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A Look Back: 2019 in Review

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

The new year is just around the corner, which means it is once again time for our annual look back over the past 12 months. 2019 was another busy and exciting year for Creative Virtual and the chatbot, virtual agent and live chat industry. It’s always difficult to condense a whole year into one blog post, so here are just a few of the highlights.

We continued our five-year-long celebration of our Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017 as we also celebrated the 15th anniversary of Creative Virtual. Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, took a look back at the changes in the company and the industry since he started Creative Virtual in London’s East End in his blog post, Fifteen Years & Counting: Navigating the chatbot, virtual agent and AI revolution. During the year Chris also participated in industry interviews, including one with the AI Time Journal as part of their Conversational AI Initiative and one for the Executive Interviews website, where he shared more insights into the myths and realities of chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI).

This year we have also been celebrating another impressive recognition for the company: Frost & Sullivan’s 2019 AI-Enhanced Customer Self-Service Product Leadership Award! In selecting us for this award, the analysts at Frost & Sullivan evaluated chatbot and virtual agent vendors across two key factors, each with five benchmarking criteria. Creative Virtual was rated as ‘Excellent’ across these categories. You can download a copy of their full independent report here. I had the honour of joining Andy Madge (Head of Technical Services) and Liam Ryan (Sales Director) at the Awards Dinner in London to accept our plaque and meet other Best Practice Award winners from all over Europe.

Special congratulations also go out to Maria Ward, Account Manager/Knowledgebase Engineer, for being shortlisted for the 2019 Women in IT Excellence Awards in the category of ‘Role Model of the Year (SME) – Tech Industry’! You can read more about Maria’s journey from Creative Virtual customer to partner to team member in her Meet the Team interview. Maria was also one of our Team Animal runners in our charity runs for the RSPCA this year, joined by Laura Ludmany, Rachel Freeman, Björn Gülsdorff and Chris Ezekiel. Instead of all meeting up to run a group race together, each runner registered for a local race instead and took part in runs in Hamburg, London, Ipswich and Dublin. This was the fifth year we fundraised for the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), a cause we feel passionately about as a company of animal lovers.

The team was also involved with our annual blog celebration of CX Day (1 October) and Customer Service Week (7-11 October), making this year the best one yet. Authors based in four different countries covered topics ranging from customer expectations to chatbot creation to managing stress for better customer relationships. If you missed any, be sure to check them out:

We were also excited to be featured in the Wharf Life Newspaper during Customer Service Week. You can read the full article here.

While 2019 saw an increase in the adoption of chatbot and virtual agent technology, we also saw more companies struggling with poor performing tools or projects that never came to fruition. Founder & CEO Chris explored some reasons for this in an article for the AI Time Journal, “Virtual Moron-Idiot!”: Why Chatbots Fail and the #ChatbotRescue Mission Saving Them. As a successful pioneer in the chatbot and virtual agent space, Creative Virtual is in a unique position to help these companies save their investments. That’s why we launched our Chatbot Rescue Mission, offering organisations a no cost consultation workshop and initial chatbot upgrade to get their projects back on track.

This year we sponsored, attended and joined our partners at a variety of industry events around the world, including ones in the United Kingdom, Germany, Singapore, India, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Thailand. Team members presented, participated in panels and gave demos at many of these events, including several keynote addresses. We also welcomed some new organisations to our growing Global Partner Network and expanded our V-Person™ Family with new deployments around the world.

Our Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel continued his monthly Virtual Viewpoint column for the Wharf Life Newspaper this year. You can find all of his past columns here. He also saw his name in print in the 6 October edition of The Sunday Times where he was quoted in an article about British entrepreneurs and their tech giant competitors. Subscribers to The Times can read the article online here – and we also have a copy available here.

As we head into 2020, Creative Virtual is preparing to celebrate the company’s Sweet Sixteen – 16 years of helping enterprises deliver better customer and employee support and of bringing new innovations to the virtual agent, chatbot and live chat market. We’re looking forward to seeing what the next year will bring!

Be sure to check out our 2019 in Review photo album on the Creative Virtual Facebook page. As we do every year, we’ve compiled photos from industry events, company celebrations, fundraising runs and group activities. There will be more photos added over the next couple of weeks, so make sure you’re following us so you don’t miss any.

Jumping on the Bandwagon isn’t the Same as Following Best Practice

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Every industry has best practices – guidelines, methods or techniques accepted as the most efficient and effective way to accomplish a desired result. Sometimes when something new comes along or starts to get industry attention, the hype can make it easy to confuse jumping on the bandwagon with following proven best practice. This is particularly true when it comes to technologies that are thrust in the spotlight through mainstream media buzz.

The explosion of media hype around artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots over the past few years – and the subsequent confusion in the customer experience (CX) space – is one of topics Creative Virtual discusses in our article for The Parliamentary Review. The Parliamentary Review is a series of independent British publications which aims to share best practice among policy makers and business leaders. They combine commentaries from award-winning journalists with innovative thinking from industry experts. Creative Virtual was invited to contribute this year as a Best Practice Representative for the technology sector.

Partially spurred by Facebook’s introduction of bots for their Messenger Platform, the media buzz around AI and chatbots has created a renewed interest in the technology over the past couple of years. While this had a positive effect in garnering more attention for using chatbots and virtual agents to deliver automated self-service, it also played a role in creating industry confusion. Some vendors tried to jump on the AI bandwagon, but ended up overpromising and creating unrealistic expectations for AI chatbots.

Based on our experience, we at Creative Virtual knew that pure AI was not the right option for automated customer service, and so we continued to present our hybrid approach of self-learning and human curation of content as industry best practice. This involved us working to educate the marketplace about the realities of the technology and using chatbots to provide a predictable and reliable self-service option, instead of jumping on the AI bandwagon.

Now the initial hype has died down and those unrealistic promises have turned into chatbot pilots that are failing or never got off the ground at all. The decision to stand firm in our hybrid approach to implementing our chatbots and virtual agents in spite of the buzz has strengthened our position as thought leaders and trusted consultants in the industry. It has also allowed the organisations we work with to take advantage of recent AI advancements while also continuing to provide quality self-service experiences for their customers and employees in line with industry best practice.

Be sure to check out our full three-page article in the 2018 Technology Review to learn more about Creative Virtual’s story, how we created a company culture of innovation, teamwork and ownership, and why our future looks bright.