Is Your Customer Experience Ready for 2020?

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digital Growth Around the World

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

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

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

2019 internet users

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

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

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

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

2019 digital world

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

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

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

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

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

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

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

Simply The Best!

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Digital Workplace in 2019

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

Employee Engagement and the Digital Workplace

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Organisations are dealing with the rapid pace of digital change, both internally and externally, and the ways those changes are affecting their employees. From HR to internal IT support desks, companies are increasingly placing a focus on improving the employee experience through new digital initiatives. If you’re working to improve the employee experience in your organisation, then be sure to join us at the Digital Workplace Directors Forum on 30 January in London.

The one-day conference will feature case studies, innovative digital workplace solutions and tips for improving employee communication. Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, will draw on his experience in the industry to present on Conversational AI for Employee Engagement. He’ll outline the essential components for using conversational AI solutions to improve the employee experience, from best practices for implementing chatbots, virtual agents and live chat to using an orchestration platform for centralised, consistent information and delivery. His session will include live demonstrations of current implementations so attendees can experience first-hand how this technology can have a positive impact on the digital workplace.

The Creative Virtual team will be on hand during the Networking Breaks to provide more information on our employee-focused chatbot, virtual agent and live chat solutions and to share tips to help you build a business case for implementing these technologies in your organisation.

Visit the Digital Workplace Directors Forum website for the full agenda and ticket information. Hope to see you there!

Not able to attend the event in London but interested in learning how we can help you increase employee productivity, reduce internal support costs and improve engagement? We’d be happy to arrange a personalised demo at a time that works for you – request your demo here.

Fifteen Years & Counting: Navigating the chatbot, virtual agent and AI revolution

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

As we celebrate our fifteen year anniversary, I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts on founding and running Creative Virtual.

In those early days, we were focused on winning deals as the plan from the outset was to grow the company organically; although the objective was always to create a global company; so many companies fail or are sold before getting to that point; and it’s a testament to our amazing team, that we have become a global leader. It’s an honour to lead such a great team!

People come and go within organisations of course, and that’s healthy for both the company and the people. However, there becomes a core backbone of people that make up the fabric – the culture – of what Creative Virtual stands for: passion, innovation and quirkiness are at the heart of everything we do. And the people become the DNA and vice-versa.

There’s also ups and downs of course; growing any business isn’t linear! We’ve certainly had our bumps along the way. People often ask me how I make the tough decisions and how I relax. We all have our own ways – for me it’s a recipe of: spending time with friends and loved ones, running, watching West Ham, physics, snowboarding, photography and art.

I took up running about five years ago, and really enjoy the energy it gives me; I find that being in good shape physically makes a big difference mentally. It also allows me to contemplate and to think about things differently. I find doing completely different things – like painting, which I’m absolutely useless at! – really helps one to switch-off from business. And speaking of DNA…West Ham is in my DNA…so there’s no escape from that as any football supporter will know! It’s another great way, for 90+ minutes, to switch-off from everything else! Spending time with friends and loved ones helps me to put things into perspective – as does my love of physics! Snowboarding gives me my adrenalin rush!

I also love travelling around the world and spending time with our people, customers and partners. It’s an absolute joy working with our great people and some of the world’s leading organisations.

We have been fortunate over the years to win many awards, and it’s so delightful when our customers win awards too. Our customer, Transport for New South Wales, won an impressive three awards for their RITA chatbot during 2018! In 2017 we were honoured with The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation. I couldn’t be more proud of what our team has achieved, and it was beyond what I had dreamt for Creative Virtual. Going to the Palace and meeting the Queen, Prince Philip and other members of the Royal Family was incredible. And being a five-year award, we celebrate our fifteen year anniversary in its continuing glow.

Having been a leading company in the establishment of the virtual agent market – and developing best practices in terms how virtual agents, live chat, artificial intelligence (AI) and knowledge management work together to create world-class customer experiences – there is still much more to do as organisations transition from the centralised contact centre model to one where the customer is at the centre of the universe. Helping organisations navigate through this has as much to do with the expertise of our people as the actual technology; and with such an experienced and dedicated team I know we are on the right path to remain at the forefront of the chatbot/AI/contact centre revolution!

Being an optimist by nature, my way of keeping my feet on the ground is to keep in mind the words of the late Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Here’s to the next fifteen years and the new challenges that lie ahead!

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

As the end of 2018 and the start of a new year quickly approach, we want to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to all of our blog readers, customers and partners for being part of another exciting year!

From launching a new website to being named one of Britain’s fastest-growing technology companies to running our fourth 10k in support of the RSPCA, this was certainly a year full of new accomplishments and recognitions for us as a company. Be sure to check out more of the highlights from this year in our 2018 in Review blog post and our 2018 in Review photo album. 2019 is already shaping up to be another exciting year as we look forward to celebrating Creative Virtual’s 15th anniversary.

On behalf of the entire Creative Virtual team around the world, we wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Employee Engagement Remains a Top Priority Alongside Customer Engagement for 2019

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

Welcoming a new year often goes along with an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ mindset, but two things that are staying hot on companies’ 2019 agendas are customer engagement and employee engagement. This was glaringly obvious at the recent AI & Robotics Directors’ Forum: AI Enhancing Customer & Employee Engagement. From the delicious smoked salmon and cheese bagels served for breakfast to the final moments of the drinks reception at the end of the day, the event highlighted companies’ increased focus on improving engagement across the board.

Customer experience and engagement has been a top priority for most organisations for years, but improving employee engagement is a more recent addition to agendas. Organisations are coming to understand the benefits of providing better and easier support for employees. They are also coming to understand that many of the same digital tools, such as chatbots and virtual agents, that they are utilising to improve their customer experience can also be leveraged to improve their employee experience.

The event agenda featured presentations and panel discussions focused around practical uses of artificial intelligence (AI) in the customer and employee engagement spaces. I was joined at the event by Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, who presented a morning session titled ‘Taking Engagement to the Next Level: Conversational AI for customers & employees’. He shared some insights into the expectations of customers and employees and then took an in-depth look at how organisations can bring everything together to centrally control a consistent, convenient and efficient experience for both customers and employees.

Using a single orchestration platform enables you to deliver consistent information and support across touchpoints and allows you to more easily engage users on the devices, channels and apps they are already using in their everyday lives through chatbots, virtual agents and live chat. For conversational AI to be effective, it must use a hybrid approach of machine learning and human input. The orchestration platform you put in place must allow you to manage that combination of humans and AI so you can deliver the best experience to users and maximise on your investments.

During his session, Chris shared a few live demonstrations to illustrate industry best practices. The best way to really understand how this all comes together is to see it in action, so if you weren’t at the event I encourage you to request a demo. Our team is always happy to arrange a time that works with your schedule so you can experience the ways conversational AI can help you improve your customer and employee engagement.

Our thanks to the AI & Robotics Directors’ Forum organisers for inviting Creative Virtual to take part in your last event of the year!