Innovation Showcase: Preparing Your Contact Centre for the Future with AI and Chatbots

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

The contact centre is integral to the customer support and engagement strategies of many organisations, but its role has been changing recently as a growing number of customers seek out digital and self-service options. While chatbots and virtual agents have gotten a reputation as being threats to the contact centre, the reality is that they can have a positive effect on the contact centre and a company’s overall customer experience.

Learn more on Thursday, 7th September at 4:00 pm UK time/ 11:00 am ET as Creative Virtual takes part in CRMXchange’s Technology Innovation Showcase webcast series for a fifth consecutive year. This year’s live webinar, presented by Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, will take a realistic look at artificial intelligence (AI), virtual agents and chatbots in the customer experience space. Chris will also share a series of live demos showcasing how forward-thinking organisations are already using this technology to improve the customer experience, increase sales, build brand loyalty and reduce support costs. Attendees will get an inside look at:

  • The impact chatbots and virtual agents can have on the contact centre, including lower costs, reduced staff turnover and more engaged, skilled and happier agents
  • Why chatbots should use a combination of self-learning and human input to create consistent and reliable support experiences
  • How humans and machines can work in harmony to provide perfect customer service
  • Leveraging AI and chatbots to prepare your contact centre for the future

Register now for ‘Chatbots, Virtual Agents and Your Contact Centre’ for an inside look at how to incorporate chatbots and virtual agents into your customer support strategy and help your contact centre meet the expectations of digital customers. A recording of the Technology Innovation Showcase will be provided for registrations unable to attend the live webinar.

Together We Can Deliver Iconic Customer Experiences

By Patrick Gallagher, Managing Director ANZ & North Asia

Over the years, companies have invested millions in their contact centres to provide support to customers calling to purchase, enquire, complain, apply or seek assistance. Traditionally this has been the ‘tried-and-tested’ option as companies continued to invest in their contact centre in order to build their customer support capability. But as customers have moved to digital channels, this approach is no longer enabling organisations to meet their customers’ expectations.

G-Summit Melbourne, Genesys’ customer experience event taking place 7 – 8 August 2017, will address this change with their event theme of ‘Together – Together, we can deliver iconic customer experiences by powering digital business with a human touch’. Creative Virtual is looking forward to taking part as a Genesys AppFoundry partner and event sponsor.

Today’s customers want effortless interactions with organisations. Research shows that they are increasingly leveraging self-service and digital channels for customer service for this reason. However, at first we were seeing the change to self-service happening separately from the contact centre, particularly in Asia Pacific, which was creating new challenges for companies and not delivering the seamless omnichannel service customers were expecting. The change to self-service needs to happen in conjunction with an evolution of the contact centre and an internal shift in attitudes toward joined-up customer engagement across traditional and digital channels.

It’s key for organisations to recognise that it’s more than just support today’s online customers want – they want an effortless experience. This means companies need to embrace the digital channels and build smart help online, not force customers to use a traditional search tool that returns pages and pages of results. Customers also want a seamless experience and the option to escalate from self-service to human-assisted service if they want or need further support.

I’ll be on hand in the Partner Pavilion at G-Summit Melbourne to showcase Creative Virtual’s V-Person intelligent virtual agent and chatbot solutions. This technology enables organisations to provide customers with smart online help and is designed to be integrated with the Genesys platform to provide a seamless experience. With properly integrated virtual agents, customers benefit from 24/7 access to consistent, accurate and personalised information and a convenient, seamless customer experience. Contact centres benefit from lower costs, reduced staff turnover and more engaged, skilled and happier agents.

I hope to see you in Melbourne for a great day of CX discussions, networking and demonstrations! Can’t attend G-Summit Melbourne but want to learn more? We’d be happy to arrange a personalised demo at a time that works for you.

An Invitation for Two to Buckingham Palace

By Peter Behrend, CTO

In the highly-charged, fast-moving blur of life in bustling Canary Wharf, some blips on life’s radar may reasonably be expected to escape immediate attention. So I offer no apology for my immediate reaction when told that we have been awarded the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017; Meah – another well-merited award pulled wearily from a thickly pregnant envelope; another trophy for the sagging shelves of the new Technology Suite, jostling for primacy against the Stevies, the TIAs, the IBAs, and the dazzling crystal of The Wharf Innovation in Business Award.

This treasonable apathy lasted for a couple of days until the truth began to dawn and the reality of an award from Her Majesty came into focus. This was not just recognition; this was Royal Recognition, postage stamp recognition, coin of the realm recognition, twenty pound note recognition. More importantly (in that moment), it was an invitation for two to Buckingham Palace.

After a brief shared frisson of pleasure, bolstered by collegiate congratulation and back-slapping, internecine warfare rapidly erupted. Proudly bearing the standard of employee enrolment number 3 (after Founder & CEO Chris Ezekiel and someone else) history was on my side, and as the Head of Innovations (that ‘someone else’) sits on the other side of the world (and below me on the Org Chart), victory was finally mine. I humbly accepted the invitation to represent the Creative Virtual team alongside Chris and set about preparing myself as best as one can to be received at the Palace by the Queen.

Chris Ezekiel & the QueenOn the evening itself, after weeks of hot, dry anger, the skies at last cried out their envy. It fairly threw it down. No clouds or rain could dampen the atmosphere of that night, however. Our barometers ran high, and with good reason. A party comprising 300 people all got up regardless, enjoying the time of their lives, and fully immersed in one common and incoherently ebullient mood is hardly likely to fail.

Throw in a few professional mixers in the form of improbably knowledgeable crown estate employees, and the brew quickly becomes heady.

Liberally diluted with Champagne, the atmosphere maintained a steady level of intoxication until finally, stiffened with a heavily fortified syrup of royalty, the company distilled into an evening of unalloyed conviviality, hushed awe, relaxed conversation, and catching of breath.

In short, this was a glorious night which will live long in the memory, not least for offering the sight of our very own East End boy enjoying the rich rewards of having nurtured a fledgling company into a soar away success. And I had the honour of being there.
Peter Behrend at Buckingham PalaceThe Queen's Awards for Enterprise: Innovation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The British 10k and Pie in the Face for the RSPCA

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

We did it! Our five-member team from Creative Virtual – Rachel, Tracey, Alex, Kristina and myself – completed the British 10k on Sunday, 9th July 2017. We raised over £1,000 for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). It was an incredible feeling afterwards, but I must say, it was the toughest 10k race I’ve ever done. At 9:30am when the race started the sun was shining bright and it was very hot! The water and shower stations around the course were very much welcomed!

At least the weather was good for the spectators! It was a good fun day, with music and cheering. I love this particular run as it covers some great London landmarks – and it’s so nice seeing them with no traffic (well, it’s hard to take a lot in when you’re running and panting! – but it’s still nice).

And it was nice to soak up the sunshine afterwards as we strolled around London proudly wearing our medals.

The British 10k

To assist with the fundraising efforts, Rachel, Liam and myself foolishly agreed to be on the receiving end of a sponsored pie throwing event at our UK summer party. They say I cheated, but I reckon I just have better reflexes! 🙂

A big thanks to everyone who helped us exceed our fundraising target.

You can still sponsor us by donating through our 10K JustGiving page or by sending a text if you are in the UK to 70070: CVCV50 and an amount of £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10.

Thanks for all of your support – Go Team Animal!

Fundraising for RSPCA

Creating the Best Conversations with Digital Customers

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many company executives looking for ways to improve their customer service and support. As more and more emphasis has been placed on the customer experience as a competitive differentiator, it’s become increasingly important to organisations to provide quick and easy support options for digital customers. Companies are looking for the best way to manage customer engagement and create positive experiences.

I’m proud to say that Creative Virtual’s technology has once again been recognised as the being the best in these areas. We’ve been named ‘Best for Self-Service Customer Experience Management Solutions 2017’ and ‘Best Natural Language & Knowledge Management Technology: V-Person Mobile™’ by the 2017 UK Enterprise Awards!

There’s no denying that we’re living in a mobile-first world with digital customers who prefer quick, easy self-service options. It’s become essential for companies to provide seamless and effortless support to customers on their preferred devices, or risk losing customers to competitors that do. With Creative Virtual’s V-Person virtual agents, organisations can engage customers in natural language conversations and provide the digital self-service customers want. By maintaining content for all self-service channels, as well as human-assisted channels, in a central knowledgebase, companies can easily manage the customer experience and ensure that they are providing consistent and reliable information no matter how customers engage.

Liam Ryan, APSIRecently I was invited to speak about chatbots and virtual agents at an event in Luxembourg focused on software robotics and artificial intelligence. There’s been lots of buzz around AI and chatbots lately, but it’s important to look past all the hype to be realistic about these solutions. At Creative Virtual, we know that customer service is not the place for pure AI and so we use an industry-defining combination of self-learning and human curation of content for our chatbots and virtual agents. I explained during my presentation how this hybrid approach enables the system to continually improve while also allowing control over the reliability of virtual agent responses.

It is this approach to self-learning combined with the backing of V-Portal™, our knowledge management, workflow management and business intelligence reporting platform, that makes our natural language self-service solutions stand out in the marketplace. Our virtual agents are answering over 50 million questions a year, and that number is constantly growing.

Request your own live demo to see how you can create the best conversations with your digital customers.

My thanks to the UK Enterprise Awards for recognising Creative Virtual with these two awards. You can read our official award announcement here.

What’s the Point of Contact Deflection?

By Björn Gülsdorff, Head of Business Development

Contact Deflection – is there a reason why so many companies have this as an objective? Well, our clients tell us what their goals and pain points are, but I can’t help thinking that treating one’s contact centre as a cost centre is past its prime. Also, if you want to make money, contact with your customers is a good thing. At least, that was my theory.

I was therefore quite happy to be able to speak in front of the Call Center Verband (Call Centre Association) in Halle, Germany, as well as meet the European customer service directors of the Deutsche Telekom AG at their gathering in Budapest. An opportunity to talk to people from the field and test my thinking. I expected at least some consensus, though: DTAG gave me 90 minutes of airtime for a speech on “Growth Through Customer Service” (funnily enough the title of one of our blogs from 2015), so I could tell I was on the same page with the organisers at least.

As the Budapest event was with the service directors while the one in Halle was with those who actually run the call centres, the two meetings represented two different points of view on the same topic. Still there was a lot of agreement: Customer service has become a differentiator for companies and a driver of revenue. People expect immediate, seamless service and their user journey starts on a (mobile) device. If you make them call, you can forget about first time resolution, channel containment and similar metrics, because it is too late. When people call or email, they have tried to get help through other channels before – and failed. Another thing came up: In this new scheme, agents need new skills. It was never fair to look at them as FAQ answering machines, but the demand for social and selling skills has grown a lot. It is now all the more important to support them in their work, serve them facts, help with procedures and let them focus on the relationship with the customer.

Not everything received such unanimous consent, however. The pace of such changes, the differences between industries and the rise of voice messages as a new channel left more than enough room for debate. Quite enjoyable, because nothing beats the voice of the customer – ours and theirs!

Check out this contact centre guide to learn more about the changes contact centres are facing and the transitioning role of agents.

“Keeping it real with chatbots” – Impressions from the Chatbot Summit

By Björn Gülsdorff, Head of Business Development

“Your talk was the most down to earth”, an attendee wrote me via the event’s messaging app after I had delivered my keynote “A Hybrid Approach to Machine Learning” at the Chatbot Summit in Berlin.

Now, is that good or bad for a keynote? Shouldn’t I have been breath-taking or ground-breaking or both – instead of down to earth?

Gaging by the talks we had later at our booth, it was a compliment. Creators of chatbots, as well as potential buyers, were happy to see a way out of the current AI craze where unsupervised machine learning seems to be the one and only solution and the power of the human brain is overlooked – and which requires enormous amounts of groomed, relevant data.

Enterprise ChatbotsIn fact, the chatbot community struggles to add learning, conversation and personalisation to their systems, which are very often highly scripted things. I spoke to a chatbot builder who was forced to use algorithms to create training data. Puts a new spin on the “artificial” in Artificial Intelligence.

There was also a lot of uncertainty about how to move chatbots into the enterprise world. A world of timelines, budget, ROI and predictability. Again, what it takes is a robust, proven, down to earth approach to each project, combining the virtual (artificial) intelligence with the real and unlocking existing silos of information. Not everyone from the chatbot crowd was happy to hear that though.

Nonetheless, it was a fantastic, energising event! I was pleased to join this buzzing chatbot community (we had our first discussions with other attendees while setting up our booth; it wasn’t even 8am!) and to learn that the number of bots is currently growing faster than the number of apps grew when the age of the apps began (and it is in decline again already). It is even fair to say I was touched to see a technology lift off that Creative Virtual has fostered and helped grow for over a decade – in fact, some of our senior management team started this in the last millennium.

Calling All Chatbot Enthusiasts to Berlin!

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Chatbots will take centre stage – along with the Development & AI Stage and the Product & UX Stage! – in Berlin next week at the Chatbot Summit. In its second year, the summit will bring together industry experts, established vendors, new start-ups and chatbot enthusiasts for a day of keynote presentations, panel discussions and networking opportunities on Monday, 26 June 2017.

Creative Virtual is pleased to be a sponsor of this year’s summit and to have Björn Gülsdorff, our Head of Business Development, joining the list of esteemed event speakers. Björn’s keynote presentation, Enterprise Chatbots: Taking a Hybrid Approach to Machine Learning, is scheduled for the afternoon on the Development & AI Stage. He’ll explore why pure AI and chatbots touted as wholly self-learning and self-maintaining aren’t a good fit for providing predictable, consistent and reliable customer service.

The Creative Virtual team will also be manning booth #13 where attendees can see live demos of our innovative chatbot solutions and get a look behind the scenes at the science of conversation. As an established and trusted vendor in this space, our chatbots are answering over 50 million questions every year for enterprises around the world – and that number is constantly growing! In April, Creative Virtual was awarded The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017 which was a win for the chatbot and virtual agent industry as well as our company. In order to receive the award, we had to prove not only that we’ve developed innovative technologies, but that Creative Virtual is achieving outstanding commercial success because of it. The Queen’s Awards recognition brings attention to chatbot technology and the positive results forward-thinking organisations are already achieving with our solutions.

In the early days of the technology, chatbots and virtual agents were standalone self-service tools that could answer only very basic questions and were often viewed as a novelty rather than a way to improve the customer experience or cut customer support costs. Today, they are tried-and-tested tools for providing digital self-service with greatly improved conversational abilities, options for integration across customer contact channels and proven results for reducing costs and improving customer experience. The Chatbot Summit – an event focused solely on this technology and its applications – highlights this exciting evolution and the growing awareness of chatbots.

Interested in joining us in Berlin for the Chatbot Summit? Purchase your tickets now using code cvbot20 and receive a 20% discount.

Not able to attend or want to do a little preparation before the summit? Download our educational whitepaper Virtual Agents and Chatbot and Avatars – confusing or what! to learn more about the role of chatbots in digital customer engagement.

APPEX Omnichannel Takes Home Top Catalyst Honours at TM Forum Live! 2017

By Liam Ryan, Head of Sales

Enhancing the omnichannel customer experience should be a goal of every company, but we all know how challenging this can be when it comes to the reality of designing and implementing a consistent and seamless experience. That’s why at Creative Virtual we’re excited to be participating in the APPEX Omnichannel Catalyst as part of TM Forum’s Catalyst Project. And we’re proud to share that the project recently took home the ‘Outstanding Performance’ award in the Customer Centricity & Analytics stream of the Catalyst Program at TM Forum Live! 2017 in Nice, France!

First, a little about TM Forum and the Catalyst Program. TM Forum is the global industry association that drives collaboration and collective problem-solving to maximise the business success of communication and digital service providers and their ecosystem of suppliers. Catalysts are member-driven proof-of-concept projects which connect diverse organisations to develop innovative, commercially viable prototypes of new digital services and business models.

The object of the APPEX Omnichannel Catalyst has been the creation of an omnichannel solution environment for the service provider sector to encourage omnichannel adoption in order to enhance the customer experience across all channels. Creative Virtual joined the Catalyst this year as the project’s chatbot technology provider. Check out this interview with Deepanshu Motani, Enterprise Architect, Vodafone Group to understand more about the APPEX Omnichannel initiative:

 

A record-breaking number of Catalysts were showcased at TM Forum Live! this year, which was held 15-18 May at the Acropolis Convention Center in Nice. Each team provided demos of the projects on their stand for event attendees and TM Forum’s Strategy Committee who served as the judges. Visitors to the APPEX Omnichannel stand were treated to a fully immersive experience while watching the video below through the use of virtual reality technology.

TM Forum Live! 2017

 

TM Forum announced the winners of the 2017 Catalyst Awards at the end of the day on 17 May, and we were thrilled to hear APPEX Omnichannel announced as winners of the ‘Outstanding Performance in the Catalyst Program’ award! Congratulations to the entire APPEX Omnichannel team, and thanks to Huawei for inviting Creative Virtual to be a part of this exciting initiative.

Check out our TM Forum Live! 2017 photo album for more photos from the event.

Team Animal Takes on the British 10K for RSPCA

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

On Sunday, 9th July 2017 a five-member team from Creative Virtual – Rachel, Tracey, Alex, Kristina and myself – will dust off our running shoes and take part in the British 10K to raise money for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). With only about 6 weeks to go until the race, we’ll be stepping up our training and our fundraising efforts. Here are some thoughts on the upcoming run from Tracey and myself:

Tracey running the 10KTracey says: “This will be my third time participating in a 10K. Well, I say participating because with time it’s now better for me to walk than to run because my knees just can’t handle the extra pressure of running. Despite bad knees, I have signed up this year to literally get myself moving again. My goal is to shave some time off of last year’s time and to keep moving forward!

Since I work remotely, my training once again consists of long walks around the village, through the beautiful asparagus and strawberry fields of our local famer and going through the town of Darmstadt. Just recently, training consisted of a climb up into the hills to see Frankenstein Castle.

I always enjoy telling everyone here and afar about our efforts and getting funds drummed up. The RSPCA is such a worthy charity and it’s great supporting their good work. And nothing beats race day. In addition to the mounting anticipation leading up to the event; the excitement on race day is literally palpable – go team!”

As for me, my first ever ‘official’ run was the British 10K, three years ago. And like this year, it was also to raise money for the RSPCA. Since then I’ve done several other organised runs – and this year I did the London Marathon (I said never again as I crossed the finishing line, but now just a couple of weeks later, I’m contemplating my next one! – that’s what running does, it’s like a drug!).

It’s a great feeling leading up to a run – the training can be hard – especially in the UK winter, but I travel quite a lot and always take my running stuff with me. With all that travelling and meetings, I find that running really helps in all sorts of ways – especially my energy levels. It’s also a great way to do some sightseeing in a new place. I love running beside the sea and river – and it’s a great feeling running on the beach barefoot in the surf. A great sense of freedom and being close to nature.

In our busy lives, being able to take a step back and think about things becomes increasingly difficult: ‘contemplation’ is fast becoming an extinct word from our dictionary! I find running gives me the time and state of mind to help me do this, and certainly helps me running (excuse the pun!) Creative Virtual.

Getting back to the build up to a competitive/organised race: there’s a real buzz on the actual day – everybody is focused on the same thing – and it’s amazing how much fun it is. And when you’re doing it for a really worthwhile cause it makes it even more special. This is the third time our company will be running to raise money for the RSPCA and we couldn’t be more proud to represent such a fantastic charity. Of course, there’s always a competitive edge to it – whether that’s trying to beat somebody at work or setting your own personal goal – it all adds to the fun!

The British 10K being in July means it can sometimes be a bit warm, but at least the training is at a good time of the year. The long light evenings gives lots of opportunity to run after work – and I consider myself very fortunate working and living on the Isle of Dogs, as I’ve got some fantastic running routes: great river runs, to the Tower of London for example, through Wapping; through the foot tunnel to Greenwich Park, up to the observatory (the hill is quite challenging! – as is climbing the stairs in the foot tunnel. I’ve often been tempted to take the lift, especially on those occasions where the lift doors have just opened at the right time!); and it’s easy where I live to combine the River Thames, canals, parks, great views and famous landmarks in a single run. We’ve also got a weekly office running club (that’s some of us pictured above!) going which is good fun.

10K QuarkAnd it’s not just about the running: raising money for a charity like the RSPCA gets the whole company involved, as well as family and friends; and knowing all these people are supporting you gives you that extra boost!

You can sponsor us by donating through our 10K Justgiving page or by sending a text if you are in the UK to 70070: CVCV50 and an amount of £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10.

Thanks for all of your support – Go Team Animal!