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Selecting the Right Conversational AI Vendor Makes All the Difference

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

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

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

Conversational AI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Campaign to Win Over Customers

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

In electoral campaigns, candidates share their ideas, come up with catchy slogans and make promises to gain the support of voters and best their opponents. For businesses, every day is like a day on the campaign trail. There is a constant battle with competitors as they try to outdo each other with a superior product or service, lower pricing and an easier customer experience. As customers, we are choosing the winners and the losers every day by deciding where to spend our money.

I wrote recently about the prediction that 2020 will be the year that customer experience overtakes product and price as the number one way companies will differentiate themselves in the marketplace. While we don’t have long to wait to see if that prediction comes to fruition, businesses don’t have the luxury of taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach. If they haven’t already been putting time and effort into improvements to their customer experience and cultivating the company culture needed to make that a priority, they’ve put themselves at a great disadvantage.

I’ve also written before about the so-called ‘Amazon effect’ on customer experience expectations. Amazon and other companies that are delivering high quality experiences, including excellent service and support, are creating a customer base that is now expecting that same level of customer experience from all the organisations they engage with, regardless of industry. This is helping to push customer experience ahead of product and price in purchasing decisions.

Case in point: over the weekend I got a text from a friend that read ‘Lesson learned…I’m sticking with Amazon from now on…returns are super easy!’ She had been dealing with a drawn-out and frustrating return process for an item that, had she purchased it from Amazon, could have been sorted out in minutes on their website. That business had just lost a customer because of the poor experience they delivered; an experience that didn’t meet the expectations created by a customer knowing there could have been a simpler, quicker process in place.

Customer service and support is one area of the overall customer experience where organisations have often struggled to keep customers happy. One reason is the rapid change in how we communicate both with companies and each other, driven by technology and increased internet access. Not that long ago, businesses were only dealing with providing support in person, over the phone or via email. Now customers are looking for answers and information on websites, social media, messaging apps and smart speakers, too.

Forward-thinking companies understand that the future of customer service lies in automation. It’s not feasible to support customers on every communication channel with humans alone – and customers don’t expect that. Conversational chatbots and virtual agents are a smart way to deliver automated self-service for customers across multiple channels. These automated solutions can also be used to assist customer service agents in the contact centre to improve both the customer and agent experience. The key is to be smart about this automation, though. Work with a knowledgeable team to implement the right combination of automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and human input to set your efforts up for long-term success.

In the relentless campaign to win over customers, it’s easy for businesses to promise a seamless, easy and positive customer experience. But as customer experience becomes more and more important in the decision-making process, it will be the companies that deliver on those promises that will come out victorious.

Automation Shouldn’t Force Customers to do the Work Themselves

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Customer Service Week was celebrated this week along with Customer Experience Day (CX Day) on 2nd October. These annual events got me contemplating on the future of customer service. Whilst I’m all for automation – as you would expect from someone leading a company that develops chatbot technology to automate customer service! – I wonder about removing the human element completely, especially when it involves the customer doing the work themselves.

This is why I’m not keen on supermarket self-checkouts. After a busy day, I want to switch off and walk around the supermarket with my head in the clouds – not have to scan, weigh, search for butternut squash on the supermarket’s database! And then it often goes wrong, and you have to ask for assistance anyway. It’s just such a bad experience for so many customers. The same with self-check-in at airports. Peeling off luggage labels and making sure they’re attached correctly isn’t my idea of fun.

Getting instant answers to questions instead of having to call or email a company is a great example of where technology does make for a better customer experience, as long as the system can quickly and seamlessly escalate to a human when it doesn’t have an answer. Deploying technology to automate tasks needs to be a win-win for the organisation and the customer: reducing customer service costs whilst improving the customer experience at the same time.

I also wonder about what effect removing the human element altogether could have on our society – who will us Brits have to moan to about the weather?! Luckily customer service chatbots can have a personality and engage in small talk – anything from talking about the weather to politely declining a date.

Yet, it’s not uncommon – or unreasonable – for organisations to worry about losing the opportunity to build human connections with customers as more and more of the experience becomes automated. They need to understand their customer journey and be smart about how they implement automation. In some situations, there is no substitute for engaging with a real human.

As Customer Service Week comes to a close, the challenges of delivering positive customer service experiences will stay top of mind for organisations. There’s no doubt that automation has an essential role in meeting those challenges in our digital, always-on society, but it should be in conjunction with the human element.

If you want to learn more, be sure to check out our newest whitepaper, A Chatbot for Your Contact Centre, and my most recent webinar presentation, Humans & AI: The Perfect CX Power Couple.