right tools to create happy customers remains a challenge.

If you’re looking for CX inspiration and help in developing a successful strategy, don’t miss the C+UX Expo taking place in London on 27 & 28 March. Tickets for the UK’s biggest customer and user experience event are free and will give you access to several other co-located events, including the Call & Contact Centre Expo and the Marketing Technology Expo.

Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel will be presenting a seminar on Thursday at 14:00 in Theatre 16, ‘Top Tips for Implementing Chatbots and Virtual Agents in 2019’. Be sure to join Chris as he cuts through the artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbot hype to share best practices for selecting, deploying and maintaining a successful self-service solution. Drawing on demos of live implementations, he’ll cover everything from building your business case to setting your solution up for long-term success.

The Creative Virtual team will also be on Stand 920 both days of the event sharing insights and live demos of our award-winning virtual agent, chatbot and live chat solutions. Our multi-lingual technology can be deployed across touchpoints – web, mobile, social, messaging apps, SMS, contact centre, service desk, IVR and smart speakers – to deliver information quickly and efficiently to customers and employees. Stop by to see some of our current implementations in action and learn how we are helping businesses implement these solutions to create seamless omnichannel engagement.

Tickets for C+UX are free, but you must register in advance through the event website. If you aren’t able to attend the expo but are interested in learning more about how you can optimise digital conversations with your customers and employees, request a personalised demo with an expert member of our team.

Simply The Best!

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

With chatbot companies springing up on an almost daily basis, how do companies select the right one? Well, now the work has been done for you and there’s a clear choice! Frost & Sullivan have recognised Creative Virtual as the Product Leader! And the full report is available for you to download for free. Frost & Sullivan evaluated companies across two key factors, each with five benchmarking criteria. Creative Virtual was rated as ‘Excellent’, receiving an average score of 9.00/10 across these categories. The second and third place companies came in at 8.50 and 8.25.

Frost & Sullivan Best PracticeAs we celebrate our fifteen year anniversary, I cannot think of a better way to start the year (and the celebrations!). Not least because this is the first detailed independent comparison of combined virtual assistant, chatbot and live chat technology; and especially as the competition are some of the world’s largest technology companies. This comes on the back of our Queen’s Award for Innovation, that we were honoured to receive in 2017, and which is a five-year award. I couldn’t be more proud of what our team, together with our customers and partners, have achieved.

We often get asked how we compare with our competitors, and of course we have a lot to say on the subject! – but now with this independent report, the choice for companies wanting to deliver significant business value as well as superior customer experience, is crystal clear!

As a company that prides itself on continuous innovation, we certainly won’t be resting on our laurels. Right now, in our labs around the world, we are working on even more exciting developments that we look forward to bringing to the market soon.

And in the meantime, we’re very much looking forward to shouting about this amazing achievement from the rooftops!

AI-Enhanced Self-ServiceIt’s an honour to be leading a global company that has been acclaimed as the leader, and I know it will also mean a lot to all our great people, as well as our customers and partners who have put their trust in us and worked hard with us to create amazing solutions – which I know have played a pivotal role in this award. I would like to publicly say a big thanks to all our supporters!

For more on this Frost & Sullivan Best Practice Award and why Creative Virtual was selected as the 2019 AI-Enhanced Customer Self-Service Product Leader:

Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Chatbots and virtual agents have proven themselves to be quality self-service solutions, being increasingly implemented by smart organisations to provide support and being increasingly preferred by customers and employees for quick, easy access to information. Many more organisations around the world either have a virtual agent on their 2019 roadmap or are considering adding one. Yet, despite all the success stories, there are also stories of failed implementations and conflicting messages about artificial intelligence (AI) that are giving decisionmakers pause.

The explosion of interest in chatbots over the last several years helped bring attention to the technology but has left the market confused with media hype and a growing number of new, inexperienced vendors trying to break into the industry. It can be difficult to know how to select the best technology and implement it for long-term success, but organisations shouldn’t let this deter them from plans to offer a conversational self-service tool.

Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019 addresses the most important items organisations should consider when evaluating and deploying this technology with eight actionable recommendations covering topics including:

  • Building your business case around the right key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Selecting a technology that fits with your roadmap and provides the necessary security and integration options
  • Collaborating with a vendor that can provide expertise beyond just the technology
  • Implementing your solution to create a seamless omnichannel experience
  • Keeping your solution accurate and up-to-date with the right combination of humans and AI

Chatbot and virtual agent technology continues to change quickly, and organisations need to keep in mind that the technology of 2019 is not the same as that of even a few years ago. Educating yourself – and others in your organisation – about the current capabilities and deployment options of these solutions needs to be the first step in your chatbot or virtual agent journey. Companies with failed chatbot implementations or tools that haven’t kept pace with more recent technology developments will also find these eight tips helpful to determine next steps for finding a replacement solution.

Download Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019 for help with selecting, deploying and maintaining a successful self-service solution this year.

The Digital Workplace in 2019

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

In the survey results published by HR.com at the end of 2018, 79% of Human Resources (HR) professionals responded that chatbots and virtual assistants will become an increasingly viable way for employees to get real-time answers to their HR-related questions. Yet that same report identified that only about 10% of organisations are currently making use of artificial intelligence (AI) for HR purposes now.

One of the main takeaways from the recent Digital Workplace Directors Forum in London reflected the findings published in that report. While many organisations understand the benefits of using this technology, only a limited number of forward-thinking companies have done anything about it yet. That’s changing though as organisations add AI, chatbots and virtual agents to their 2019 roadmaps and digital workplace initiatives.

The agenda for the forum included a variety of speakers covering current workplace case studies and predictions for the future of the digital workplace. Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, was one of the expert speakers and shared insights and live demonstrations of conversational AI solutions for employee engagement. He showed how our virtual agents and chatbots are being used by organisations in a variety of sectors to provide a quick and easy self-service solution for HR and IT service desk support. He also showed how these automated solutions can be seamlessly integrated with human-assisted channels, such as live chat, as well as other existing backend systems, such as ticketing systems and third-party databases. One success story he shared was how a large government department is using our technology to reduce internal service desk costs and improve employee productivity.

Many of the discussions I had with other forum attendees reflected conversations I had at a customer and employee engagement event a couple of months ago. Organisations are coming to understand the benefits of providing better and easier support for employees and are placing an increased focus on improving employee engagement in 2019. Chatbots and virtual agents are proven tools in the digital workplace for everything from onboarding new employees to helping troubleshoot common IT issues to training contact centre agents.

If you weren’t at the event or missed Chris’ presentation, be sure to request a live demo to see our chatbot, virtual agent and live chat technology in action for yourself.

Our thanks to Engage Employee for inviting Creative Virtual to sponsor your first event of the year.