Customer Service for the New Millennium

By Christian Evans, Junior KB Developer (Americas)

No matter where you look, you can’t avoid the buzz about the seemingly alien Millennials. This is the group of people born somewhere between the early 1980’s and the early 2000’s, coming after the Gen X and the Baby Boomers who just can’t seem to understand them. What makes them so different from their predecessors is a strikingly different world view, and it’s something worth paying attention to as they outnumber the Baby Boomers by nearly 8 million people.

What does this mean for the customer service industry? It means that expectations are changing and companies would do well to try and keep up. So what do these Millennials expect?

Taking Charge

Growing up in a world that taught them to rely primarily on themselves, members of the Millennial generation prefer finding their own answers rather than relying on a live person. In addition, growing up in a world with instant access to nearly any information they want has tailored their expectations, and they feel as though they have no time to waste on talking to someone when they could be finding the answer for themselves. In fact, according to a report entitled The Real Self Service Economy, via Entrepreneur, “40% of approximately 3,000 consumers in a global survey said they prefer self-service to human contact for their future contact with companies; 70% expect a company website to include a self-service application.” And if that wasn’t enough, HBR reports that “57% of inbound calls come from customers who first attempted to resolve their issue on the company’s website. And over 30% of callers are on the company’s website at the same time that they are talking to a rep on the phone.” It’s for this reason that companies need to have a thorough and easy to use web self-service platform.

Speaking the Language

Something that Millennials also don’t have the time for is unpacking complicated jargon and ineffective pre-recorded FAQs. They look for answers and help in the language that they themselves use and it’s important for companies to provide that to them. Jay Coldren of Marriott says, “The Millennials want to converse in their own language, according to their own rules. They speak in tweets, texts and Facebook posts. If you want to reach them, you have to speak in their native tongue. And you have to be completely authentic.” (via Forbes). Your customer service has to be able to adapt to the language that they use and be able to understand it completely so that the customer service experience fits the bill. This also means that you have to be willing to meet customers where they’re coming to you for help including, but not limited to, the phone, live chat on your own website, mobile applications for your company, forums on third party sites and, of course, social media.

Staying on Top

Offering the kind of customer service that Millennials look for also requires a company to perform maintenance on their service in order to keep themselves up to date and adapt to trends. That’s why it’s incredibly important to keep track of the number and kinds of conversations customers are having with your customer service team. For instance, a big part of what Millennials crave is ‘social care.’ In a study by Joe Gagnon and Jason Dorsey, they say that “This new generation will not tolerate waiting in lines, repeating their problem to five different people or being treated like a number. Companies that do not adapt risk obsolescence as Millennials become an economic powerhouse.” But it’s not just that they want to feel like they’re being treated like a person–they want to see that your company is comprised of people too. Millennials care about the values of your company when it comes to a wide variety of social, political and environmental issues and are more likely to feel positively about your company if your values align with their own. Customer service interactions are a great opportunity to show this caring and forward thinking and companies who pay attention will be successful in the end.

Putting it Together

Companies must appeal to a Millennial audience in the customer service channel in order to drive sales and increase loyalty. To do so, start developing strategies to drive interactions that empower customers to do more on their own, speaking their language by connecting them through the tools, devices and apps they like to use, and adjusting your customer support philosophies to satisfy their desires. But don’t forget to make it personal. Personalized interactions make a huge difference in building positive connections with your brand. And while it may seem like a lot to compute, the technology has adopted to help meet this demand. Smart technology like intelligent virtual agents, smart kiosks and IVRs can help you adapt to the new omnichannel customer service environment with ease. All you have to do is start listening to your Millennial customers.

Merry Christmas to You!

With Christmas quickly approaching and the start of 2016 just around the corner, we wanted to take a moment to say thank you for making 2015 such a wonderful year!

From being named a Cool Vendor by Gartner to the release of our ‘2015 Global Customer Support Outlook Survey’ results to the numerous awards won by our customers for their V-Person™ solutions, it’s been a busy and productive year. We appreciate the role each of our customers, partners and blog readers has played in making this a successful year for Creative Virtual and the virtual assistant industry.

On behalf of the entire Creative Virtual team around the globe, we wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We’re One of the 20 Most Promising CEM Solution Providers of 2015

CEM Logo

By Karen McFarlane, VP of Marketing (Americas)

Creative Virtual is proud to be named one of the most 20 promising customer experience management solution providers by CIOReview. CIOReview identifies “The Best” in a variety of areas important to tech business. Through nominations and consultations with industry leaders, their editors choose the best in in different areas in the tech industry. The CEM Special Edition is an annual listing of 20 Most Promising CEM Solution Providers in the U.S.

We made it to CIOReview’s top CEM Solution Providers list for our expertise in providing robust technologies in the space of knowledge management, natural language processing, and intelligent virtual assistants. Jeevan George, Managing Editor, CIOReview, said “Creative Virtual USA has been on our radar for some time for stirring a revolution in the CEM space, and we are happy to showcase them this year due to their continuing excellence in delivering top-notch CEM solutions.”

We built our self-service platform on the premise that brands want to deliver customer value and foster deeper connections. Our V-Person™ technology provides a holistic system for collecting, analyzing and delivering personalized information to customers on virtually any channel or device. To meet customer demand, most brands are trying to retro-fit their businesses into a self-service model. Our solution leverages your existing tools and software to create a robust customer support experience that customers love.

We’d like to thank CIOReview for their recognition of our hard work as well as our clients whose feedback helps us continually improve our platform. As Creative Virtual USA’s CEO, Richard Simons, CEO says, “Every time we deploy a new system, we learn how to make it better. We in turn help customers solve their challenges which in turn fuels our growth.”

Read more about Creative Virtual’s proven self-service platform in this CIOReview article. If you’d like to see a demo, please feel free to contact us.

InterContinental Hotels Group Speaks at our Executive Roundtable and Luncheon

By Karen McFarlane, VP of Marketing (Americas)

We’re heading to the ATL! Creative Virtual will be hosting a customer experience roundtable and luncheon featuring InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). Our special guest speaker is Marissa Pippen, Digital & Voice Product Manager at IHG. Marissa will tell you how IHG creates “Hospitable Technology” that customers love, discuss her challenges and walk you through her methodology for developing a successful omnichannel support model for her company.

So what’s hospitable tech? It’s a digital strategy that enables, empowers and engages customers with authentic and repeatable wins for both the business and the customer experience. If you’re struggling with how to bridge self-service technology with human-assisted customer service, IHG serves as the perfect case study on how enterprises in any industry can create an awesome omnichannel customer experience.

The event will take place on Thursday, December 3rd from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM at Parish Brassiere & Café in Atlanta, Georgia. After Marissa’s presentation, guests are invited to join us for a complimentary lunch. This is also great opportunity to network with industry leaders, share best practices and discuss rapidly changing market conditions and industry trends.

The event is free to attend and knowing that parking is at a premium in Atlanta, we’re providing free valet parking at Parish.

We’d love to have you join us. To reserve your place, register today.

Creative Virtual Takes Extra Life Charity Marathon By Storm

By Eileen Stall, Jr. KB Developer, Creative Virtual USA

This year the Creative Virtual USA office took part in the 24-hour gaming marathon, Extra Life. Since 2008, Extra Life has raised over $14 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. This particular network of children’s hospitals is particularly special because they provide high level care to children regardless of their parents’ ability to pay for their treatment. In order to relieve the financial burden of these already struggling families, CMN Hospitals rely heavily on charitable donations to keep their doors open. To directly support the efforts of CMN Hospitals, Extra Life was created to allow gamers to give back to their local CMN Hospital. Each team member selects their own hospital and 100% of the funds they raise are donated directly to their institution of choice. Extra Life has grown exponentially over the past seven years, and this year they managed to raise over $6.3 million at the end of Game Day alone.
Extra Life Werewolves 1

On Saturday, November 7th at 8am, the Creative Virtual USA team, captained by Chelsie Strode, began their marathon with a goal of $2,500 and an army of enthusiastic gamers. The office soon filled with personal computers, various consoles, a poker table, and a whole slew of board & card games. Various games were streamed to a Creative Virtual USA Twitch Channel spearheaded by Josh Puno and supported by the efforts of Moshe Villaizan. Multiple events were broadcasted simultaneously to viewers including some of the team’s generous donors. Throughout the day, the office’s remote team members were able to cheer on their co-workers as the group powered through their original goal. Donations both large and small continued to come in throughout Game Day thanks to the fundraising efforts of all the team’s stellar players.

Some of the day’s most popular events included the suspicion-filled roleplaying game, Werewolves of Millers Hollow, and the fast-paced rhythm game, Rock Band. Team members from the Creative Virtual office partook in all sorts of games for hardcore and casual players alike including but not limited to: a Magic the Gathering draft, UNO, a self-constructed miniature golf course, team League of Legends, and Mortal Kombat. Highlights from some of the day’s events can be found over on the Creative Virtual Twitch Channel.

On Game Day, Creative Virtual USA matched the $2,000 that the games had already raised and sky-rocketed the team to the top 3% of participating groups. By the end of the event, players from the Creative Virtual team had played games both solo and together for a fantastic cause and ended the 24-hour run having broken their original goal of $2,500 and rolled right on through $4,000 to reach a final tally of $4,111. As of the end of the marathon on Sunday, November 8th, the Creative Virtual USA team was ranked at 160 for funds raised out of over 6100 teams. A fantastic first year for an event we hope to be a recurring one!

There’s still time to donate. Visit our team page, select a player from the roster, and donate to their personal page. You have until December 31, 2015 so please donate today.

A Blog Post Roundup in Celebration of Customer Service Week

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Today marks the beginning of Customer Service Week 2015, a week-long celebration aimed at raising awareness of customer service and the vital role it plays in successful business practice and the growth of the economy. We’ve written many times on this blog about the importance of getting your customer service right as part of your overall customer experience strategy. In honour of Customer Service Week, let’s take a look back at some of the tips, trends and statistics we’ve shared in our previous posts. In no particular order, here’s our roundup:

  • 2015 Customer Service Trend: Effortless Self-Service – A survey by Forrester identified web self-service as the most widely used communication channel for customer service. But with the growing number of mobile internet users around the world, effortless self-service across all devices and channels is a top trend to watch this year.
  • Offering Mobile and Social Support for Increased Customer Engagement – As our lifestyles change as consumers, so do our preferred channels for communicating with companies. Here are three steps for organisations looking to offer mobile and social service that’s in line with the lifestyles of today’s busy, on-the-go customers.
  • Growth Through Customer Service – There’s no substitute for providing high quality customer service, and this post explores how delivering consistent, accurate and positive service experiences has a direct impact on the growth of your company. (As a side note, based on this tweet, it sounds like the truck with the great company strapline quoted in this post belongs to Fastenal.)
  • Motability Operations’ Approach to Knowledge Management Recognised with Innovation Award – Building customers’ trust and confidence in your customer service agents is key for the success of your contact centre. This case study shares how Motability Operations is achieving top-ranking customer and employee satisfaction scores.
  • This Way for Self-Service – Many organisations are striving to increase customer self-service, and virtual agents are a great way to enable customers to find the answers and information they seek. This post outlines four tips to help increase self-service engagement with an online virtual agent.

Our hats go off to everyone involved with providing great customer service and inspiring happy customers, including those involved with developing and maintaining self-service solutions! This week we celebrate the hard work you do all year long. Providing outstanding customer service is full of challenges (as confirmed by the results of our 2015 Global Customer Support Outlook Survey), but without it no organisation can survive in today’s competitive marketplace. Happy Customer Service Week!

Creative Virtual Designated a “Cool Vendor” in Gartner’s 2015 Smart Machines Report

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

On 10 April 2015 Gartner released their Cool Vendors in Smart Machines, 2015 report from analysts Tom Austin, Kenneth F. Brant, Magnus Revang, Earl Perkins and Brian Manusama. In the report, Gartner takes a look at the present and future of smart machine technologies and explores five Cool Vendors in the space, including Creative Virtual.

The vendors selected for the ‘Cool Vendor’ report are described by Gartner as “innovative, impactful and intriguing”, and it is an honour for us at Creative Virtual to be included. We feel this is an important milestone for our company and our technology, as well as a tribute to our dedicated team, customers and partners around the globe.

One of the key findings of the report positions:

“Smart-machine technologies will significantly impact virtually every industry sector over the next five years as systems acquire the ability to observe their environment, train themselves and learn from their mistakes, converse with people and each other, pervade the human environment, deliver novel services 24/7, enhance human cognitive capabilities, replace workers involved in routine tasks, and define the envelope for new digital business processes.”

Based on my experience and professional insight into this area, I agree with this finding and am excited for the future of smart-machine technologies. Creative Virtual has been active as a company in the virtual customer assistant (VCA) space for over eleven years, and during that time we’ve experience tremendous innovation and evolution in regards to both our own customer experience solutions and the industry in general. It’s an honour to be designated as a ‘Cool Vendor’ in a space that is poised to make such an important impact on new digital business processes, including customer support and engagement, over the next few years.

Gartner’s Cool Vendors in Smart Machines, 2015 includes several other key findings, recommendations and predictions as well as an analysis of each of the five ‘Cool Vendors’.

 

Disclaimer:

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in our research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Virtual Agents: Looking at the Development of Self-Service Support

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Over the years the way in which customers and businesses communicate has dramatically changed, bringing new dynamics and expectations to those relationships. Along with the increasing number of engagement channels, has also come a change in organisations’ requirements for customer support software. In Developments in Customer Service Software, 1990s to 2015, Software Advice, takes a look at the developments in market trends and shares five key findings applicable to small and midsize businesses (SMBs) when looking for customer service software.

One key trend in the evolution of customer support is the development of customer self-service from basic FAQ pages in the 1990s to sophisticated solutions, such as virtual agents, being used today. According to a key finding of the report, “Self-service support channels have grown in popularity: they are now preferred by many customers, and help businesses save money by replacing more costly channels, such as phone support.”

Craig Borowski, a market researcher for Software Advice and author of the report, provided some additional thoughts on self-service:

“Self-service is a customer service channel that both companies and their customers appreciate. Companies save on the cost of providing live human support and, at the same time, customers actually prefer self-service to other channels. While customers prefer it, and will be more loyal to companies that offer it, this is only true if they can find the information they need quickly and easily. That last part is the challenge. Given the massive amounts of information that self-service channels make available, the biggest challenge is getting the correct article, FAQ or troubleshooting guide to the right customer right when he or she needs it.

Virtual agents play a unique and valuable role in helping self-service customers find exactly what they need. In many cases they’ve already demonstrated great value in improving self-service customer interactions, and, overall they’re due some credit for the success and growth of self-service. It’s very likely that virtual agents will play an increasingly important role in the future. According to a Gartner study, in 2014, “nearly 60 percent of customer service interactions required the intervention of a human support agent.” And they expect that figure to be cut in half over the next two years. Self-service, with the help of virtual agents, will make this change possible, saving companies on the cost of providing support and saving their customers’ time and patience finding it.”

As a self-service solution, virtual agents have become much more sophisticated over the years and now enable organisations to extend the self-service their customers have come to know and expect on their website to other channels, including social media, mobile and kiosks. This technology is also being successfully utilised within contact centres to support live agents, increase first contact resolution and decrease average handling times. When backed by the correct knowledge management platform,content for all channels can be easily managed, updated and approved in one place to keep the knowledgebase accurate, complete and up-to-date.

My thanks to Craig and the Software Advice team for providing the additional commentary on virtual agents. If you’d like to learn more about virtual agent technology and how these solutions can help your organisation provide 24/7 self-service support to customers, please request a live demo.

Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Effortless Experience Paradigm: How is it Relevant to Virtual Agents?

By Courtney Schreier, Marketing Manager, Americas

Making customer experience effortless has become a mantra since the 2013 publishing of the The Effortless Experience. And it seems that this concept is not one likely to go away soon – nor should it. The idea of first interaction resolution and easy self-service versus over-and-above personal interactions with super-friendly reps can be seen as a plus by many. With most consumers being pressed for time, a fast solution that delivers results will win every time.

Creative Virtual has created an infographic on four ways that you can make the customer experience effortless for your clients. Click here to view the infographic. Virtual agents are a great way to enhance the self-service aspect of effortless interactions and can be deployed in any channel where your customers are interacting with your brand. They can provide personalized, contextual help based on the products and services your customers are already using, or have expressed an interest in. Virtual agents can also provide an easy escalation to a live service representative if the query is too complex to be answered quickly. All of these features help to increase rates of first interaction resolution, a key cornerstone to making an experience effortless. Finally, Voice-of-the-Customer reporting delivered in real-time can have a great impact in ultimate customer satisfaction rates. Our reporting tools allow organizations to see and respond to issues as customer concerns come in via the virtual agent.

Download the full infographic here to learn more.

Would You Text with a Virtual Agent?

By Courtney Schreier, Marketing Manager, Americas

Last week I was riding the subway. To avoid making eye contact with my fellow passengers, my gaze wandered to the various ads papering the car. To my surprise, I saw an ad offering patients a service that would allow them to text a therapist at any time. My mind turned this over. Is this type of service really that radical a notion? I don’t think it is. When I think of my preferences in communication, paired with my busy schedule, I find an increasing number of my interactions with people are via text. I would definitely like to see more businesses engaging with customers through SMS and I’m certainly not alone in that sentiment.

In a recent research study, Harris Poll (on behalf of OneReach) reported that amongst consumers that text, 64 percent preferred to contact customer services via SMS, as opposed to a phone call. This loops back to what we already know about customers craving an effortless experience. People don’t have the time to wait around for a response from customer services. They want a fast response and to experience first contact resolution, in real time.

Creative Virtual’s V-Person™ solution can respond to customers via text, providing helpful advice to a variety of sales, service and operation queries. Offering the SMS platform as a way customers can engage with your business allows your brand to really be everywhere your customers are at any time.

Customers want all communications from your company to be similar in nature. With so many various touch points for customer engagement, this is becoming increasingly critical. Allowing customers to text with a virtual agent in real time can allow for consistent, contextual and correct information to be given right at the moment the customer needs it. It also allows for an easy jump to an escalation with a live chat agent should the matter in question be more complex in nature.

The addition of a virtual agent that can text with customers is something any progressive company should consider adding to complement their omnichannel experience. Please click here to read the full press release on the SMS platform.