Conversational Commerce for Demanding APAC Customers

By Philip Chuck, Territory General Manager, Greater China

Effortless, Accurate, Seamless, Effective. When it comes to customer service, this is what customers expect. Yet putting the right technology, process and people in place to delight customers presents challenges for companies. This sparked insightful discussions during the 2017 Hong Kong Call Centre Association (HKCCA) International Symposium on 28 April.

One hot topic was the growth of conversational systems – chatbots and virtual assistants – in Asia Pacific. Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, addressed this in his presentation titled Taking Your Contact Centre into the Future with EASE. He talked about the changes contact centres need to make to meet customer expectations, including best practices for bringing together chatbots and virtual agents with live chat. He shared live examples of virtual assistants in action and demonstrated how a combination of virtual and real support can benefit both customers and contact centres.

His presentation received a positive response from Symposium attendees. In the region we were seeing the change to self-service happening separately from the contact centre which was creating new challenges for companies. Now contact centre professionals are coming to understand that virtual assistants can work together with contact centre agents. They are seeing the benefits of including these conversational systems as part of their overall customer service plans. APAC customers are increasingly reliant on technology and inclined to integrate digital and physical experiences. Joining together the contact centre with self-service channels is necessary for companies to create delighted, loyal customers.

Another key takeaway from the event was that chatbots are one of the technologies that can be realised early along the road of digitalisation. This is important for companies struggling to move forward with their digital transformation. No matter what industry they are in, organisations are seeing the demand for conversational channels from their customers. Chatbot technology enables them to create digital conversations with customers that are effortless, accurate, seamless and effective.

My thanks to HKCCA for hosting another great event! It was a pleasure to take part alongside our partner company Continuous Technologies International Ltd for a third year.

You can learn more about how virtual assistants can work together with contact centre agents by downloading the guide, The Future of the Contact Centre. If you want to learn how chatbots can help your organisation create conversational commerce, request a live demo.

2017 HKCCA Symposium

Creative Virtual Continues 2017 Digital CX Road Tour – Chicago and Now Indy!

By Christina Wilson, Director of Customer Success, Creative Virtual USA

May began with several of our Executive team members traveling to Chicago for the Argyle CX event last week. This was our second time attending the event and again, we were not disappointed by the success we found in the numerous conversations that took place. This year we had the opportunity to Sponsor the event and had the privilege of hearing a great panel that also included one of our very own, Frank Schneider, VP of Customer Experience Solutions. Simultaneously, our sales team attended the Forrester Digital Transformation 2017, also in Chicago, to pick up strategies on innovation and growth in the digital enterprise.

The collaboration that goes into attending these events for us is simple. We enjoy the engaging conversations we have with both our partners, but also with potential prospects and industry leading practitioners. Having an open forum during the panel gave us insight into the type of breakthrough strategies and approaches driving real innovation in CX. The specific panel we did was titled: “The Modern Day Customer Care and Customer Experience Executive”.

2017 Argyle ForumA few of the day’s highlights included:

  • It was awesome hearing Renee Cacchillo, from Safelight AutoGlass regarding their vision for Customer Experience and using technology to delight the customer.
  • Jasper Weir’s introduction of ENPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) shed a creative light on creating happy employees and in turn elevating Customer Experience at TaskUs.
  • Dan Gingiss, author of Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Design Engaging Experiences on Social Media, spoke about measuring the Customer Experience you want to achieve by having a sincere heart and comparing your experience with your customer’s best experience all around.

What’s next on the CV Road Tour? Genesys CX17 Indy in Indianapolis on May 22nd-25th where we are Genesys AppFoundry Sponsors. Come by Booth #A05 and speak with Scott Tompkins or Rick Hancock. Both have over a decade of enterprise digital CX consulting experience and have had great success with Creative Virtual.

The Era of Intelligent Assistants is Here

By Laura Ludmany, Knowledgebase Engineer

As an introduction of the Intelligent Assistants Conference held in London on the 4th and 5th of May, Dan Miller and Derek Top of Opus Research agreed that the era of intelligent assistants, chatbots, and AI has arrived. The biggest catalyst of this was Facebook, when its Messenger platform was opened to chatbots and virtual assistants in 2016. Since then, millions of chatbots can be found on that platform.

In the professional field – in which we tend to use the terms intelligent assistants and virtual agents – machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) are basics. Benefits of virtual assistants (VAs) are well proven – they bring fast changes and results to business, they reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction and engagement. Though, if we want to create an outstanding, reliable experience, assisted service is also needed.

This could be the motto of the first day of the conference – almost every presenter mentioned and Opus Team member emphasised that, with the big expansion of virtual agents, we have the technology and what companies need is creativity to ensure the added value. Hence human support and background are always needed and Intelligent Assistance (IA) needs to be managed with a combined approach. In this way, instead of seeing human versus AI/technology we rather are looking for a collaboration where we can maximize the benefits of this synergy.

virtual agent Ask MoThe leading adopters of VAs are the banking and retail sectors and, per Dan Miller, these sectors want to reduce local presence and increase online availability. For example, several big retail chains are reducing their stock in store in favour of online retail platforms. At the same time, internal VAs also play a crucial part in this process. As one of our clients’ representative – Llaura Hughes from Motability Operations – described in her case study, their internal VA called ‘Ask Mo’ made a huge impact on their organisation’s workflow, making things simpler, more transparent and took the pressure off the live agents. Also their VA ensures continuous monitoring activity and helps to improve their database set (knowledgebase) day by day. The best thing is that the live agents can give instant feedback and they become engaged in this AI technology – as said at the beginning of the day: a brilliant example of human and machine collaboration.

IAC LondonAll this sounds good, but how should a company step up to conversational commerce? Our Head of Operations, Rachel Freeman explained that the more departments that get involved in the VA project, the better it is. A good VA needs to be cross functional (helpdesk, marketing, sales) and every department has its own view which can give an extra feature/benefit to the VA and ensure they make the most out of it. Rachel again emphasized that the technology is a given, so it is rather what the organisation wants to be represented in their VA. Marketing and brand are vital today and a VA is just another platform to build this brand image, so again the creativity of the VA provider is what makes the deployments outstanding – just as Opus Research mentioned at the beginning of the day. On the other hand – these things take time and as Rachel described, building, maintaining and improving a VA should be approached as a journey which has no end, because to maintain a high level of performance and up-to-date content we need to have that above mentioned human assistance. Through regular monitoring and testing, an organisation can understand what customers want and even learn about customer habits.

There were some more thought provoking sessions at the conference, one of them was Wally Brill (Senior Persona Designer for Adecco at Google) discussing if we need to “be friends” with robots. He mentioned the interesting expression “uncanny valley” which, in short, means that too human-like bots are found to be scary and raise feelings of eeriness and revulsion. As we can see, the revolution of AI is rather an era of IA when intelligent assistants help, support and make the life of humans (live chat agents, analysts, sales persons, customers, etc.) easier. The future is those who focus on hybrid methods, as we cannot just rely on a black box of AI, but we want to know what’s going on in the background.

It was a great day of innovation and inspiration and I was glad to be able to participate in this conference where I could learn about the latest trends on the VA field. Thanks to Opus Research for hosting the Intelligent Assistants Conference in London again this year! 

Be sure to check out our IAC London 2017 photo album on the Creative Virtual Facebook page.

Creative Virtual’s Annual Digital CX Executive Roundtable Continues Tradition of Connecting Digital Transformation Peers

By Rick Hancock, Enterprise Account Executive, Creative Virtual USA

People were laughing, telling stories, sharing real world experiences amongst their peers at last month’s Creative Virtual 3rd Annual Digital CX Executive Roundtable in NYC.

Tuesday, April 18th kicked off the two-day event. Attendees met at an exclusive cabaret performance that brought us all back to the fun of the Prohibition era. Delicious “in theme” cocktails were delivered to your seat, at pace, in between each skit, which certainly helped get the party started quickly. The cast were very talented Broadway performers who put on an incredible up-close and personal show for us all. Everyone became part of the show at some point, some participating from their seat while a few lucky people were selected to join the stage for something a little extra. Attendees also got to meet the cast after the show. Every year we try and do something uniquely fun. This one will be hard to top next year.

Wednesday was an exceptional day. We started the morning with a breakfast banquet meet & greet. For many, faces were familiar from the night before, no ice breakers were really needed, everyone was keen to get started. The agenda began with a Keynote presentation from Kyle Scofield, a leading pioneering digital strategist, from both Time Warner Cable and EarthLink. He began the session speaking from his own experience – Leading Transformation Initiatives – Delivering on a Vision. He highlighted that today customers want Self Help, to be Connected, to be Automated and for brands, to achieve this at a Lower Cost.

From the positive feedback received, attendees appreciated the opportunity to have an open and friendly discussion with other like-minded peers. Everyone involved used the forum to share some part of their own digital experience which provided useful insights for each other. It was a great way to collaborate on new topics, discuss what works, how we got here, what’s next and most importantly, what role people will need to play for future success. Having a trusted advisor to help navigate potential obstacles for customers proved valuable.

Attendees were impressed after seeing actual program success metrics by some of our existing enterprise customers, such as 85% digital containment, meaning customers were able self-serve without the need to escalate to a chat/voice agent. Some brands experienced 80%+ Digital Containment using Creative Virtual’s automated conversational systems. Another customer referred to their deployment as a “virtual concierge”, the gateway to a seamless omnichannel experience, using our centralized knowledgebase to provide uniform answers across all channels. When one attendee discovered his company could automate 40%+ of all their internal help desk password reset inquires he nearly fell off his chair. “Wow!” he said. The icing on the cake for some folks was revealed in a live demonstration by Scott Tompkins, Enterprise Account Executive, who showed how easily the bot can provide intelligent instant answers for the chat agent to review, optionally curate and then pass onto the customer increasing agent efficiencies by 33%. Finally, to end the discussion, Scott demonstrated our integration with Alexa with a few voice commands to upgrade his TV package and get access to HBO’s Game Of Thrones.

Our thanks to Happy Hour Entertainment for the fun cabaret performance and getting our event off to a great start! And thanks to Kyle and all of our attendees for joining us at the Executive Roundtable. The insights and thought-provoking questions you shared are what made the event such a success. Hope to see you again next year!

Not at the event and want to learn more? We’d love to arrange a personalized demo to show you what your company can achieve with our customer engagement solutions. Request one here and get ready to transform your brand’s digital CX.

IAC London 2017: Real use cases and best practices for natural language intelligent assistants

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Chatbots continue to be a hot topic for customer service and marketing with more and more organisations beginning to realise the potential benefits of automated conversational systems. The best way to learn about this technology, how it can be implemented and its place in the future of customer experience is to engage with companies already using it and industry experts. Opus Research’s Intelligent Assistants Conference (IAC), returning to London for a second year, offers the opportunity to do just that. The conference will feature a series of keynote addresses, expert panel discussions, case studies and networking opportunities.

Creative Virtual will once again be sponsoring IAC London and lending our expertise to the conference agenda. Rachel Freeman, Head of Operations, will be a part of the ‘Stepping up to Conversational Commerce’ panel on Day 1. Peter Behrend, CTO, will help Opus Research end the event as a panellist on the closing panel, ‘Future of Intelligent Assistance’.

On Day 1 of the conference, Motability Operations will also present a case study of their virtual assistant ‘Ask Mo’ which they’ve partnered with Creative Virtual since 2007 to deploy. Llaura Hughes, Training & Communications Manager at Motability Operations, will showcase how the organisation uses a blended approach of a virtual agent and interactive process maps to meet their key initiatives and achieve top-ranking customer and employee satisfaction scores in their contact centre. Motability Operations was the winner of the ‘Innovation Award for Sustainable Culture’ award as part of the 2015 Customer Contact Innovation Awards for this approach to knowledge management.

Creative Virtual will also have a stand in the vendor exhibition area where members of our team will be on hand to give live demos of our innovative virtual assistant solutions and explain more about how organisations around the world are currently using our technology to improve both customer and employee experiences. The team will also be happy to discuss the company’s recent win of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017. This award was presented for V-Person™ (our virtual agent technology) and V-Portal™ (our knowledge management platform), and the commercial success we’ve achieved with these customer engagement technologies. The award is not only a great achievement for Creative Virtual, but also for the industry. This recognition brings attention to the technology along with the positive results forward-thinking organisations are already achieving with Creative Virtual’s solutions. Opus Research’s Amy Stapleton discusses this more in her recent article, Creative Virtual’s Prestigious Queen’s Award Reflects Growth of Intelligent Assistance.

IAC London 2017 will be held 4-5 May 2017 at Claridge’s Hotel. More information and the full agenda can be found on the conference website. Also, check out these materials from last year’s event:

You can also download our educational whitepaper Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – confusing or what! to learn more about intelligent assistants and request your own personalised demo to see the technology in action.

The Future of CX in Asia Pacific: Effortless, Accurate, Seamless, Effective

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Customers in Asia Pacific are more empowered than ever before and are demanding effortless, accurate, seamless and effective service experiences from companies. Organisations need to move away from the traditional model for call centres that is no longer serving customer needs, and embrace a new approach that enables tight collaboration between the contact centre and digital channels.

This will be the focus of my presentation at the upcoming Hong Kong Call Centre Association (HKCCA) International Symposium being held on 28 April. Creative Virtual will be sponsoring the annual conference alongside our partner company Continuous Technologies International Ltd. I am honoured to once again be invited to speak on the event theme, which this year is “Customers @ EASE – Effortless; Accurate; Seamless; Effective”.

My presentation, titled ‘Taking Your Contact Centre Into the Future with EASE’, will address the changes contact centres must make to meet the expectations of empowered customers. I’ll explore best practices for combining virtual and real support by bringing together chatbots and virtual agents with live chat, as well as the transitioning role of live agents as contact centres evolve.

This will be my third year presenting at a HKCCA event, and I always look forward to engaging with industry professionals from the region. While in some parts of the world the self-service market is being driven by the desire of organisations for cost savings, in Hong Kong and much of APAC the push is coming from customer demands. Research has found that consumers in Asia Pacific are increasingly reliant on technology and inclined to integrate digital and physical experiences. They want anytime, anywhere self-service on any device and are determined to create the best experiences for themselves. In order to provide effortless, accurate, seamless and effective service experiences, companies need to unify their contact centres and self-service channels.

If you are attending the HKCCA International Symposium 2017, be sure to join me at 10:05 am for my presentation and stop by our booth to pick up some additional information and meet the team. I look forward to seeing you there!

If you won’t be at the event, you can contact us at any time for more information and to arrange a live demo of our Smart Help solutions.

Evolving Customer Expectations and the Contact Centre

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the contact centre in its current form is finished. The traditional model for call centres and contact centres is no longer providing the service experience that customers want. This was one of the key themes of CRMXchange’s recent Tech Tank Roundtable, Customer Delight: Live Demonstrations of Breakthrough Innovations. I had the pleasure of joining other industry experts from Aspect and inContact to share new customer experience solutions that are impacting the contact centre.

So, what do today’s customers want? First, they want organisations to offer support on digital channels. The survey results shared in Microsoft’s 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report show that 55% of global respondents say their customer service interactions typically begin online rather than on the phone or in person. That survey also found that 72% of the consumers surveyed expect agents to know their contact information, product information and service history. That highlights the fact that customers also are coming to expect personalised and seamless engagement from brands.

While customer expectations have been evolving, so has the customer service marketplace. During the webinar, I talked about the live chat vs. virtual agents debate that polarised the marketplace for many years. That view is now changing as it becomes clear that a combination of these solutions can help organisations meet customer service expectations. Even though customers are increasingly starting their support journeys online and leveraging self-service options like virtual agents and chatbots, the need for live agents won’t disappear. The key to providing personalised and seamless support for customers lies in the right combination of virtual and real support.

At Creative Virtual, we are delivering a combination of virtual agents and live chat that is defining industry best practice through a single knowledgebase for both virtual and real agents and a unique feedback loop. Our newest video explains how this works:

My thanks to Sheri Greenhaus and CRMXchange for hosting another great Tech Tank webcast – my third one! – and to all of you who joined us for the live event. If you missed it, you can request a copy of the recording here. You can also view my presentation slides here and then request your own live demo to learn more.

Breakthrough CX Innovations that Create Customer Delight

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

“Customers are increasingly starting their support journeys online and leveraging self-service options, but that doesn’t mean that the need for live agents will disappear. Instead organisations need to implement the right combination of virtual and real support and integrate those channels properly in order to provide personalised and seamless support for customers.”

– Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, Creative Virtual

On Thursday, 6th April 2017 at 7:00 pm UK/ 2:00 pm ET CRMXchange will host a Tech Tank Roundtable webinar titled Customer Delight: Live Demonstrations of Breakthrough Innovations. The live webcast will feature a panel of industry experts, including Creative Virtual’s Chris Ezekiel, showcasing emerging customer experience solutions that are beginning to impact the contact centre.

The contact centre industry needs to be constantly evolving in order to meet changing customer demands. As customers increasingly come to expect seamless and personalised omnichannel engagement, contact centres must turn to a combination of virtual and real support. During the webinar, Chis will address this change and give an inside look at Creative Virtual’s deep integration of virtual agents and live chat. This combined solution is defining industry best practice through a single knowledgebase for both virtual and real agents and a unique feedback loop combined with customisable workflow functionality.

The bringing together of live chat and virtual agents is a departure from the common belief that, until recently, prevailed in the contact centre industry that organisations needed to choose between the solutions. Forward-thinking organisations are now coming to understand that these two tools are complementary solutions that can play a key part in delivering quality digital support experiences for their customers. Gone are the days of the live chat vs. virtual agent debate as this shift in mindset begins to permeate the customer service industry.

Register for the Tech Tank now to learn more and see live demonstrations from Chris and other industry experts from inContact and Aspect. Not able to make the live webcast? Don’t worry! A recording of the Roundtable will be sent to all registrants after the event.

CXM 2017: Meeting New CX Challenges in India

By Shantanu Purandare, Executive Director, India

According to a recent study, the number of internet users in India is expected to reach 600 million by 2020, nearly double the approximately 343 million users currently. A big factor in this growth is the increasing availability and adoption of smartphones. As the world’s second largest mobile phone market, India is predicted to see a growth from 240 million smartphone subscriptions to 520 million by 2020. With more and more customers becoming digitally connected, companies in India are facing new challenges when it comes to building a happy, loyal customer base.

For this reason, creating world-class customer experiences for digitally inspired and demanding customers is the focus of Customer Experience Management 2017, India’s largest customer experience event. CXM 2017, which is being held on February 3rd in Mumbai, will feature insights on how organizations can transform their experiences to meet the heightened expectations of progressively sophisticated, diverse and demanding customers. As the event’s Omni Channel Partner, Creative Virtual is looking forward to showcasing our suite of Smart Help solutions and sharing insights into how enterprises around the world are using these tools to increase customer engagement, reduce customer support costs and increase revenue.

The increasing adoption of smartphones, both in India and globally, is forever altering the way customers engage with businesses. Expectations for instant 24/7 customer service options are becoming the norm. Organizations need to move away from the traditional approach to customer experience and make investments in delivering easy, seamless and personalized smart help across digital channels. In order to remain competitive, they must provide a fully-integrated, omnichannel customer experience that matches with the growing demands of their customer base.

During CXM 2017, I’ll be joining the ‘Analyzing Customer Voice’ panel discussion to specifically talk about how social media is changing the way digitally savvy customers interact with brands. They now have the ability to share their opinions – good and bad – about products and companies with a global audience almost instantly. Organizations need to pay attention to the viewpoints customers are sharing on social channels, but it can be a challenge to know where to start. As a panelist, I’ll share insights into how companies can effectively analyze and apply the customers’ voice to positively impact their customer experience strategies and effectively use this information to their advantage across geographies, cultures and markets.

I hope you’ll join us in Mumbai at the beginning of February for what promises to be an inspiring day of keynote presentations, panel discussions and networking opportunities. My panel discussion on ‘Analyzing Customer Voice’ is set to begin at 11:30. You can learn more and register for the event on the CXM 2017 website.

If you aren’t able to attend, be sure to request your own personalized demo to learn more about our omnichannel smart help solutions.

A Look Back: 2016 in Review

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

It’s that time once again to take a look back at the year and marvel at just how much we, our customers and our partners have managed to fit into 11 and a half months. This has been an exciting year not only for us at Creative Virtual, but also for the self-service industry with a renewed interest and media buzz around chatbots. So let’s take a look at some of the highlights of 2016.

This year we launched two new products to the market: V-Person Service Desk™ in March and V-Person Live Chat™ in August. We have seen a flurry of interest in using V-Person for employee support (check out our video to learn more) and have service desk and other internal deployments live in several countries around the world. Launching our new Live Chat product was particularly exciting for us because it was the day we realised our vision to offer organisations the technology to enable seamless, fully-integrated, end-to-end customer engagement. A truly momentous occasion for our company!

We are also proud of the awards Creative Virtual has won this year. The Wharf Innovation in Business Awards, a new awards programme celebrating the hard work and ingenuity of companies in Canary Wharf, recognised us as the winner of their Medium-to-Large Business category. Besides being a great accomplishment for the company, this victory also made our Founder & CEO Chris feel like a hometown hero. We were all excited to read his interview with The Wharf newspaper. Creative Virtual was also recognised for a second year by the Technology Innovator Awards, receiving ‘Most Innovative Customer Engagement Platform’ and ‘Best for Virtual Agent Technology’. We finished out the year with two more awards as part of the 2016 Softech Business Awards: ‘Best Self-Service CX Technology Company 2016’ and ‘Most Innovative Enterprise CX Management Solution: V-Person’.

2016 was our busiest year yet when it came to taking part in industry events around the world – Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Denmark, Hong Kong and the Netherlands – covering a variety of topics including customer experience, chatbots, digital customer engagement, the call centre and AI. A number of these events were either hosted by or attended with our partner companies, and many featured Creative Virtual team members presenting or participating in roundtable discussions. We also took part in several live webinars, including our fourth Technology Innovation Showcase with CRMXchange which you can still view on-demand.

The world of customer engagement is constantly evolving, and this was particularly true during 2016 due to announcements like Facebook Messenger’s introduction of chatbots which brought new attention to AI and digital customer support solutions. We drew from the extensive experience of the Creative Virtual team to produce a number of new educational resources, including a checklist for Choosing a Virtual Agent Solution for Instant Messaging Platforms and SMS and a whitepaper, Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – confusing or what!, for anyone confused about using chatbots for customer support. Our Founder & CEO Chris penned an article for CRMXchange titled The Contact Centre in Its Current Form is Finished and Patrick, our Managing Director ANZ & North Asia, shared his expertise in the field through an Executive Interview.

It’s been an exciting year as we’ve seen our customer base grow and new companies join our extensive global partner network. In February our India-based team hosted Creative Virtual team members from all over the word in Mumbai for our annual global meetings. Once again Founder & CEO Chris took the award for most travelling as he spent time in each of our offices to take part in industry events and meet with partners, customers and the growing Creative Virtual team.

We hope you’ll take a few minutes to check out our 2016 in Review photo album on the Creative Virtual Facebook page to see what we’ve been up to this year – all the official events and presentations as well as the fun group activities and fundraising efforts. There are still more photos to come, including our End of Year and Christmas celebrations, so be sure to like our page so you don’t miss them.