‘Eureka!’ in the Detail

By Rachel Freeman, Head of Operations

I’m amazed at how often many of us fall into the trap of assuming that something is understood within our various industries based on the fact that we are in it daily. Whilst we work on generating interest via marketing materials, tweets, webinars and blogs and talk about the big picture of, in our case, the incredible utility of self-help tools, we sometimes forget the basics and the oft missed gold dust in the daily transactions of what many of us, customer and supplier alike, take for granted or possibly even overlook.

All of the Creative Virtual Smart Help tools have wide capabilities to report on detailed user interactions, survey comments, and high level summary information including total amount of conversations, questions asked, clicked FAQs and, of course, the level of success in terms of how well the tool has responded in order to enable a smooth and satisfying customer experience.

In all cases we review and create reports both for client and internal consumption to get both business intelligence and operational views.

It all sounds great so far, but the reality is we all know how easy it can be to not look at the specific elements or beyond the first page of a report when we are busy with so many other tasks. It saves time to look at summary details only – but this is the potential ‘Eureka!’ moment we miss because we haven’t stopped to see the treasure in the detail.

For us, these details can be the user comments from our user surveys that may say “Thanks so much for the help; great tool!” or indeed “I’m so angry that no one is giving me the snail mail address in your answer!”, “Why can’t you let me cancel online?” or “I want more information on widget z not gizmo b.” These nuggets of information give us insight into our customers’ perspectives and yet, because we get stuck on focusing on overall monthly trends, we may miss the personalised comments which will help us improve the customer journey and experience.

Overall numeric trends showing ROI based on call, email and live chat savings is gold dust in itself, no question. However, it’s also important to appreciate how the detail in individual customer feedback can give us valuable insight we can’t get by examining the summary statistics alone.

For more information about how Creative Virtual’s powerful Voice of the Customer reporting options can give your organisation a personalised ‘Eureka!’ moment, request a live demo with an experienced member of our team.


Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Analyst Report: A Very Good Report Card for V-Person™ Technology

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

The Patricia Seybold Group, a strategic advisory service for customer-centric executives, recently released their second evaluation of Creative Virtual’s V-Person technology. This independent report, written by Mitch Kramer, Senior Consultant and titled Creative Virtual V-Person: Delivering Personalized Answers to Customers’ Questions, serves as a follow-up to the original review produced in 2012. In the report, Mitch evaluates our virtual agent technology against a rigorous set of customer-focused criteria important to organisations that want to improve customer experience, increase brand loyalty and reduce customer support costs.

The detailed, 37-page analysis takes a deep dive into V-Person and V-Portal™ (our knowledge management, workflow management and business intelligence reporting platform) and outlines how our technology can be used to deploy virtual agents on web, mobile, social and IVR channels to answer customers’ questions directly or through guided, question and answer dialogs. It also highlights the significant improvements and increased functionality added to our solutions since the previous report.  Mitch writes:

“V-Portal is a product strength and competitive differentiator. Personalized answers and knowledge management are V-Person’s most significant strengths and differentiators. V-Person is currently the only virtual agent offering with packaged personalization.”

The report describes personalisation as a ‘significant step forward’ for virtual assistant technology and credits V-Person as being the first to implement this functionality. This new personalised customer service capability is mentioned as an attractive option for account management scenarios in financial services, government, healthcare, telecommunications and travel.

V-Person earns very good grades on the Virtual Assisted-Service Report Card with an ‘Exceeds Requirements’ evaluation in the categories of Answers, Analysis and Matching, and Analytic Functionality. The report recommends that large B2C and B2B organisations and government agencies implement V-Person to deliver cross-channel virtual customer support, lower cost to serve and improve customer satisfaction.

A complimentary copy of this comprehensive review of V-Person technology can be requested here.

Introducing Commercial Bank of Dubai’s Virtual Banking Assistant

By Björn Gülsdorff, Head of Business Development

Customer experience has become a key differentiator for organisations, particularly in the very competitive financial services space. And so when Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD), a provider of personal and corporate banking services in the United Arab Emirates, began a redesign of their website they looked to intelligent virtual agent technology to create an innovative and personalised experience online.

The result is a new banking portal featuring Virtual Banking Assistant Sara. The sophisticated natural language technology powering “Ask Sara” allows the virtual assistant to engage conversationally with website visitors 24/7. Sara assists visitors of the public website as well as CBD’s logged-in customers with tasks such as form completion and is integrated with live chat to seamlessly escalate users needing further assistance. The animated avatar engages with users by waving and tapping on the screen after a period of inactivity and, when used after hours, appears in a darkened office. And on mobile devices users interact with a special HTML5 interface to cater for the reduced screen size – all powered by one knowledgebase.

The creation of “Ask Sara” has been a joint effort for Creative Virtual’s UK and Netherlands teams in close cooperation with CBD’s business team and is our first V-Person™ implementation in the region. Shortly after the official launch in March, CBD’s Sara received a positive review in an Emirates 24|7 article. She’ll also be one of the virtual agents we’ll be showcasing during the upcoming FStech Omnichannel Banking Conference in London next month.

“Ask Sara” can be accessed via the red Virtual Assistant tab on the right side of the CBD website.

Creative Virtual Receives Top Marks in TechNavio’s Virtual Assistant Product Comparison

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

On 18th April, leading technology research and advisory company TechNavio released their Global Intelligent Virtual Assistant Market 2014-2018 report. The report covers the Americas, EMEA and APAC regions, and includes in-depth industry analysis, the Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) market landscape and key vendors operating in this market space. Last week they followed up that report with a blog post sharing a head-to-head virtual assistant product comparison.

We’re pleased to share that Creative Virtual is identified in TechNavio’s report as one of the industry’s key vendors, and our partner company The Virtual Zone also made the list as a prominent vendor. Our V-Person™ technology came out at the top of the list in the head-to-head product comparison as well, receiving the highest marks possible in all six categories: 3D Persona with Emotions, Mobile Solutions, Concept Understanding, Multiple Questions, Analytics and Social Dialogue.

TechNavio's Prouct Comparison

In TechNavio’s report, they touch on the topic of knowledge management within the virtual assistant marketplace. Our experience as a leader in this space confirms that knowledge management is becoming essential to providing consistent, accurate and quality engagement with customers. As the number of channels customers use to contact you increases, so does the challenge of delivering positive experiences across all touch points. Without the correct tools in place to bring information together in one location, companies will face a constant struggle to keep individual contact channels updated and consistent.

In addition to the six categories used in TechNavio’s comparison, Creative Virtual’s technology also places high significance on this knowledge management component. Instead of implementing our virtual assistants as a stand-alone solution on each channel, our award winning platform V-Portal™ allows organisations to easily access, share, and modify content in one place for all channels. Changes to the knowledgebase can be made one time and then deployed across all touch points—web, mobile, social media, call centre, IVR. This gives you the peace of mind that no matter how customers are engaging with your content, they are receiving reliable and consistent answers.

See for yourself why TechNavio awarded V-Person technology top marks by requesting a live demo.

Top US Bank Deploys Pilot of Natural Language Self-Help System in Spanish

By Tim Sanger, VP Customer Experience Solutions

We are incredibly pleased to announce that one of the top banks in the US has deployed a pilot using our V-Person™ technology for self-help, in Spanish. Providing great service is a challenge and it’s made even more so when Spanish speaking customers are forced to “self-help” in their second language. Couple that fact with the understanding that “The U.S. Hispanic population has increased six-fold, since 1970” (Pew Research – February 26, 2014) and the path forward is clear – companies who are interested in truly serving their diverse customer base, need to provide diverse and intuitive solutions.

Businesswoman Using Headset Microphone

The pilot currently provides bi-lingual support for 100 of the bank’s top FAQs and is expanding based on business needs and customer feedback. Each day, content editors are able to see what’s working well and where opportunities for improvement exist, based on in-conversation and end of conversation surveys as well as real-time customer inputs. V-Portal™ (Creative Virtual’s proprietary content management, workflow management and business intelligence tool) allows the content management team to make appropriate changes quickly which allows the system to constantly improve.

Early results of the pilot show that accuracy and satisfaction are both very high and that users are asking for expansion of the content. As such, the client and Creative Virtual will work (in tandem) to expand the knowledgebase, based on customer’s needs.

Top US Bank Goes Live with Creative Virtual Solution

By Courtney Schreier, Marketing Manager

We are incredibly pleased to announce that one of the top banks in the US has gone live using our V-Person™ technology for a self-help system.  We estimate that this is the largest installation of an intent-based natural language system in the financial services industry today.

But what’s even more exciting about this deployment is the part V-Portal™has played in it.  V-Portal is our proprietary knowledge management system that allows for advanced personalization across channels.  This is a unique feature in the marketplace today.  From the business perspective, it means that customers are delivered a unique and exceptional experience that is tailored to them and the products and services they are using with the bank.  If the customer is using multiple services with the bank, the process of disambiguation will prompt them to choose between the various options that they are currently using.  This creates an additional layer of customization.

Electronic commerce

And this means that customers are getting to the answer they need. Faster.  This is key today, for no matter how often we talk about it, it is still worth mentioning again: it’s no longer about delighting your customer.  It’s about getting them the answer they need. Quickly.  With minimal touchpoints.  Customers don’t want to be impressed by the sheer awesome politeness of a representative.  They want things to be easy so they can move on with their life.  V-Portal is the cornerstone to this ease of use for customers and companies alike.  To find out more about V-Portal and its capabilities, contact us for a demonstration here.

Providing Smart Help in a Telco Environment

By Richard Simons, CEO, Creative Virtual USA

As we look forward to 2014, it’s interesting to reflect on how the smart customer journey has evolved over the years. Today we announced that a major telecommunications provider has selected us for a program to improve their self-service website options. Now more than ever, enterprise cable, telco and ISPs are looking for ways to ensure their clients feel valued and respected.

I think the idea of “smart help” is especially imperative in a telecommunications environment, where customers want to gain access to their account, conduct the appropriate transactions and get on with their day. That is why our work with Verizon, another Creative Virtual customer in this sector, is so key. In 2008, Verizon contacted us with several initiatives, one of which was to improve self-service support on the Verizon website.

Working together, we were able to create a 24/7 smart help environment for Verizon. This approach to online service optimized both providing customers with the correct answers while also respecting their time spent accessing their account. In order to increase the ease and availability of self-service options online, Verizon has implemented several personalization options and prompts for virtual agent assistance to increase customer satisfaction online and decrease calls to the contact center.

Verizon Best Practices include:Ask Verizon

  • Personalization via only showing customers relevant products and services. Logged-in customers can ask account specific questions, such as their account balance and due date of their bill. Verizon also creates a unique experience for customers by allowing them to select an avatar from several options and remembering the user’s choice when the virtual agent is launched again.
  • Access to community tools link customer questions to interactive forums, allowing for a more engaging experience with other customers. This also allows customers that may have unique issues to first try to trouble-shoot themselves in a self-service environment.
  • Use a proactive virtual agent to assist clients once they’ve remained on a page for a set amount of time. If this indicates they are confused, the agent offers relevant help before customers become frustrated.
  • Use natural language processing to allow customers to ask the virtual agent questions in the same way they would ask a live agent. This eliminates tedious keyword searches and the need to sort through long lists of FAQs.

To learn more about Verizon’s smart help solutions, check out their Customer Success Story here.

How Intelligent Virtual Assistants Can Transform the Social Channel

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager

Intelligent virtual assistants have brought customer service a long way from the days of the switchboard operator in the 1960s. Back then who could have guessed that one day a virtual person could play the same role answering thousands of questions in what would equate to light years for a human being. And now, with social networks becoming a mainstay of communication, virtual agents are working their way into the fabric of social conversation.

When used in the social channel intelligent virtual agents can do wonders. They are valuable from both the customer and company perspective. Not only can they hold conversations using natural language that is similar to a live person, they can host thousands of conversations all at once. Human capital is expensive when maintaining the social channel so leveraging different levels of automation can help companies better focus their resources on higher value interactions with their fans and followers.

With the ability to use natural language instead of key word searches virtual assistants enable organisations to provide low cost access to both general and personalised information while empowering customers to service themselves on-demand. To see some virtual agents in action on Facebook and Twitter, check how these clients are doing it below:

Ask Lisa on Facebook

Ask TSB on Twitter

Ask Verizon on Facebook

NIBC Direct Looks to the Future with the Launch of the Virtual Assistant “Ask Sabine”

By Rob Burgers, Knowledgebase Engineer, Creative Virtual Netherlands

When NIBC Direct wanted to improve their Customer Support Service they selected an intelligent virtual agent from Creative Virtual to help them reach their goals. At the time, Creative Virtual had just recently expanded into the Dutch market and when NIBC Direct’s virtual assistant launched in December 2012, it became the first implementation of a virtual assistant for the company in a foreign language, Dutch.

NIBC logoNIBC Direct is proud of their high customer service levels and therefore the virtual assistant had to reach the goal of reducing calls to the call center, while keeping customer satisfaction levels up. To do this, and to give the virtual assistant a personal touch, she was named and modeled after the Client Contact Manager at NIBC Direct, Sabine Struijk. As a result the virtual assistant not only responds to questions about NIBC, but also has a lively personality for customers to engage with.

Ask Sabine has been live for almost a year and NIBC Direct’s customers love interacting with the virtual Sabine. She clearly understands their questions and gives them accurate answers, saving them a call. In turn, the NIBC Direct live agents are able to focus their time on dealing with tough questions and NIBC Direct has reduced customer support costs.

To learn more about NIBC Direct’s virtual assistant, download the Customer Success Story here.

The Results are In: Virtual Assistant Technology is Hot!

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager

We’ve written a lot about virtual assistants and their benefits. So have other reputable firms like Forrester and Gartner. And while everyone agrees it’s an emerging technology that warrants greater investigation, how many people are actually using it?

We wanted to get a sense of virtual assistant adoption when we fielded the 2013 Global Customer Service Outlook Survey. What we discovered is that approximately 1/3 of respondents currently use virtual assistant technology. While we’re not surprised at such a high ratio, we do believe it should be higher simply because of the benefits virtual assistants provide in delivering customer service satisfaction. We can easily point to the obvious ones like 24/7 service and automation, but when you think about virtual assistants as a multi-channel management tool, the possibilities are endless.

Virtual Assistants on the Web Channel

In the survey, we asked respondents to tell us where they currently used or planned to use virtual assistant technology. In EMEA, 70% currently use or plan to use virtual agents on their home page and in their customer service section. 40% use or plan to use in their call centre followed by live chat and on smartphones, both at 30%.

In North America, 81% planned to use virtual agents on their website in the customer service section and 67% use or planned to use virtual agents in conjunction with live chat. Another 38% use or plan to use virtual agents in the call centre as well as on their home page, and in the product sections.

Current and Planned Customer Support Channels EMEA    Current and Planned Customer Support Channels North America

Virtual Assistants on Mobile and Social Channels

However, mobile seemed to be the next popular channel with most respondents with smartphones as the key contender. When it came to social networks, 20% said they were planning or currently using Facebook and Twitter to deploy their virtual assistants. LinkedIn also came in as a contender for EMEA at 10%. In North America, Facebook was the most popular channel at 9.5% for virtual assistants (significantly lower than in EMEA) followed by Twitter at 5%. LinkedIn was not seen as a viable channel for virtual assistants in North America.

Virtual Assistant Technology Usage EMEA    Virtual Assistant Technology Usage North America

Virtual assistants are a viable tool to support a multi-channel strategy. Measuring effectiveness can be achieved by analysing call deflection and customer satisfaction rates, in addition to online sales and customer engagement. By pairing a virtual assistant with a robust knowledgebase, companies can reduce customer support costs yet provide a holistic customer experience throughout every channel.

Learn more by downloading the full results of the 2013 Global Customer Service Outlook Survey.