A Look Back: 2014 in Review

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

It seems like only yesterday that we were sharing our first blog posts of the year talking about trends for 2014 and announcing our 10th Anniversary celebrations. Looking back, it certainly has been a busy and exciting year both for Creative Virtual as a company and for the customer experience industry.

We kicked off the year with a 10th Anniversary celebration complete with cake, our #CV10Years blog series and lots of photos of Creative Virtual team members wearing our fleeces around the world. While we were celebrating, we were also hard at work and welcomed three new virtual assistants to our V-Person™ family in January. Before the month was out, we received word that Creative Virtual had been named as a finalist for two Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service as well. At the awards ceremony in Las Vegas, we were awarded Silver Stevie Awards in the categories of New IVR or Web Service Solution and Sales or Customer Service Solutions Technology Partner of the Year. We definitely started the year off right!

2014 saw the official launch of Creative Virtual in Australia at a very successful event in Sydney. We also participated in a variety of other events around the world, including Call Center World 2014 in Berlin, the FStech Omnichannel Banking Conference 2014 in London, Forrester’s 2014 Forum for Customer Experience Professionals East in New York City and the Middle East Banking Innovation Summit 2014 in Dubai. Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, led a session on mobile and social customer engagement as part of London Technology Week at Internet World 2014 as well as presenting during the FStech conference, and Richard Simons, CEO of Creative Virtual USA, gave a presentation at NetFinance 2014 in Miami.

Throughout the year we took part in a number of webinars featuring industry analysts, customer experience experts and current Creative Virtual customers. These are great resources for anyone wanting to learn more about recent developments, trends and technologies in the customer experience space, and can still be viewed on-demand. We also released an assortment of other educational resources and new Customer Success Stories.

Industry analysts were taking note of our innovative technologies and solutions as well during 2014. Mitch Kramer, Senior Consultant at the Patricia Seybold Group, praised our knowledge management and personalised answer capabilities as part of his detailed report titled Creative Virtual V-Person: Delivering Personalized Answers to Customers’ Questions. Creative Virtual was also named as a key vendor in TechNavio’s Global Intelligent Virtual Assistant Market 2014-2018 report, with our V-Person technology receiving top marks in the head-to-head product comparison. And V-Portal™, our knowledge management, workflow management and business intelligence reporting platform, earned us recognition as a finalist for the 2014 KM Promise Award.

Another momentous event of 2014 occurred in August when we officially revealed our brand new website featuring our new logo and colour scheme! The new website and branding are helping us more accurately represent Creative Virtual’s solutions, experience and expertise to the world.

Even though we were busy this year launching new Smart Help tools, releasing new features for existing solutions and constantly working on additional, innovative functionality, the team still found time for a little fun. As part of our 10th Anniversary celebration, a 12-member team—Chris, Rachel, Lucy, Leah, Tracey, Jeff, David, Bj?rn, Maria, Sam, Chloe and Julie—completed the British 10k London Run in July and, with the help of many others at Creative Virtual, raised over £1700 for the RSPCA! Our teams in India and the USA took a little break for group picnics, and there were team dinners in London and Bristol for some of the UK-based people as well. During his trip to India, Founder & CEO Chris had the pleasure of taking part in the Diwali celebrations in the Mumbai office. We’ll be finishing out the year with our annual Christmas and Holiday parties.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so instead of making you read any more about our fabulous 2014, I invite you to take a look at our 2014 in Review photo album. Enjoy!

Image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Our 10k for the RSPCA: The Aftermath

By Rachel Freeman, Head of Operations

First, the important bits: we are all in one piece, we ALL did it and we surpassed our fundraising goal of £1,500 to almost £1,700 for the RSPCA! We thank all of our colleagues, friends and family for both financial and emotional support in preparing for this race!

I cannot believe that I am now writing the “yay we did it and aren’t we awesome and Thank You” blog when it feels like only a few weeks ago that I was writing the first blog announcing Creative Virtual’s 10th Anniversary plan of a 10k for the RSPCA. I actually wrote the first draft on April 15th – 3 months ago….!

In that space of time, we’ve posted photos of us in our racing gear, animal onesies and fleeces and taking part in various fundraising activities including the cocktail gala and animal selfies. We’ve also shared updates on our training exploits as part of our ‘Featured Runners of the Day’ posts and kept an internal team Skype thread.

The training paid off for all of us – we all crossed the finish line on Sunday and we all enjoyed the day – which started out overcast and slightly drizzly and cleared up a bit (with a muggy atmosphere) and then poured temporarily on a few of us at the end. Running on Westminster Bridge was a crisis point for me in terms of feeling tired, but it was such a beautiful sight to behold Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament whilst moving – I guess it inspired many of us.

10k medalOur timings ranged from 50 minutes (speedy Maria Ward Gonzalez!) through to 1:42 and happy. We were a team to be reckoned with based on our enthusiasm and determination, and I think it may be safe to say that we’d all be up for doing this again next year.

Matt from the RSPCA met most of us at Doggetts pub on the South Bank for celebratory drinks, food and some photos of us in our RSPCA shirts with our shiny (and rather large and impressive!) medals.

Thanks again to you all for the support in exceeding our fundraising goal for the RSPCA and for cheering us on in spirit – maybe we’ll be back with more exploits in 2015 and if anyone else wants to join us, let us know! Congratulations to the whole 10k team—Chris, Lucy, Leah, Tracey, Jeff, David, Bj?rn, Maria, Sam, Chloe and Julie—and thanks for joining me!

If you haven’t yet sponsored our team, donations for the RSPCA are still being accepted through our JustGiving page.

Our 10k for the RSPCA: The Final Push

By Lucy Hamilton, Junior Administrative Assistant

With the British 10k London Run around the corner on 13th July, the focus for our 12 member team is set on training and a final fundraising push. Since starting our fundraising efforts back in April, we’ve raised a staggering £1465 with the help of colleagues, friends and family – 97% towards our £1500 goal for the RSPCA.

Training has been ramped up week by week with everyone improving on their personal bests, despite several of the team recovering from running injuries. The latest achievements include a 7k run by Rachel and Tracey racking up 8k geocaching with friends. David and Björn frequently train on weekdays and are very encouraging to us all.

We’ve recently received our 10k race packs and the RSPCA have sent us t-shirts – we’re spoilt for choice for what to wear on race day. In my haste to distribute the shirts, I handed David and Jeff ladies’ ones – good thing they were eager to see what they looked like on otherwise they’d be sporting (as Jeff aptly put it) a new “streamlined look”.

Check out our JustGiving page where you’ll be able to put names to faces with our gallery of 10k runners and make a donation to the RSPCA. If you’d like to follow our team’s progress, look out for our ‘Featured Runners of the Day’ on the Creative Virtual Facebook page. And if you’ll be in London on Sunday the 13th, make sure you come cheer us on along the iconic race route through the heart of the city.

Our 10k for the RSPCA: An Update

By Rachel Freeman, Head of Operations

The countdown to race day has started! As I’m writing, we have raised 42% of our overall fundraising goal of £1500 with exactly £630. It’s a great start since we are running in 6 weeks, but we still have a way to go to our first milestone of £1000 which we hope to reach by 1st June.

Since first announcing our endeavours to raise funds for the RSPCA, we’ve raced virtual chickens, donned animal onesies and most recently gotten funky with makeup to create amazing animal selfie shots – kudos to Tracey, Leah and Lucy on that.

Baking has been done, and a themed cocktail party is planned for Sunday, 1st June in Bristol. Entry is just £5 and all door proceeds go to the RSPCA. Read more about the event here and join us for a fun evening if you’re in the area!

Our training is also in full swing. I’ve still not run 10k yet, but will attempt to make it to 7k without stopping this Sunday. I have enlisted a friend to assess my lack of technique to see if there is hope. Others are running after work and on weekends, and one team member’s training will be temporarily disjointed for a bit while he helps care for his newborn son. We all have our issues to deal with, but the one thing we are all in synch with is the determination to enjoy ourselves on the 13th July and raise as much awareness and cash as we can for the RSPCA. We’ve seen how they work behind the scenes, and I know that the money raised will be put to good use.

6 weeks and counting–time to look for the ace bandage and the bottle of soothing bath salts. Please be generous, tell your friends about our run and be prepared to read about the aftermath in July! You can donate quickly and securely through our JustGiving page. Thanks for your support!

On your marks….

#CV10Years – The Faces Behind the Magic, Part 2

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

As 2014 continues, so does our celebration of Creative Virtual’s 10th Anniversary. We recently announced our participation in the British 10k London Run in aid of RSPCA (check out our JustGiving page for details) and will be carrying on with our fundraising efforts in the lead up to the event in July. Watch for a training and fundraising update from the team soon.

We’ve also been adding to our #CV10Years – The Team & Our Fleeces photo albums on Facebook and Google+ as we continue taking our fleeces with us on our adventures. Now that the last remaining fleece deliveries are complete, we’ll have even more photos to share—including another collection of smiling team members from across the globe.

And so, without further ado, it is my pleasure to present the faces of even more of the people who have contributed to and continue to play a part in the success of Creative Virtual!

CV Fleeces 2 Blog

#CV10Years – A Day in the Life of a Junior Knowledgebase Engineer

By Peter Studd, Junior Knowledgebase Engineer

If you’re thinking ‘what exactly is a Knowledgebase Engineer’, don’t worry. You aren’t the first one to ask me that question. In a nutshell, I program Creative Virtual’s virtual assistant implementations to understand natural language queries. Much of my work is done within V-Portal™, our platform designed specifically for the creation, updating, testing and deploying of virtual assistants. On a typical working day you will find me sitting in front of my computer focused on making updates to the natural language conditions of one of our projects.

I plan my day based on taPete hard at worksks my colleagues assign to me within V-Portal and from special requests sent through email. For each update on my list I must open the correct recognition within the knowledgebase, then inspect, test, alter and create the corresponding natural language conditions. Some of you may think this sounds like a boring, tedious job, but in reality creating new condition strings or updating old ones is a great job. It involves a great deal of creativity and problem solving – it often feels like doing word puzzles. It’s like no job I have ever done before and offers great job satisfaction.

The work I do helps to make our virtual assistants more effective at answering users’ questions – be that by adding new content or by refining existing questions and answers. For example, it’s possible for similar questions to be confused with each other. By producing and reviewing transcripts and reports that show user inputs, I can check if the virtual assistant is providing the best answer available in the knowledgebase and fine tune existing conditions to improve the system. When I’m not working on big updates, I will take on smaller tasks such as amending content categories (for organising the knowledgebases and reports), updating answer texts and any links they contain, and running reports.

Having involvement with several different customer projects means I am always kept busy, and we all work together to prioritise workloads and meet our clients’ requests within the agreed deadlines. Creative Virtual has a really great team, and since starting last August I have received lots of training and support from my colleagues in person in the Bristol office, as well as from those based in London and colleagues overseas.

Working as a Knowledgebase Engineer isn’t my first job, but it is by far the one I enjoy the most. I love the challenge of working with the natural language conditioning of the virtual assistants. It’s exciting to be a part of Creative Virtual’s 10th Anniversary celebrations and to know that even the smallest of my daily tasks helps our customers reach their goals of providing their customers with a positive service experience.

#CV10Years – The Faces Behind the Magic

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

In the first post of our #CV10Years blog series, Founder & CEO Chris mentioned a special anniversary gift presented to Creative Virtual team members and partners as a token of appreciation for helping the company reach our tenth anniversary. As you probably guessed from the photo in that post, this gift was a Creative Virtual branded fleece! We thought our gift (which has been referred to by one employee as ‘that sweet wearable’ and recently received a string of compliments from a flight attendant) would be the perfect excuse to pose for some photos and give you a peek into the people behind the Creative Virtual magic.

Ten years ago this blog post would have featured only a few smiling faces sitting in one tiny office in London. Today we’re sharing photos of just some of our team members and partners from locations spanning the globe! In fact, some members of the team are still waiting on delivery of their fleece due to paperwork issues out of our control, so there will be plenty more photos to come.

We’ve also started photo albums on the Creative Virtual Facebook and Google+ pages where we will regularly add photos of the team wearing our fleeces (of course!) doing what we do when we’re not on the clock—us on our travels, us with local landmarks, us participating in hobbies, us with our family and friends and pets. You never know where we might turn up next.

And now, without further ado, it is my pleasure to present the faces of some of the people who have contributed to and continue to play a part in the success of Creative Virtual!

The Creative Virtual Team

#CV10Years – We’re Recognised for Innovation

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

One of the biggest highlights of 2013 (a year of lots of exciting milestones) for Creative Virtual as a company was winning a Silver Stevie Award in the category of Most Innovative Company of the Year in Europe. If you missed our big announcement, you can read the press release here and Founder & CEO, Chris’ blog post here. Or better yet, watch this video of Chris accepting our trophy at the awards gala in Barcelona in October.

Lots of organisations throw the term ‘innovation’ around, claiming to have innovative products and ground-breaking solutions even when their offerings are anything but. For us, innovation is not something we take lightly—developing and implementing truly innovative, cutting-edge technology is what we’re all about at Creative Virtual and something we’ve taken great pride in for over ten years. To win this award as part of the 10th Annual International Business Awards was a huge honour for us all.

Winning this award isn’t the only time we’ve been recognised for our innovation. In recent years we’ve also been shortlisted for an Econsultancy Innovation Award in the category of ‘Innovation in Customer & User Experience’ as well as selected to participate in the Innovation Showcase at BAI Retail Delivery.

In January of this year our technology was acknowledged again, this time as part of the 8th Annual Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service. We have been named finalists in two categories, ‘New IVR or Web Service Solution’ and ‘Sales or Customer Service Solutions Technology Partner of the Year’, and will find out if we’ve won Gold, Silver or Bronze at the Awards Gala on 21st February.

#CV10Years – V-Person™ Goes Dutch

By Erik Braun, Director, Benelux

In December 2012 Creative Virtual launched Ask Sabine, a virtual assistant for Dutch bank NIBC Direct. This was a significant event for two reasons: this was the first deployment for our newly established Creative Virtual Netherlands office and it was the first non-English implementation for the company, with the virtual assistant interacting with users in Dutch.

NIBC Direct

NIBC Direct takes great pride in providing superior customer service to their customers, and has found that Ask Sabine extends that high level of service to their website. Since implementing their V-Person, the organisation has routinely experienced 30% call deflection from their call centre and reports positive feedback from customers utilising the 24/7 self-service solution.

Another highlight for Creative Virtual took place in November 2013 when Sabine Struijk, Client Contact Manager at NIBC Direct, joined Anne Westerhof, Knowledgebase Engineer at Creative Virtual, and me for our first-ever Dutch webinar. For Dutch readers who missed the live event, you can view the webinar recording on-demand.

To learn more about Ask Sabine, read our official announcement here. You can also download NIBC Direct’s Customer Success Story in English or in Dutch.

#CV10Years – Celebrating our 10th Anniversary!

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

10th Anniversary Cake

Happy 10th Anniversary Creative Virtual! When I founded Creative Virtual just over ten years ago, I could only dream that the company and our technology would have come this far by 2014. It is an exciting and momentous milestone for me personally and for all our employees and partners around the globe.

Another recent milestone for us was hosting our first-ever Global Partner Meeting at Creative Virtual’s headquarters in London last month. It was a thrill for me to stand in front of a full room that first morning and welcome attendees representing eight different geographic regions to what has become a landmark event in the company’s history. During the second day of meetings, the group took a break from the scheduled sessions and discussions for a 10th Anniversary celebration—complete with a delicious cake and a few photos.

Celebrating 10 Years

Representing 8 geographic regions (L-R): Patrick, Shantanu, Berndt, William, me, Richard, Erik, Miguel

There is no doubt that without a dedicated and intelligent team of employees and partners, Creative Virtual would not be celebrating a tenth anniversary. From the development of innovative technologies to the implementation of bespoke customer solutions to the management of day-to-day operations, each person contributes to the success of our organisation. As a thank you and token of appreciation, every team member was presented with a special anniversary gift. Keep your eye on our blog and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ to see more about that gift (although you may be able to make a good guess based on the photo above!).

You can read our official anniversary announcement here.