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APAC Contact Centres Embracing AI and Virtual Agent Technologies

By Philip Chuck, Territory General Manager, Greater China

This year the Hong Kong Call Centre Association (HKCCA) has been celebrating their 20th anniversary. Every year this not-for-profit organisation holds the HKCCA Symposium and the HKCCA Award Presentation and Gala Ceremony as part of their mission of advancing the contact centre industry. Creative Virtual was excited to be invited back to participate again by our partner Continuous Technologies International Ltd (CTINT) in the Symposium held on 31 October and to attend the Gala the following evening.

HKCCA Symposium - Chris EzekielThis was the fifth year we have attended the event as a solution partner of CTINT and Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, has presented on the event theme. His session was titled Smart Self-Help for a Seamless, Omnichannel Customer Experience and focused on delivering the right information on the right channel at the right time for customers. This hit right at the heart of the challenges faced by customer experience (CX) practitioners across the APAC region.

We had more enquiries this year than ever before about using virtual agent and chatbot technology internally to support contact centre agents, relationship managers and other employees. This reflected the shift we’re seeing in the region of an increasing number of organisations looking to use artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual agents within the human customer service area of their CX strategies. We were able to share with Symposium attendees a few examples of how this technology is already being used:

  • The relationship managers at a bank have access to a virtual agent customised specifically for them to use while meeting face-to-face with customers. It shortens the time they need to search for information so they can provide a better in-person service experience for customers.
  • Starting with their existing self-service FAQs, a utility company is developing a virtual agent for contact centre agents to use while they are handling cases from different channels. They are starting with voice and e-mail and then will expand this to include chat and messaging apps in the future.
  • Another organisation is using our natural language processing (NLP) capabilities to enhance their agent desktop. This means they can provide an AI-assisted virtual agent to reduce average handling times (AHT) for an improved customer experience.

A lot has changed in the contact centre space during the HKCCA’s 20 years. The advancements in AI and virtual agents are bring more changes. Contact centres need to be prepared for the impact of new technologies on their operations, structure and work load. When looking to use AI, NLP and virtual agent technologies, there are lots of important things APAC decision makers should consider, including:

  • Language support – The virtual agent should be able to handle enquiries in different languages and give users the option to get answers in the language of their choice.
  • Omnichannel service – The solution should give you the ability to join up information silos, contact channels, etc. so customers receive a seamless, consistent and accurate service experience.
  • Combination of AI and humans – The virtual agent should be powered by a combination of AI and human input to give your organisation control over the accuracy of information and your agents the ability to help keep content up-to-date through integrated feedback loops.

The HKCCA Symposium’s theme this year of ‘Customer Autonomy’ highlighted the impact technology is having on changing customer expectations. It was exciting to be a part of the discussions of how contact centres can meet new expectations with AI, virtual agents and chatbots.

HKCCA Award Gala 2019On behalf of the Creative Virtual team, I want to express our thanks to CTINT for inviting us to participate in the Symposium and attend the Gala Ceremony. We value your partnership in the region and appreciate all the work you put into making this event a success each year. Thank you!

I also want to wish the HKCCA a Happy 20th Anniversary! We are already looking forward to next year’s event.

To learn more about using AI and virtual agents in your contact centre and what questions to ask when selecting a technology, download the whitepaper A Chatbot for Your Contact Centre. You can also request a live demo to see our solutions in action and discuss with our team how the technology can fit with your CX plans.

Preparing Contact Centres for the Impact of AI

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

It’s that time of year when shopping centres are transforming into Christmas Wonderlands, children start to worry about being on the Naughty List, and industry analysts make their predictions for the impending new year. It’s only natural to want to know what the future holds – whether it be what you’ll find in your stocking on Christmas morning or what challenges and changes your business will face in the coming year.

There have been lots of predictions over the past several years about the impact artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbot technologies will have on customer service. In particular, there has been a fear that automated self-service tools like chatbots and virtual agents would completely replace the contact centre and eliminate the need for human agents. Those with a real understanding of the capabilities of these technologies and the needs of customers know those predictions are far-fetched and not going to be a reality any time soon.

However, AI-powered chatbots and virtual agents are changing the role of contact centres and human customer service agents. The analysts at Forrester talk about some of these changes in their Predictions 2020: Customer Service. One trend they mention that will have a growing impact on contact centres is the need for more highly skilled customer service agents because of improvements in AI and automated self-service tools. This will impact contact centre locations, budgets and agent experience.

Organisations that have well-established virtual agents and chatbots available to their customers have already been seeing this shift in their contact centres. As more and more customers self-serve for simple questions and easy tasks, contact centre agents are freed up to deal with more complex issues that need human assistance. This means agents no longer have to deal with the monotony of repeatedly answering basic questions all day long. However, it also means that contact centres need to be staffed with agents that are highly skilled and trained to deal with complicated and more sensitive situations.

New research from CCA, The Future of Work and Automation in CX, found that 85% of executives feel future agents will need to be skilled in handling multi-channel interactions and 83% think that problem-solving skills will be more important due to this shift of simple requests to automation. Responses to this survey also highlighted the importance of agent training to equip them with the skills necessary to show empathy and have emotional intelligence in order to deal with a wide range of demographics.

Contact centre leaders are realising that the AI chatbot technology being used to deliver a quality, 24/7 customer self-service experience can also be deployed to support their live agents. When used as a tool to assist agents, a chatbot or virtual agent gives them instant access to information at their fingertips, so their focus moves from trying to retain knowledge to building better relationships with customers. This is especially important as agents transition to dealing with those more complex issues customers can’t solve by self-serving.

As contact centres put together their Wish List for the coming year, they need to take a hard look at these industry predictions and trends. If they aren’t proactive now in preparations for the changing role of the contact centre and customer service agents, they will face a difficult struggle to catch up. When you add to the mix Frost & Sullivan’s prediction that 2020 will be the point when customer experience will overtake product and price as the top way companies will differentiate themselves, ignoring the impact of AI on the contact centre sounds even more foolish – and will likely put you on Santa’s Naughty List.

Conversational AI in the Contact Centre

This post originally appeared on AI Time Journal as part of their Conversational AI Initiative.

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Contact centres require a great deal of investment for organisations – from recruiting and training staff to putting the right tools in place for agents – and yet still often deliver a poor customer experience. Plagued by long wait times, agents dealing with inadequate or incomplete access to information and a disconnect from digital channels, contact centres are struggling to meet customer service expectations. With industry experts predicting the year 2020 as the point when customer experience (CX) will overtake product and price as the number one way companies will differentiate themselves from the competition, organisations can’t risk ignoring these common contact centre issues.

Smart companies are working hard to better their CX. Organisations everywhere are embarking on digital CX initiatives in an effort to improve their experience, build loyalty and increase sales. Conversational AI is increasingly an important piece of these initiatives with chatbots and virtual agents becoming essential tools for providing 24/7 self-service to digital customers. Available on websites, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WeChat, and smart speakers like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, chatbots are helping organisations deal with the growing number of customer touch points.

Yet, all too often these digital initiatives and conversational AI strategies ignore the contact centre. This creates expensive silos that damage the customer’s experience. A truly successful strategy goes beyond what customers are experiencing online to include what’s happening in your contact centre.

Chatbots are more than customer self-service tools

Many organisations are utilising conversational AI to create a self-service experience for customers but are overlooking the added benefits of using this technology in the contact centre. Chatbots and virtual agents help maximise on contact centre investments by instantly providing agents with information to assist callers, reducing average call handling times and increasing first contact resolution. Training time for live agents is drastically reduced, and organisations build confidence with customers by assuring consistent communication from all agents. When agents know they always have the information they need at their fingertips, their focus moves from trying to retain knowledge to building better relationships with customers.

The tool understands questions asked in natural language, as well as common abbreviations used by agents, and can guide agents through processes and forms step-by-step as they assist customers. By giving all staff easy access to the same level of knowledge, anyone from support teams to trainers and coaches can step in to answer customer questions with confidence at peak or busy times. Chatbots also lend themselves well to gamification around content awareness, skills training and performance improvements.

Not all chatbots are designed for the contact centre

There’s a record number of chatbot options on the market today, but not all of them have been designed for the contact centre. In fact, many of them are channel-specific solutions that create a disjointed experience for customers. Enterprises serious about creating a seamless CX – and aligning the contact centre directly with the digital function – should avoid those solutions. Here are four tips to help with selecting a conversational AI platform for contact centre agents:

  1. Centralise knowledge management control: To reap the benefits of using conversational AI within the contact centre – and for customer self-service – you must have a solid foundation in knowledge management. Chatbots and virtual agents can only give accurate responses if they are backed by a knowledgebase with accurate content. Using a single knowledge control centre for both customer-facing and contact centre chatbots creates consistency across channels. It also allows organisations to more easily keep content up-to-date and create a single point of truth.
  2. Integrate chatbots and live agents: The future of customer engagement lies in humans and machines working together in harmony. By bringing together automated and human support, organisations can create the seamless, omnichannel experience customers want. They can also take advantage of the contact centre becoming the centre of excellence for the knowledge used across customer support channels. Providing a chatbot that works for the specific needs and requirements of the contact centre is key for properly supporting agents and getting the most from this integrated solution. There should be choices to personalise the agent console as well as options for agents to use voice and for the tool to also be deployed on the IVR (interactive voice response) channel.
  3. Combine artificial intelligence and human input: The foundations of successful chatbots lie in the control of the response given. A hybrid approach of machine learning and human curation of content allows the chatbot to continually improve based on the way it is being used while also enabling companies to maintain control over the reliability of responses. Combining human learnings with AI creates dependable self-service solutions and gives organisations the control they need to comply with industry standards and regulations.
  4. Work with an experienced vendor: An often-cited barrier to deploying a chatbot by company executives is a lack of internal expertise. So, while selecting a conversational platform that offers the right features and functionality is essential for success, it’s just as important to select a vendor that can provide that experience and knowhow. When an organisation is working with the right provider, they don’t need to have existing internal experience to make the solution successful. The right vendor will be a partner throughout the process, collaborating on a customised chatbot and providing guidance on industry best practices and new innovations.

Be realistic but plan for the future

Before starting to evaluate chatbot offerings for the contact centre, an organisation needs to first determine how the solution will fit into their overall customer experience plan. Just as digital CX initiatives that ignore the contact centre create damaging silos, selecting a tool for the contact centre that ignores other customer channels can create similar issues. It’s crucial for companies to be ambitious, and at the same time realistic, about the role the contact centre currently plays – and the role it should be playing – in their overall CX strategy.

For a more in-depth look at these four tips along with 12 essential questions to ask when selecting chatbot technology for the contact centre, download the whitepaper A Chatbot for Your Contact Centre. With the right conversational AI technology and partner, organisations can maximise on contact centre investments, provide seamless omnichannel customer support and incorporate the contact centre into their digital CX strategy.

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.

A Look Back: 2018 in Review

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

As 2018 is quickly coming to an end and planning for 2019 continues to move full steam ahead, it’s time once again to take a moment to slow down and look back over the past year. It’s been another exciting year not only for Creative Virtual as a company, but also for the virtual agent, chatbot and live chat industry, with lots of new developments and innovation. So, as per our annual tradition, let’s take a look at some of the highlights from the past 12 months.

We continued our five-year-long celebration of our Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017 by publishing more Meet the Team interviews and pushing forward with our Innovations Roadmap. In September, we added a new recognition to our growing list of accomplishments when we won a place on The Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 as one of Britain’s fastest-growing private technology companies. Rachel Freeman (Operations Director), Peter Behrend (CTO) and Chris Ezekiel (Founder & CEO) attended the awards ceremony in London to accept our award and spend an interesting evening mingling with other Tech Track 100 companies. This year we also had the opportunity to share our story in The Parliamentary Review as a Best Practice Representative for the technology sector. It was exciting to see our article in print – there are still copies of the publication available in our London office – and talk about our journey from a small industry pioneer to a global leader in our space and our company culture based on innovation, teamwork and ownership of which we are very proud. You can read our full article here.

We can’t mention recognitions without a special shout out to the Transport for NSW team and their chatbot RITA on having an exceptional year. RITA was in the news in January for giving commuters access to voice-activated information with a new integration with Amazon’s Alexa. The team also brought home three separate awards this year: ‘Most Innovative and Intelligent BOT for Customer Experience’ at the AI Conference Awards, ‘Best Multichannel Customer Experience’ in the EY-Ashton Media 2018 CX Awards, and a win in the Solutions category at the Transport Recognition Awards for “A new frontier in customer information”. Congratulations!

There were also some other noteworthy and news making announcements for individual members of the Creative Virtual team this year. Maria Ward, Andre Matthews, Dinah Clarke, David Barker, Chloe Tooley, Tracey Biela, Björn Gülsdorff, Steve Smith, Rachel Freeman and Chris Ezekiel completed the Virgin Sport Westminster 10K in July and exceeded their fundraising goal for the RSPCA. This was the fourth time a group of runners from Creative Virtual did a 10k in support of the RSPCA. Jeff Clifford was invited to speak at Milton Keynes College during Digital Day in February to share insights on chatbots and virtual agents with students (read our interview with Jeff here). Rachael Needham had her ‘Meet the Team’ interview featured in her local newspaper, the Cameron Citizen-Observer, in September (read the article here and our full interview with Rachael here). Liam Ryan was featured in CRMXchange’s Executive Interview series, sharing his thoughts on self-service technology and recent industry developments (read his full interview here).  And I was honoured to be named ‘Most Influential Marketing Manager 2018 – UK’ as part of the 2018 Business Woman Elite Awards for my work at Creative Virtual.

We once again celebrated Customer Service Week (1-5 October) and CX Day (2 October) with a special series of posts on the Creative Virtual blog. This year we explored the evolving role of chatbots and combining automation with a human element to better support customers with special contributions from Laura Ludmany (Leverage Your Chatbot to Its Full Capacity), Rachel Freeman (Are We Chatting or are We Serving? – The balance of chat and getting the solution quickly) and Chris Ezekiel (Automation Shouldn’t Force Customers to do the Work Themselves). We also shared our annual blog post roundup (Five Stars for Customer Service Week) to kick off the week and released a brand new whitepaper, A Chatbot for Your Contact Centre, which shares tips for selecting and implementing a conversational platform to support agents and provide an omnichannel customer experience. It includes 12 specific questions to ask when deciding what solution will work best for your organisation.

In September, we presented our sixth annual Technology Innovation Showcase webinar with CRMXchange, this year titled ‘Humans & AI: The Perfect CX Power Couple’. Chris Ezekiel shared a series of live demonstrations showcasing how to bring together artificial intelligence and human input to provide quality self-service options, improve live chat and contact centre performance and increase customer satisfaction scores. You can watch the recording on-demand here. Then at the end of November, he presented another webinar, this time with Engage Customer titled ‘Orchestrating a Seamless and Efficient Customer Experience’. He again shared live demos along with eight recommendations for organisations either looking to implement chatbots, virtual agents and live chat or who want to improve any of those tools they already have in place. Within minutes of finishing the live webinar, Chris received an email from an attendee that read, “I would like to say thank you for the best online presentation in my life.” Luckily you can also watch that recording on-demand here to experience it for yourself!

As always, we were busy sponsoring and joining our partners at industry events around the world during 2018 – Hong Kong, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Malaysia, Macau, India – and were grateful to deliver thought leadership presentations and/or sit on expert panels at many of them. In addition to presenting at four of these events, Chris Ezekiel also penned an article for CRMXchange, Are You Ready for the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Your Contact Center?, which identifies three areas contact centres should focus on when it comes to developing and implementing digital initiatives and AI projects. We released two new Customer Success Stories this year: Rest, one of Australia’s largest superannuation funds by membership, who use virtual agent Roger to provide 24/7 support for customers on their website and Google Home; and a large Government Department that is reducing internal service desk costs and improving employee productivity with a virtual agent.

This year we celebrated the launch of a brand new Creative Virtual website that better reflects our company, brand and technology. We welcomed a number of great organisations to our expanding Global Partner Network, and our V-Person™ Family continued to grow with new deployments in a variety of languages and additional features and functionality being added to existing installs.

November marked the 15th anniversary of Chris Ezekiel founding Creative Virtual in London’s East End, and January will be the anniversary of when the company first started trading. As we finish out the end of 2018, we’re looking forward to celebrating our 15th anniversary next year!

Don’t forget to check out our 2018 in Review photo album on the Creative Virtual Facebook page. We’ve compiled photos from our official events and presentations as well as our fun group activities, company celebrations and fundraising activities. There will still be more photos to come, so be sure to like our Facebook page so you don’t miss any.

The Platform at the Heart of a Seamless and Efficient Customer Experience

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

There’s such a buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots today, and it’s certainly a space that has changed a lot since I founded Creative Virtual 15 years ago. The learnings we have gained over the years are an important differentiator for our company and positively influence how we develop and implement our technology. During a recent webinar with Engage Customer, I shared some of those learnings and took attendees through current industry trends and best practices as well as sharing some new innovations. My goal was to show how organisations can orchestrate a seamless and efficient customer experience (CX) across contact channels with chatbots, virtual agents and AI to improve the experience whilst also saving costs.

The virtual agent, chatbot and live chat market is very crowded today with new vendors popping up all the time, and it’s confusing with all the buzz and mixed messages about AI. One of my key tips for any organisation looking at these solutions is that, whether you’re talking about the technology itself or the way chatbots and live chat are implemented and maintained, it’s the people element that’s absolutely crucial. It’s just as much about working with a vendor that can provide consulting expertise as the actual technology. The two need to come together hand-in-hand for a successful project, and that’s something we are very proud to offer at Creative Virtual.

I’m sure it’s not surprising to anyone reading this that over the past several years, customers consistently identify the same factors as being most important when it comes to customer experience and service: efficient, reliable, effortless, flexible. The good news for organisations is that machines, combined with humans, can help them deliver on all these expectations. Another of my key tips is to implement an orchestration platform that can bring together all of your content sources, manage the intents and keep the conversations flowing across all customer touchpoints completely seamlessly in a personalised way and at large scale. The V-Portal™ platform that powers our chatbots, virtual agents and live chat does this while also allowing you to learn from all those conversations going on in real time in such a way that a human, the content owner, works alongside the machine learning component to provide the best possible CX. It’s the machine learning and human curation parts coming together in a hybrid model that makes all of this possible. The orchestration platform is at the heart of creating a seamless and efficient experience.

The best way to understand this is to see real examples, so be sure to watch the webinar recording to see the live demonstrations I shared. You’ll also want to check out the eight recommendations I gave for organisations who are looking to implement chatbots, virtual agents and live chat or want to improve any of those tools they already have in place.

My thanks to Steve Hurst and Engage Customer for hosting this webinar and to all the attendees for their great questions and feedback. You can watch the full recording of Orchestrating a Seamless and Efficient Customer Experience on-demand here.

Creating Intimacy with APAC Customers Through Artificial Intelligence

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

It’s more important than ever for organisations in Asia Pacific to connect with digital customers and create a convenient, efficient and seamless customer experience. When implemented properly, chatbots are a powerful tool to bring together the contact centre with self-service channels and navigate language and culture barriers to create conversational engagement with customers.

I’m looking forward to sharing how to join up the contact centre with digital channels through a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and human input at the upcoming Hong Kong Call Centre Association (HKCCA) Symposium taking place on 25 October at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. Creative Virtual will once again be supporting our partner company Continuous Technologies at the annual conference. This will be my fourth year presenting on the symposium theme, which this year is ‘Customer Intimacy Through Artificial Intelligence’.

My presentation, titled ‘Artificial Intelligence, Customer Experience & the Contact Centre’, will provide practical advice and best practices for integrating chatbots, virtual agents and live chat with the contact centre to create successful digital transformation strategies. I’ll also be sharing insights from recent industry research along with a series of live demonstrations showcasing how organisations in APAC and around the world are already using AI technologies to improve their customer experience.

It’s a pleasure to be invited back to present at the HKCCA Symposium and great to be taking part with Continuous Technologies. We’ve partnered with them since 2014 and currently collaborate on projects such as Octopus Cards Limited’s virtual assistant Helen. The HKCCA always hosts insightful events, and this year’s theme is especially relevant as the customer experience industry continues to debate AI and organisations struggle with the best way to implement AI technologies.

If you are attending the 2018 HKCCA Symposium, be sure to join me at 14:00 for my presentation and stop by our booth to meet the team and learn more. I look forward to seeing you there!

If you won’t be at the event, we’d love to arrange a personalised demo to show you how your organisation’s customer engagement strategy can benefit from a combination of AI and humans.

I also recommend downloading the new buyer’s guide A Chatbot for Your Contact Centre for tips on using chatbots and virtual agents to align your contact centre with digital channels for seamless customer support.

Using Artificial Intelligence to Build Better Relationships with Customers

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

The buzz and hype around all things artificial intelligence (AI) is pretty amazing as I’m sure you’ll all agree. It’s important for organisations to go beyond that buzz and really understand how AI can help them reach their business goals. CRMXchange’s recent Tech Tank roundtable webinar, Artificial Intelligence in the Contact Center, dug into this topic with industry research and live demonstrations. I was pleased to be able to join the expert panel and share insights into this topic.

During my presentation I shared how chatbots, people and AI are being used across organisations to create a seamless customer experience. The contact centre needs to be at the heart of these digital transformation projects. We’re in a world where knowledge management and how we learn from the way people interact with that knowledge is absolutely key. It’s a world where humans and machines work together, creating a hybrid of human curation and machine learning to support customers. This approach is being seen as best practice by industry analysts and consultants.

For some time now, we’ve been learning about how customer experience is a key differentiator in the marketplace. Recent research shows that the customer experience is still growing in importance for consumers when it comes to making their purchasing decisions. Industry experts are predicting a significant increase over the next two years in customer service and support operations integrating virtual agents and chatbots across engagement channels to help improve their customer experience.

With this in mind, where should your contact centre focus? During the webinar, I summarised three key areas:

  • Centralising knowledge managementKnowledge management is very important, and you need to ensure this integrates from a workflow perspective with all of the ways your organisation learns and delivers information. This creates enormous benefits in terms of efficiency, accuracy and consistency. Knowledge is always up-to-date with this approach and becomes a single point of truth.
  • Integrating chatbots and live agents – This creates a seamless customer experience, with humans and machines working in harmony. I showed this in action during my live demos.
  • Combining AI and human input – We’ve all seen the potential disaster if AI is left on its own to provide customer service. An infamous case is Microsoft’s chatbot that became sexist and racist as it learned from the way people were interacting with it. It’s important that the system you implement enables human moderation of the machine learning component.

What does all this mean for your contact centre? It allows agents to really concentrate on the more complex issues and move their focus from trying to retain knowledge to building better relationships with your customers. Your contact centre benefits from lower costs, reduced staff turnover and more engaged, skilled and happier agents.

If you weren’t able to attend the live webcast, I encourage to watch the Tech Tank recording on-demand to see my live demos of chatbots and live chat. The Creative Virtual team would also love to give you a personalised demo to show how this technology can help your organisation improve your contact centre performance and customer experience.

My thanks to Sheri Greenhaus and CRMXchange for hosting the webinar and to the other expert presenters from NICE Nexidia and CallMiner.

Chatbots in Action – Creative Virtual at CCW 2018

By Björn Gülsdorff, Chief Business Development Officer

The end of February is Call Center World time, Europe’s biggest “international conference and trade show for innovative customer dialogue”, now in its 20th year. (Congratulations!)

Whilst chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) made it to the stage last year already, they have now become one of the major topics of the show and I am excited to have three speaking slots with our partner sogedes.

Excited and a little bit nervous: Since last year, the AI hype cycle is said to be past the “peak of inflated expectations” and having started the descent into the “trough of disillusionment”. Looking at what some people did promise and how they boasted about the “intelligence” of their solutions, that is a well-deserved set-back, but there is always the risk of an overreactions and buyers turning their back on technology altogether, just because of too high expectations. I will learn it the hard way, I guess, whether they have embraced the pragmatic (and working) hybrid approach already or not. My recent speeches in places as diverse as the Financial Forum in Hong Kong and the Service Desk Forum in Mainz, Germany give me hope, but you never know.

I am also looking forward to CCW 2018 because the world of call centres is comprehensively covered. It is the perfect place to see how virtual agents do (and must) fit into a customer communication strategy, how they can support agents best – “collaborate”, I should say – and which backend systems to integrate with. I’m also interested to hear where newer channels like messenger platforms (such as Facebook Messenger) are fitting into contact centre strategies. Could they be replacing AI as the most hyped topic?

In any case, it will be three challenging and inspiring days (from February 27 to March 1, since you ask) at the booth with sogedes and my colleague Katrin Zieren (Hall 3, Booth E8-E10). I am looking forward to that.

If you’re attending, be sure to catch our “Chatbots in action” presentation on Tuesday, February 27 at 11:30 in Hall 3 – International Plaza. We’ll also be showcasing chatbot solutions on Wednesday at 15:10 and Thursday at 13:00 in Hall 1 – TeleTalk-Demoforum. There’s more information and the full agenda on the CCW 2018 website.

If you can’t attend but want to learn more, request a live demo to see our chatbots in action.

Don’t Worry, the Customer Only Wants You to Be Perfect

By Scott Tompkins, Enterprise Account Executive, USA

So…. I have this diploma and now have no idea what to do! Anyone else been there after graduation? Being from Delaware, I thought I would try my hand at one of the many financial service companies that call the First State home. My interview seemed to go well and as it was concluding the hiring manager asked me to sit with one of her agents for 30 minutes so that I would have a better understanding of what I would be doing in this role. I sat down and listened to “Steve” take his first call. The caller was a very polite woman who I assume had lived a long, enjoyable life. She was calling to cancel her credit card. I can’t recall all of the dialogue but when she hung up the phone not only was the card not cancelled but she now was the proud owner of the “World Traveler Card.” How did that happen? At that moment, I realized this was not the job for me! What an incredibly difficult position for an agent. How do you show empathy for your customers while at the same time complying with the push to meet goals the company has outlined?

Fast forward a dozen or so years and now I am a seasoned member of the working class that at times requires support from brands I purchase from. My expectations when speaking with an agent are that they will handle every situation the way I would handle it if I was on the other end. Imagine asking an agent to meet each caller’s personal expectations. I really dislike the word “fair”, and don’t allow my children to use it, but my goodness, that is an unfair expectation.

So, what is the answer? For me, it’s automation. When I take inventory of all the reasons I pick up the phone or live chat with a brand, most of those things could be answered in some type of automated fashion or by a chatbot. Whether I need information about my account or steps to troubleshoot a process, I shouldn’t need another person to take the time to help me. Chatbots have evolved in 2017 to be intelligent, easy to access and conversational. They should be used in everyday transactions and leave the “high-touch” scenarios for the agents. Companies should strive to create an environment where customers are able to get immediate support for everyday issues, while at the same time having agents available for consultative help. Companies will not only create a superior customer experience but also help bring sanity back to their agents. Allow the agent to spend their day consulting with customers on new products and offering advice where necessary. Let the chatbot handle the password reset, account balance, and “I need to reset my router” questions.

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