Stop Trying to Improve Efficiency at the Expense of CX

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Earlier this year my niece starting reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie book series, and I’ve been rereading them along with her. It’s been fun having discussions with her about the books and hearing what part of the stories stuck out for her as most interesting or surprising about Laura’s pioneer life. It’s also made me grateful to have modern conveniences like running water and refrigeration!

Over the course of history, humans have always looked for ways to improve efficiency and productivity. Think about all the inventions you studied in school, like the printing press and cotton gin, that initiated key moments of change for industry and society. Innovation drives progress, but that progress doesn’t innately mean a better experience or quality of life for everyone.

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have meant more potential use cases for automation technologies. Businesses see this as an opportunity to improve efficiency and productivity – and it is. However, being too focused just on those goals often means they overlook the importance of the experience.

Forrester analyst, William McKeon-White writes about this as part of his research on help desk chatbots. He points out that prioritizing efficiency over experience leads to the critical element of user success being overlooked. If users don’t have a good experience with the chatbot, they won’t keep using it. And if users aren’t coming back to the tool, there’s no way for the organization to achieve positive longer-term outcomes.

It’s important to understand this as you build your business case for a conversational AI tool. As chatbot expert Rachael Needham explains in a vendor selection guide:

“Having a clear business objective will dictate much of what and how the chatbot is implemented. For example, is the objective to reduce phone calls or live chats – and how will that be tracked? Is it to improve customer satisfaction – and how will that be measured? Another key question to ask when thinking of customer experience is: are we really meeting the needs of our customers or are we just trying to make a score look better?”

Improving productivity and efficiency are worthy and important goals but shouldn’t be attempted at the expense of the user experience. Your chatbot or virtual agent should be designed to create a better experience by providing quick, easy support. Reducing phone calls or live chat sessions because you’re giving customers a better way to get help, without having to take the time and effort to engage with a contact center agent, is an efficiency improvement that’s positive for your business and your customer experience (CX).

In a recent discussion with ISG, Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, pointed out that he has seen a shift in the focus of organizations when implementing conversational AI. Five years ago, the business cases for these solutions were heavily centered around contact deflection. However, as businesses come to recognize the competitive advantage of improving CX, that focus moves to creating better experiences as the key priority.

This doesn’t mean that organizations shouldn’t have the goal of improving efficiency and productivity with conversational AI tools. Instead, they should identify those objectives as part of their strategy to improve the overall experience. Often, you’ll find they go hand-in-hand. Efficiency improvements can be a crucial means by which the experience is made better. Expert conversational AI professionals understand the best ways to balance these needs and set goals that go beyond just making a score look better to achieving real success.

For more tips on creating a conversational AI strategy and building a business case, check out these resources:

Successful Conversational AI: Blending Machine Learning & Human Intelligence, Part 3

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

In February ISG, a leading global technology research and advisory firm, published their ‘ISG Provider Lens™ Intelligent Automation – Solutions & Services’ report. Mrinal Rai, Principal Analyst at ISG, and his team evaluated 19 conversational AI vendors in the report, identifying Creative Virtual as a Leader in the highly competitive quadrant.

I joined Mrinal and Jan Erik Aase, Partner and Global Head – ISG Provider Lens, recently on a Zoom session for a discussion about conversational AI. Mrinal kicked things off by diving into the conversational AI quadrant and his research. He outlined the key factors that led to Creative Virtual emerging as a clear Leader in his evaluation.

Jan Erik and I then discussed a number of conversational AI questions that ISG see coming up with their advisors as well as their clients. In my previous posts, I’ve shared the first two parts of that conversation during which we covered current trends and developments, the changing roles of contact centre agents, barriers to achieving success, and the impact of the pandemic. You can watch Part 1 here and watch Part 2 here.

In the third, and final part of our conversation, we delved into the following question: When setting project goals, what KPIs should organisations identify and what results should they expect?

This is a really important question for organisations as they build their business case for a conversational AI solution. About five years ago, there was a big focus on contact deflection when implementing these tools. While this is still important, we find it to be less important as the focus has shifted more to improving the customer experience (CX). Organisations recognise CX as an important differentiator today in competitive marketplaces.

This same sort of thinking also applies to internal solutions, whether that be a solution deployed within the contact centre or one designed for employee support in areas such as service desk, IT support, HR support, and employee onboarding. Supporting employees is more important than ever and, with the right tools in place, presents an opportunity to improve productivity, efficiency, and job satisfaction.

Check out Part 3 of our ‘Successful Conversational AI: Blending Machine Learning & Human Intelligence’ discussion for more on KPIs and results:

 

 

A big thank you to Mrinal and Jan Erik for taking the time for this discussion, as well as to Katie Dickens and Thomas Victor at ISG for working behind the scenes on arranging and producing the recordings of our session!

If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to download a copy of the ISG Provider Lens™ – Conversational AI Quadrant Report.

If you’d like to learn more about Creative Virtual’s expert consultation and see our conversational AI technology in action, sign up here for a personalised demo session with a member of our global team.

Successful Conversational AI: Blending Machine Learning & Human Intelligence, Part 2

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

In February ISG, a leading global technology research and advisory firm, published their ‘ISG Provider Lens™ Intelligent Automation – Solutions & Services’ report. The report evaluates 19 conversational AI vendors against a set of market-driven criteria and places Creative Virtual firmly in the Leader category within the quadrant.

Recently I joined Mrinal Rai, Principal Analyst at ISG, and Jan Erik Aase, Partner and Global Head – ISG Provider Lens, for a discussion on conversational AI over Zoom. In my last post I shared Part 1 of our nearly half hour chat. During the first part of the discussion, Mrinal shared why ISG identified Creative Virtual as an industry leader in their report. Jan Erik and I also discussed current conversational AI trends as well as the evolving role of contact centre agents. You can watch Part 1 here.

In Part 2 of our discussion (scroll down to watch the video), Jan Erik and I address two more questions:

  • What are the biggest barriers organisations face when it comes to building, deploying, and maintaining successful projects?
  • What impact has the pandemic had on the implementation and usage of conversational AI tools?

One key barrier to success that we explore is not having a team with the right skills and experience. Often organisations try to tackle conversational AI projects internally with a lack of knowledge and a toolset that doesn’t enable them to scale the solution to different channels, additional departments, etc. or support enough users simultaneously as the project expands. This sets the whole project up for failure. When it comes to conversational AI, knowing what doesn’t work is just as important as knowing what does.

Jan Erik and I also touch on issues some projects face when integration points and APIs aren’t readily available or accessible. Creating a personalised, omnichannel support experience really needs the conversational AI tool to be properly integrated with other systems. The contact centre not being a part of the organisation’s digital strategy is another common barrier we encounter. This is starting to change, but until company structures are more joined up in this regard, we’ll continue to see this as a widespread challenge.

The need to have the contact centre as part of the digital strategy was highlighted over the past year by the pandemic. We saw record traffic to our virtual agents and chatbots in 2020 as customers turned to online self-service for quick answers to their questions. For many of the organisations we work with, having a well-established conversational AI solution was a lifesaver as their contact centres dealt with an overwhelming volume of calls at the same time as new public health measures designed to keep agents safe.

Having a human-in-the-loop combined with machine learning gave our customers the ability to change responses within their virtual agent quickly, safely, and securely so they could deliver reliable, up-to-date information. In fact, one of our customers found that updating their virtual agent was quicker and easier than updating content on their website. Their contact centre recognised that the virtual agent was helping to reduce call volumes and proactively provided feedback and new content to add based on incoming calls from customers.

Check out Part 2 of our ‘Successful Conversational AI: Blending Machine Learning & Human Intelligence’ discussion:

 

My next post will take a look at Part 3 of our session where we discuss setting goals and identifying KPIs for conversational AI projects. In the meantime, be sure to download your copy of the ISG Provider Lens™ – Conversational AI Quadrant Report.

Successful Conversational AI: Blending Machine Learning & Human Intelligence, Part 1

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

In February ISG, a leading global technology research and advisory firm, published their ‘ISG Provider Lens™ Intelligent Automation – Solutions & Services’ report. In the report Mrinal Rai, Principal Analyst at ISG, evaluated 19 conversational AI vendors based on a set of market-driven criteria. The result of that evaluation placed Creative Virtual as the clear Leader in conversational AI, surpassing all other vendors with our competitive strengths.

Recently Mrinal and I (virtually!) sat down with Jan Erik Aase, Partner and Global Head – ISG Provider Lens, for a discussion on conversational AI. Our conversation covered a lot of ground, including current industry trends, the impact of the pandemic, and setting conversational AI project goals. We talked about the findings of ISG’s research as well as current successful conversational AI implementations.

We have divided our nearly 30-minute-long discussion into three parts, the first of which I’m excited to share with you in this post (scroll to the bottom to watch Part 1).

Jan Erik and Mrinal start off the discussion by diving into the ISG Provider Lens™ Quadrant Report and why Creative Virtual has been identified as a Leader. Mrinal points out that when it comes to conversational AI, it’s not just about the solutions themselves but also how they blend with human intelligence. His evaluation focused on both V-Person™ (our virtual agent, chatbot, and live chat technology) and V-Portal™ (our innovative orchestration platform). The power of our technology to blend machine learning and human intelligence along with our strong presence in the market were the key factors that led to ISG positioning Creative Virtual as a Leader in the space.

I then joined the conversation to discuss with Jan Erik some questions that ISG see coming up with their advisors as well as their clients. In Part 1 of the discussion, we explore:

  • What current trends and developments in conversational AI are important when evaluating virtual agent and chatbot management platforms?
  • With conversational AI now being a key part of omnichannel support strategies, how are the roles and responsibilities of contact centre agents and customer service professionals evolving?

Check out Part 1 of our ‘Successful Conversational AI: Blending Machine Learning & Human Intelligence’ discussion:

 

 

My next post will take a look at Part 2 of our session where we explore some of the biggest barriers organisations face when it comes to building, deploying, and maintaining successful conversational AI projects. In the meantime, be sure to download your copy of the ISG Provider Lens™ – Conversational AI Quadrant Report.

Conversational AI Data and Powerful Customer Insights

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

These days it can be easy to feel like we’re in a constant state of information overload. The 24-hour news cycle combined with social media and the ability to Google anything always at our fingertips makes it difficult to escape the relentless barrage of information. This can also make it difficult to discern what information is genuinely important and worthy of our time.

The same is true when it comes to your organisation’s customer experience (CX). There is information floating around everywhere on customer behaviours, preferences, and sentiments. However, it can be a struggle to gather and identify the customer insights that are meaningful and most important for your CX strategy.

In fact, Gartner analyst Augie Ray identified ‘looking in the wrong places for customer insight’ as one of the key mistakes that kill CX programmes in their infancy. He points out that you can’t expect customer-centric results from a strategy that is not based on real customer insight and understanding. Likewise, you won’t be able to measure the impact of your programme if you aren’t gathering and analysing customer feedback, sentiment, and experiences.

Conversational AI is growing in popularity among businesses and their customers because of the positive self-service experience high-quality virtual agents and chatbots are delivering. However, organisations should never overlook the added benefits they gain by analysing the conversational data these tools can collect.

In a chatbot vendor selection guide, conversational AI expert Ridhi Mathur explains:

“In this era of data, a sophisticated virtual agent can play a very significant role for many businesses. The conversational data collected is very rich. It can be analysed and mined to understand your customers’ views, identify developing trends and make informed predictions, which can in turn contribute to areas such as product or service innovations and marketing.”

As you are developing your CX programme and selecting tools, be sure to keep this in mind. You want to implement a conversational AI solution that is not only built based on a deep understanding of your customers but will enable you to gather valuable customer data as well. You also want to ensure that you are properly analysing that data to assist with ongoing improvements to your CX and inform other areas of your business, such as product development and marketing programmes.

The customer insights that can be provided by chatbots and virtual agents are too beneficial to overlook when you are selecting a technology to implement. Consider this as you are reviewing conversational AI pricing options. Purchasing a chatbot without the right tools for data collection and reporting functionality never pays off, no matter how much money you might think you are saving. It is also key to work with a provider that has the expertise to assist you with mining and analysing the conversational data to maximise your benefit.

If you need some help cutting through the information overload when it comes to selecting a conversational AI vendor, check out the ISG Provider Lens™ Intelligent Automation – Solutions & Services. This report provides an independent, market-driven evaluation of the industry and comparison of 19 conversational AI providers.

Is Your Inexperienced Approach to Self-Service Driving Customers Away?

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

As many people around the world reflect on more than a year of pandemic-related lockdowns, restrictions, and public health measures, it’s impossible not to marvel at how we all adapted to our current reality. This has involved a lot of trial-and-error as we learned new skills and created new routines in both our personal and professional lives.

Trial-and-error is important to our individual growth and life in general. However, when it comes to areas like customer support, using a trial-and-error approach can have a devastating effect on your customer experience. And it is no secret that poor experiences can lead directly to customer churn and lost revenue.

Perhaps in the early days of limited in-person interactions and surges in calls to contact centres, customers were more understanding about long wait times or out-of-date self-help content. The attitude of ‘we’re all in this together’ extended to giving companies a little space to try some trial-and-error to get their support experience right. If that grace period did exist, it is now long over!

During the past year, more customers have turned to digital channels and automated self-service for support. Usage of virtual agents and chatbots exploded with record-breaking levels of traffic. Customers expect these conversational AI tools to be easy-to-use, convenient, accurate, and reliable. When built and maintained properly, they are all those things.

Unfortunately, not all companies tackle the implementation of conversational AI solutions with a realistic understanding of what it takes to make them successful. Instead, they take a DIY approach with limited internal knowledge and experience. This requires a lot of trial-and-error which creates poor performing tools and frustrated, unhappy customers.

As Claudio Chico, Development & Support Technician at Creative Virtual, explained in a recent conversational AI guide:

“A proper business virtual agent has many parts and building one involves knowledge in many areas. If any part is new to you or you aren’t extremely familiar with the tools you are using, you’re stuck applying the principles of ‘hoping this works’ and ‘changing stuff and seeing what happens’. When you outsource this to an experienced provider, you get a whole team of people who not only know what they are doing but have done it thousands of times. They have a deep understanding of how to use their tools and how they work, so nothing is a mystery anymore.”

Part of the underestimation of the importance experience plays in successful conversational AI projects stems from a misconception that chatbots and virtual agents are new self-service solutions that burst onto the scene several years ago. If this is new technology, then surely everyone is inexperienced and utilising a trial-and-error methodology, right? The truth is this technology has been used in areas such as website self-service for over two decades.

Even though these self-service tools may be new to your company and team, vendors like Creative Virtual have years and years of experience with delivering successful solutions. This means that forward-thinking companies – perhaps even some of your competitors – have years and years of experience with offering successful solutions. It also means that customers have used those successful solutions when engaging with other businesses and will use your chatbot or virtual agent expecting the same level of reliable and accurate self-service.

When it comes to creating positive customer experiences and getting the most from conversational AI technology, there is no substitute for having hands-on experience with building, integrating, installing, maintaining, and expanding virtual agents and chatbots. An inexperienced, trial-and-error approach doesn’t drive success. It drives your customers away.

Download the Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor: Forget the Technology & Focus on Experience whitepaper for more tips from industry experts.

Also check out the ISG Provider Lens™ Intelligent Automation – Solutions & Services report for the analyst group’s independent evaluation of the conversational AI market and vendors.

Bottom line: Work with an experienced team to deliver your company’s self-service solutions and leave the trial-and-error for finding the most flattering lighting for your next Zoom meeting or testing the best ways to trick your kids into eating their vegetables.

Selecting the Right Conversational AI Vendor Makes All the Difference

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

It’s been a tough year for every organisation and one that created a renewed, and often urgent, push for digital transformation projects. In their new ISG Provider Lens™ Intelligent Automation – Solutions and Services study, the experts at ISG found that the market for conversational AI has shown a steady growth over that time. This and other intelligent automation technologies are helping enterprises optimise costs and productivity while also enabling them to stay prepared for the future.

With conversational AI now at the forefront of many digital experience strategies, ISG evaluated 19 vendors based on the depth of their service offerings and market presence. I’m very proud that Creative Virtual is a Leader in Conversational AI, surpassing all other vendors with our company’s competitive strengths! The analysts at ISG found Creative Virtual to be a Leader based on our comprehensive solution portfolio and industry experience, emphasizing our long history of developing and delivering conversational AI solutions that provide real results.

Conversational AI

When it comes to implementing conversational AI tools to support your customers, employees, and contact centre agents, selecting the right vendor makes all the difference. This doesn’t just mean the technology; you must also consider the experience and expertise of the vendor’s team. It is the combination of these two factors that will set your project up for success.

I’ve talked before about how much the virtual agent and chatbot space has changed since I founded Creative Virtual in late 2003. What hasn’t changed over that time is Creative Virtual’s commitment to delivering the best combination of innovative technology and expert consultation and guidance to our customers. We strive to become a trusted partner to each of our customers, getting to know their organisation and specific goals in order to deliver customised solutions. We also use these close relationships to gather input for our R&D roadmap to ensure we continue to innovate in a way that will help companies tackle their real challenges and deliver real results, now and in the future. This is what allows Creative Virtual to be a conversational AI Leader today.

In our Leader profile in this ISG report, the analysts note: “Creative Virtual is a well-known and established brand for AI-enabled client support”. In fact, our very first enterprise-level customer is still a customer today, working with us continuously for over 17 years now. We also have several other organisations that we’ve been able to count as customers for at least 10 years. That level of experience and long-term collaboration is rare among vendors in today’s crowded conversational AI market, but extremely valuable.

The ISG Provider Lens™ is a great resource for anyone involved with selecting a conversational AI vendor to begin a new project or replace an existing, poor performing one. It provides:

  • An overview of the Intelligent Automation Solutions and Services market
  • Comparisons of conversational AI provider strengths, challenges, and competitive differentiators
  • Analysis of Creative Virtual’s product capabilities, industry expertise, and strategic partnerships

You can download a copy of the ISG Provider Lens™ Quadrant Report here. Our team would also love to show you our technology in action, and you can request a personalised demo here.

Congratulations to the Creative Virtual team on our recognition as a conversational AI Leader in this independent ISG report!

Combining Chatbots and Voice for Omnichannel Experiences

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

Last week Creative Virtual joined our partner Spitch as co-sponsors of The European Chatbot & Conversational AI Summit. The event was 100% virtual this year and featured two afternoons of various presentations, workshops, and panel debates. While being virtual is never quite the same as talking with someone face-to-face, it was great to see so many thought-provoking exchanges on the Discussion board and interesting questions asked by attendees during the sessions.

I teamed up with Gary Williams from Spitch to present on Day 1 of the Summit. Our session, The Omnichannel Solution: Chatbots + Voice, explored combining natural language chatbots with speech recognition capabilities to create powerful voicebot solutions. We shared some industry research from ContactBabel that showed 85% of CX professionals identified creating omnichannel/connected journeys as very or somewhat important to their strategies in the next two years (download the full report here). It’s no secret that customers want and expect an omnichannel support experience.

The tight integration of chatbots and voice creates a seamless journey as users switch between channels to help you deliver that connected experience. Gary and I shared two example voicebot use cases, one for customer support and one for employee support, that showed how the user could start a process on one channel and complete it on another in a smooth, seamless way.

For those interested in getting started with their own voicebot project, we ended our session with three important tips:

  1. Work with experienced vendors – Today’s market is crowded with new start-ups and inexperienced providers. You want to work with vendors that already have proven experience with both deploying and maintaining these solutions in your industry or sector. By partnering with experts, you immediately benefit from their experience. They can help you avoid common pitfalls, guide you on best practices, and ensure compliance with industry requirements and regulations.
  2. Select reliable technologies – This is why Creative Virtual and Spitch have partnered on voicebot solutions. We both bring years of expertise and documented results for each of our respective technologies. Be cautious about vendors that have attempted to tack on their own poorly developed chatbot or voice technologies to their main solution just so they can shout ‘Me too!’ You want technologies that are secure, can scale to current and future requirements, offer the hosting options you need, and will give you reliable results.
  3. Understand the integration options – When it comes to integrations, you need to first make sure there is a deep, seamless integration of the chatbot and speech technology to have a successful voicebot. Then consider what other integrations you are going to need to create a personalised user experience. You want a solution that can easily integrate with any existing content sources, backend systems, CRMs, other communication channels, etc. so that you can create a custom experience and connected journey.

If you’re interested in learning more about voicebots, schedule a demo to see these solutions in action and discuss possible use cases. You can also read more about the Creative Virtual and Spitch collaboration in our integration overview.

Thanks to Gary and Spitch for their event partnership and to The European Chatbot & Conversational AI Summit organisers and attendees for two days of great virtual content!

How Much Does it Cost to Make a Chatbot that Actually Works?

By Paulo Barrett, Chief Operating Officer

Ask any seller of a highly complex and customizable chatbot or virtual agent system about cost and you’re likely to get an evasive answer. ‘There’s no one-size fits all.’ ‘I’d need to talk to you on the phone to give you an accurate quote.’ Increasingly, in this ever-saturating market, it’s easy to find elements of chatbot pricing (i.e., API request fees) or flat monthly subscription costs for low-end systems, but who is giving the educated bot buyer a clear, top to bottom view of what it costs to build a system that will really work?

By ‘really work,’ I mean one that will materially contribute to cost savings, improve customer satisfaction, and maybe even generate new revenue. In other words, how much is it realistically going to cost to build a bot your customers will actually want to use.

The truth is, building a successful chatbot is not purely a question of technology. Whether you are buying a platform to BYOB, getting something cheap and cheerful off the shelf, or looking for a bot consultancy to support your internal efforts, your work is really just beginning once you have the system configured and deployed. The ongoing work to improve the chatbot’s performance and to get the best out of self-service in your unique deployment is what makes the difference.

It can be difficult to predict exactly what actions your customers will want to take in the beginning. That means being able to take an informational system and swiftly evolve it as desired customer outcomes become clear is key for success. This is enhanced by using great technology, of course, but ultimately, you need the right experts (internal or external) to separate your deployment from the crowd of others (often failures) which are flooding the support world.

Think of it like buying an instrument. No matter how expensive or special it is, either you learn to play it, or you get someone else to play it for you (alternatively, it ends up gathering dust and doing absolutely nothing for anyone). One way or another, this expert training costs time and money. You have to weigh this investment against the return.

Now to the million-dollar question … pun intended. What will a chatbot that your customers actually want to use cost for a large enterprise? While it’s true that most deployments are unique to every client and require some customization, there are some standard pricing building blocks you can expect to see.

The first cost to nail down is the pilot fee. How much am I gonna spend to test this thing out and see if it works for me? The financial risk associated with a pilot should be shared by the customer and the vendor and typically runs around $50,000 (USD). While the client assumes some risk via the initial cost, you should expect this to be credited against the cost of the full production-level deployment if you choose to move forward. This fee will cover all hosting, software deployment, content development, technical consultancy, and transactional fees for the agreed period. Typical pilots run 30-60 days from go live to give you enough time to see material results and make a decision about the ongoing plan.

Once you convert from pilot to full system (we pride ourselves on a +90% conversion rate!), you have some choices to make about how you pay for the tools and ongoing consultancy. Some customers wish to be purely pay-for-performance. Often, they go with a tiered model based on volume with session costs starting at a dollar (i.e., a single interaction with a user, with unlimited question/integration calls in that session). This per session cost may fall based on meeting certain volume thresholds. With any variable pricing model there are pros and risks for both the customer and the vendor.

If you prefer not to have a variable rate in your forecasting, you can purchase a more traditional software/services package. A standard production system should include integration with a live chat platform as well as your CRM. This will ensure your customers get personalized answers to their questions and are able to complete transactions with the bot online, rather than just receiving flat, informational content. The cost to provide the software and ongoing consultancy, along with an adequate knowledgebase of 100-200 solutions, will generally cost somewhere between $150,000 and $250,000 (USD) per annum, depending on the number of sessions.

While this may seem like quite the investment, you have to ask yourself: What is the cost of deploying a support tool that my customers don’t want to use and delivers a negative, frustrating experience?

Ready to learn more? Our team is always on hand to arrange a personalized demo with you and answer any questions you may have about getting started with your pilot.

Delivering Innovation that Enables Successful Self-Service

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Innovation is essential for companies to stay relevant, be competitive and achieve long-term growth. History is littered with brands that resisted change and failed to keep up with new trends and preferences in the marketplace – like Blockbuster – which ultimately resulted in their demise. However, simply being innovative is not enough to ensure success.

What is too often missing from the emphasis on being innovative is the necessity for that innovation to be applicable to the real life needs and challenges of your company and customers. Having innovation at the heart of our company culture at Creative Virtual has served the company well, but only because we innovate with the objective of delivering products and services that genuinely help our customers meet their goals in increasingly better ways.

Today we announced Creative Virtual’s latest award win: ‘Most Innovative Conversational Self-Service Solutions, 2020’ in Corporate Vision Magazine’s Corporate Excellence Awards. As a company we are proud to receive this recognition for innovation. We are even prouder to know that our dedication to innovation is enabling us to provide both the conversational AI technologies and the expert consultation and managed services needed to create quality self-service experiences.

Conversational self-service tools have progressively become more mainstream in the nearly two decades of Creative Virtual’s history. The COVID-19 pandemic thrust them into the spotlight even more in 2020 as companies scrambled to automate online customer service, better support a remote workforce, and relieve growing pressure on contact centres. Organisations already using V-Person™ solutions from Creative Virtual had a distinct advantage in meeting the challenges of customer support during the pandemic.

Many customer experience (CX) predictions for 2021 foresee conversational self-service becoming more integral to customer support strategies. Shep Hyken, a customer service and experience expert, included chatbots in his Top 10 Business Predictions for this year:

“Chatbots will do more than just communicate with customers. Most companies use chatbots as a way to manage customer support. Chatbots will continue to do that, and get better at it, but they will also help decide what happens next. The initial interaction is the starting point for automating processes or escalating the issue to a human.”

Creative Virtual’s chatbots and virtual agents are already doing that, which is one of the reasons why we were named most innovative by the award judges. In 2020, we introduced the Neutrino release of V-Person (our conversational virtual agent and chatbot technology) which brings together humans and AI with powerful integration options and easy-to-manage workflows. With V-Portal™ (our virtual agent, chatbot and live chat management platform), organisations can create personalised conversations, identify next-best-actions, and escalate from virtual to human support in a seamless way.

Being innovative in this area requires more than just having cool technology, though. It also demands having the experience and expertise to implement that technology in innovative ways to create positive, reliable self-service engagement. This was hugely important in 2020 – and another reason Creative Virtual received this recognition – when businesses, customers, employees, and contact centres were facing new challenges and rapidly changing circumstances. Our team rose to this task, finding ways to help our customers achieve success. In the words of one of our customer contacts from a major financial services group:

“The service from Laura and Andi has been great since we launched our virtual assistants. They have been on hand to support with any question I have and support I’ve needed. During the tough times of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have had to make multiple changes quickly and they have made this process simple.”

Congratulations to the whole Creative Virtual team on this recognition as ‘Most Innovative Conversational Self-Service Solutions, 2020’ and your ongoing dedication to developing and delivering successful self-service!

You can read our official award announcement here and request a personalised demo of our self-service solutions here.

Our thanks to the Corporate Excellence Awards judges for recognising our commitment to innovation and growth throughout 2020!