‘Eureka!’ in the Detail

By Rachel Freeman, Head of Operations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introducing Commercial Bank of Dubai’s Virtual Banking Assistant

By Björn Gülsdorff, Head of Business Development

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

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

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

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

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

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

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

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

TechNavio's Prouct Comparison

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

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

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

Top US Bank Goes Live with Creative Virtual Solution

By Courtney Schreier, Marketing Manager

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

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

Electronic commerce

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

Providing Smart Help in a Telco Environment

By Richard Simons, CEO, Creative Virtual USA

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

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

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

Verizon Best Practices include:Ask Verizon

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

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

How Intelligent Virtual Assistants Can Transform the Social Channel

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager

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

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

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

Ask Lisa on Facebook

Ask TSB on Twitter

Ask Verizon on Facebook

What I Learned @LivePerson Aspire EMEA This Year

By Rachel Freeman, Head of Operations

When an event is called Aspire the bar is raised for high expectations, and I must say I was not disappointed. At the LivePerson Aspire EMEA 2013 conference, venue, programme, catering and buzz were all of high calibre. The catch phrase was “making meaningful connections” and whilst I did not go away having made any new BFFs, I certainly spoke to quite a few interesting industry pros about improving communication and creating better customer experiences. In fact there were three common themes everyone “aspired” to for 2013. I thought I’d share them with you and see if you shared the same sentiments.

LP Aspire EMEA 2013

  • Customer experience is now more important than ever. It was refreshing to see that so many companies were genuinely concerned about their customers’ journey and were keen for tools to help them understand and make improvements. Forrester Research’s Harley Manning touched on these points during his session asserting that we need to remember that sales, account and technical teams all have valuable insight and input. It pays to take the time to bring representatives from these teams together to share ideas, strategies and perspectives. In the end, you’ll get a more holistic view of what customers want from your brand and be able to design a more effective strategy.
  • Mobile is hot, hot, hot. Not surprisingly, everyone wanted to get a better understanding of how their customers are using mobile devices. They’re seeing the trends and need to adapt, but have found it slow going in some areas, particularly because departmental silos restrict access to the information that customers really want. However, customers could care less about how their companies operate on the backend. They simply want the information, when they want it, and companies are struggling to find ways to deliver.
  • Customers drive our business. Everyone agreed that we need our customers more than they need us. With so many choices, it’s essential we put ourselves in the shoes of the customer and deliver a customer experience that goes beyond their expectations. In this new era, service and experience has become the differentiator and everyone is anxious to find ways to communicate their value on this front.

If you’ve never been to LivePerson Aspire, make plans to attend next year. It’s a great place to make connections and get the pulse of your peers on key issues affecting the industry. Plus, the event is a lot of fun too. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and other rock legends were played between speakers, allowing us to not only conduct business, but to rock out along the way and bang on some drums at the end of the day. But don’t tell my CEO. He may want to go in my stead next year!

Next Stop: LivePerson Aspire EMEA in London, UK

by Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager

Following on the heels of a successful Aspire APAC conference, as reported by Chris in his event round-up, Creative Virtual will also be at LivePerson Aspire EMEA as a Gold Sponsor. Taking place on 11 June 2013 at The Roundhouse on Chalk Farm Road in London, this conference has so much to offer. It will feature:

  • Speakers from a range of organisations including Royal Bank of Scotland, O2, Snapfish and Forrester Research
  • Breakout Sessions on topics such as mobile engagement, digital marketing techniques and intelligent online engagement
  • A Partner Showcase for attendees to find out more about LivePerson’s partners

As part of that Showcase, we will be providing a firsthand look at the advanced technologies we have developed in knowledge management, natural language processing and virtual assistants.  Specifically, we will be demonstrating how the integration of V-Person™ (virtual assistant) technology with Live Chat from LivePerson provides a seamless customer experience. Utilising Live Chat in conjunction with our other solutions means organisations can provide real-time, consistent customer support across all touchpoints to improve their customer experience while reducing support costs.

It’s totally free to attend Aspire EMEA so register online and stop by our stand to say hello and have a look at our innovative solutions.

Google’s Answer to Siri- The Next Step in Natural Language Processing

by Jessica Cody, Marketing Manager

As could have been predicted, Siri, Apple’s voice-to-text virtual assistant, now has competition coming from several directions. It is safe to say that Virtual Agent technology, along with natural language processing (NLP), has been catapulted to high demand, first in web and now in the rapidly-growing mobile platform. Google is bringinggoogle 3 competition with Majel, their voice-to-text virtual assistant that comes as a more digital, less personalized answer to Siri. Google is the current desktop and mobile search market leader. They are also Apple’s loftiest competitor.

According to an article from FastCompany.com, Google’s application could have several advantages over Siri, including the ability to operate inside apps, better Android integration and the ability to use Google’s abundance of data and different search services to produce answers. The article also points out that Google’s mobile search ad revenues have gone down with the dawn of Siri, giving them even more motivation to beat Apple in its search ventures.

Majel adds natural language processing to the already existing Google Voice Actions application. Voice Actions allowed the user to accomplish tasks on their phone by speaking into the phone, but its abilities were restricted. According to the blog Android and Me (which first released the news about Majel), “Where Voice Actions required you to issue specific commands like ‘send text to…’ or ‘navigate to…’, Majel will allow you to perform actions in your natural language, similar to how Siri functions.”

Creative Virtual uses a powerful natural language processing engine, which keeps the context of the conversation, allowing the user to explain their issue in the way they would to a real customer service representative or salesperson. This enables the Virtual Agent to not only understand the subject the person is interested in (like a website search would do), but ask asdaproduce the exact answer the user is looking for in a conversational style. For example, when you inquire to ASDA Groceries’ Ask ASDA, “How do you deliver?” the Virtual Agent gives you the step-by-step delivery process from the store to your front door.  When you ask, “Where are my favourites?” an answer is provided that explains the location of favourites in the new website layout.

Natural language processing is becoming more and more prominent on mobile devices, and is on its way to becoming a household term. A good NLP engine can recognize a question regardless of the form it is phrased in, and will still answer it correctly even if there are minor misspellings and incorrect grammar used. Virtual Agents’ natural language processing offers an excellent benefit to mobile phone users who need an instant answer to their question. Check out Creative Virtual’s mobile Virtual Agent device strategy.

The concept of voice-to-text Virtual Agent technology using natural language processing has a significant place in history, as the codename of Google’s application reminds us. The name “Majel” is taken from Star Trek’s Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, the voice of the Federation Computer. Ages before Siri, Star Trek had already dabbled in Virtual Agent technology. Android and Me predicts that Majel could be released as soon as sometime as this month.