Tag Archive for: conversational ai

ChatGPT, GPT-3, and Your Conversational AI Solution

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Since the official announcement in November 2022, there has been an enormous amount of buzz and excitement about OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Industry experts are publishing articles about it, social networks are filled with comments about it, and local, national, and global news organisations are reporting stories about it. From students using ChatGPT to complete assignments for class to me getting a little help from ChatGPT to write my latest ‘Virtual Viewpoint’ column, it certainly seems like everyone is testing it out.

As a specialist within the conversational AI space, Creative Virtual is excited about what ChatGPT and the technology behind it bring to our industry. We’ve been having lots of discussions with our customers and partners, as well as internally, about how this can deliver value to businesses using our V-Person™ solutions.

ChatGPT is an extremely powerful language model that is changing quickly and will continue to get more sophisticated. However, like any deep neural network, it is a black box which is hard – if not impossible – to control. Using it as a generative tool means you can’t steer in detail what it’s going to say.  You can’t deliver reliable, accurate self-service tools if you can never be certain what response might be given.

These limitations don’t mean you should write off ChatGPT or GPT-3 (and future versions) as completely ineffective in the realm of customer service and employee support. In some cases, one might be willing to accept a certain risk in exchange for very efficiently making large chunks of information available to a chatbot. Also there are ways to use the language power of GPT in a non-generative way, as we’ll explore in this post.

In any case, ChatGPT can only ever be used as just one piece of the puzzle, like content management, integration, user interface, and quality assurance. ChatGPT alone cannot replace all of that.

One of the design features of Creative Virtual’s conversational AI platform is the flexibility to integrate with other systems and technologies, including multiple AI engines such as transformer models like GPT-3. We are currently exploring the best way to interface with this model and use it to deliver value to our customers and partners.

Let’s take a closer look at ChatGPT, how it works, and the ways it can be used to deliver customer service and employee support.

 

What kind of AI is ChatGPT and how is that different from how V-Person works?

ChatGPT is a transformer model, a neural network, and is trained to predict text continuation. It uses a variation of GPT-3 which is OpenAI’s large language model (LLM) trained on a wide range of selected texts and codes. It is extremely powerful with respect to language understanding and common world knowledge. However its knowledge is not limitless and so on its own it will not have large parts of the information needed for specific chatbot use cases. Also its world knowledge is frozen at the time it was trained – currently it doesn’t know anything about events after 2021.

V-Person uses a hybrid approach to AI using machine learning, deep neural networks, and a rule-based approach to natural language processing (NLP). The machine learning component is integrated with workflow functionality within our V-Portal™ platform so enterprises can decide the best configuration for their conversational AI tool to improve in a controlled and reliable way. At the same time, natural language rules can be used as an ‘override’ to the machine learning part to ensure accuracy, resolve content clashes, and deliver very precise responses when needed.

We developed this approach to give our customers control over the AI to create accurate, reliable chatbot and virtual agent deployments. The use of natural language rules as a fallback option to fix occasional issues and finetune responses is much more efficient than trying to tweak training data.

 

Can businesses use ChatGPT to directly answer questions from customers and employees?

At the time of writing, ChatGPT is still in a research preview stage and highly unstable with no clean API available, so it’s not possible yet for businesses to use it in this way. However with its predecessor, InstructGPT, it is. It’s also worth noting that GPT-3 is high quality only in English and a few other languages which is another potential limitation for global use.

The biggest issue with using ChatGPT to directly answer questions from customers and employees is that it does not give you control over how it will respond. It could give factually incorrect answers, give answers that don’t align with your business, or respond to topics you’d prefer to avoid within your chatbot. This could easily create legal, ethical, or branding problems for your company.

 

What about simply using ChatGPT for intent matching?

There are two ways in which GPT-3 could be used for intent matching.

The first way just uses GPT-3 embeddings and trains a fairly simple neural network for the classification task on top of that. The second option also uses GPT-3 embeddings and a simple nearest neighbour search on top of that. We are currently exploring this last option and expect to get some quality gains from that approach.

 

Can I just provide a few documents and let ChatGPT answer questions by ‘looking’ at those?

Yes, this is absolutely possible. In fact, we have offered this functionality with V-Person for several years without needing GPT but none of our clients have been interested. GPT-3 improves the quality of this in most cases, but also comes with a higher risk of being very wrong. If an organisation is interested in using GPT-3 in this way, we can support it within our platform but what we currently offer already enables us to deliver document-based question answering.

It’s important to keep in mind that using ChatGPT to answer questions from documents is only addressing one aspect of the support expected from a virtual agent. For example, no transaction triggering API will ever be called by GPT looking at a document.

 

Is it possible to give GPT-3 a few chat transcripts as examples and let it work from them?

You can provide GPT-3 with sample transcripts and tell it to mimic that chat behaviour. But unless you want a chatbot with a very narrow scope, a few transcripts won’t be enough. If there are complex dialogue flows that need to be followed, you’ll need to provide at the very least one example of each possible path – most likely you’ll need more.

This raises some difficult questions. How do you maintain those if something changes? If you try to use only real agent transcripts, how do you ensure that you have complete coverage? How do you deal with personalised conversations and performing transactions that require backend integration? It may not be too difficult to train the model to say ‘I have cancelled that order for you’ at the right time, but that doesn’t mean GPT will have actually triggered the necessary action to cancel the order.

When you really examine this approach it becomes clear that this is not an efficient way to build and maintain an enterprise-level chatbot or virtual agent. It also doesn’t address the need to have integration with backend systems to perform specific tasks. Today our customers achieve the best ROI through these integrations and personalisation.

 

What other key limitations exist with using ChatGPT to deliver customer service or employee support?

Using a generative ChatGPT-only approach to your chatbot does not give you the opportunity to create a seamless, omnichannel experience. To do that, you need to be able to integrate with other systems and technologies, such as knowledge management platforms, ticketing systems, live chat solutions, contact centre platforms, voice systems, real-time information feeds, multiple intent engines, CRMS, and messaging platforms. These integrations are what enable a connected and personalised conversational AI implementation.

With ChatGPT there is no good way to create reliable and customised conversation flows. These flows are regularly used within sophisticated conversational AI tools to guide users step-by-step through very specific processes, such as setting up a bank account. This goes a step further than just creating a conversational engagement to employing slot-filling functionality, entity extraction, and secure integrations.

You also won’t have the ability to optimise the chatbot for the channels and devices on which it will be used. This includes using rich media – such as diagrams, images, videos, hyperlinks – within answers. For example, you can’t include an image carousel to display within a messenger platform. You won’t be able to show photos or drawings to help with a new product set-up. You don’t have the ability to display clickable buttons with options for the user.

 

As ChatGPT continues to change and moves out of the research preview stage, our expert team at Creative Virtual will stay on top of new developments and opportunities this technology offers. Our mission is always to innovate in a way that will help companies tackle their real challenges and deliver real business results – and our approach to this language model is no different.

If you’re interested in discussing more about how ChatGPT and V-Person might fit with your conversational AI strategy, get in touch with our expert team here.

Hot Off the Press: The Chatbot Buyer’s Guide for 2023

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Chatbots and conversational AI have been gaining acceptance as essential pieces of successful customer service and employee support strategies. If your organisation doesn’t have at least one of these solutions already, it’s likely you are planning to deploy one soon or are exploring the possibility of adding one to your 2023 strategy.

Unfortunately, as adoption of this technology is increasing so is the oversaturation of the market with poor performing chatbot products. Now many live chat, CRM, and contact centre vendors are attempting to jump on the conversational AI bandwagon with their own ‘add-on bots’. This is creating both confusion for buyers and a starker divide between vendors selling add-on bots and vendors that are true conversational AI specialists.

What makes a chatbot vendor a conversational AI specialist?

A conversational AI specialist is a vendor whose core product is their conversational AI platform. It’s not just something they have tacked onto another product offering to take advantage of the growing interest in chatbots. They have an established history of delivering successful virtual agent and chatbot solutions.

A conversational AI specialist has a focus on creating successful self-service experiences through tightly integrated and personalised conversational engagement. Their technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) to improve solutions in an accurate, reliable way that gives organisations full control. They are driving conversational AI technology forward with dedicated development teams and innovative deployments.

If a CRM, live chat, or contact centre vendor you are already working with suggests adding their own chatbot to your contract, it can be tempting to quickly accept as an easy way to meet growing demand for self-service. However, it is very important that you take the time to properly evaluate their solution and how it will work for your organisation.

If you are considering the purchase of an add-on bot – or any conversational AI solution, for that matter – you should first ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I looking for a chatbot that will deliver high rates of self-service resolution and containment to reduce my support costs and alleviate pressure on live agents?
  • Am I looking to deliver a personalised self-service experience that goes beyond just a basic FAQ bot?
  • Am I looking for a platform that fits with a composable business approach and can easily integrate with my current backend systems so I can respond to market changes with agility?
  • Am I looking for a solution that offers me scalability, flexibility, and lots of customisation?
  • Am I looking to deploy a solution that will deliver long-term self-service success?

Did you answer YES to any of these questions? Then you need the brand new Chatbot Buyer’s Guide: Benefits of Collaborating with a Conversational AI Specialist.

This comprehensive 2023 guide takes you through the key differences between a solution from a conversational AI specialist and the most common add-on bots on the market today. It also includes a quick comparison chart to help with your evaluation and purchasing decision.

Unless you’re someone working in the conversational AI space every day, it can be extremely difficult to know exactly what questions to ask when comparing chatbot products. That’s why expert guidance is so important for making a smart purchasing decision. Differences in how AI is implemented, the types of self-service experiences that can be delivered, typical pricing structures, and compatibility with composable business models are just a few of the areas covered by this guide.

Download your copy of The Chatbot Buyer’s Guide for the expert insights you need to get your 2023 conversational AI journey off to a good start. Whether you start by reading the in-depth explanations of each key chatbot capability or immediately jump to the quick comparison chart at the end, this guide will help you create an informed evaluation process for a smart purchasing decision.

If you’re interested in learning more about working with a conversational AI specialist, the experienced team at Creative Virtual is always ready to arrange a live demo and consultation session.

Wishing you Joy & Good Cheer This Season & in the New Year!

The end of 2022 is nearly here and as we reflect on the past year, the Creative Virtual team want to express our thanks to all of our blog readers, customers, and partners. We appreciate you!

The last 12 months brought lots of exciting developments for the conversational AI industry and us as a company. We reflected on some of these in our 2022 in Review blog post. Since that look back was published, one of our other blog posts – Can Conversational AI Make Your CX More Human and Empathic? – won first place in the CX Technology category of the 2022 Customer Experience Update MVP Awards!

While it’s always nice to end the year celebrating a win, we’re also busy looking forward to 2023. We have some exciting things in the works, including a new chatbot buyer’s guide and the next release of our V-Person™ technology. While you wait for those, be sure to check out our other educational resources and subscribe to our Blog – if you haven’t already, of course!

On behalf of all of us around the world at Creative Virtual, we wish you joy and good cheer this season and in the new year!

A Look Back: 2022 in Review

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

As the end of 2022 draws near, it is time once again for Creative Virtual’s annual year in review blog post. Every year we take this opportunity to reflect on the hard work of our team, our contributions to the conversational AI industry, and a few of our company’s biggest highlights from the past 12 months.

Two of the things we are proudest of at Creative Virtual are our experienced, dedicated team and the unique expertise we provide to our customers and partners. Whether it’s through our product development or our collaborations with individual clients, it’s important to us that we consistently deliver the best solutions possible. Having an analyst group recognise us for this is always an exciting bonus – and that’s what happened again this year.

AIxOutlook conducted an independent assessment of the major conversational AI vendors in the market and found Creative Virtual to be the Innovation Excellence Leader!

“Creative Virtual is the clear Innovation Excellence Leader in a crowded and competitive conversational AI industry. Businesses collaborating with them benefit from their expert consultation, resulting in customised, integrated, and personalised solutions that deliver real business value.”

This Innovation Excellence Leadership award recognises us as the foremost conversational AI innovator driving the industry forward. You can read more about AIxOutlook’s full evaluation by downloading the report for free here. This honour means even more as we prepare for the upcoming launch of the next innovative release of our V-Person™ technology.

The analysts at Celent conducted their own evaluation of intelligent virtual assistant platforms as well, focusing in on the technology within the retail banking space. Creative Virtual was one of ten vendors included, and we are proud of our ‘Luminary’ ranking in the final report. This means we excelled in all three of the dimensions evaluated: Advanced Technology, Breadth of Functionality, and Customer Base and Support. Celent clients can access the full report here.

We were also awarded ‘Best Conversational AI Solutions’ in the SME News 2022 IT Awards. These awards recognise companies driving for innovation and focusing on client-centricity while also remaining true experts in their industry. Being recognised as the best in conversational AI made our Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, contemplate what makes a virtual agent or chatbot a true conversational AI solution and share his insights in a blog post.

women leaders of conversational AIIn October I was recognised for my contribution to the conversational AI industry by being included in the Women Leaders of Conversational AI, Class of 2023! I’m honoured to have been selected to be a part of this inaugural class and am looking forward to attending the ceremony at the Project Voice Women’s Summit in April. The This Week in Voice podcast host, Bradley Metrock, dedicated an episode to introducing each of the women selected – you can listen anywhere you get your podcasts or check it out on YouTube here.

Age UK, a Creative Virtual customer since 2017, collaborated with us on a new case study exploring the four main goals they are achieving with our V-Person technology: improve discoverability of a large amount of online content; give people more ways to easily interact with and find information; resolve easy-to-answer queries online to reduce Advice Line calls; and be proactive in testing new innovations to better meet the charity’s objectives. Check out the full Age UK success story here.

In May we announced a new partnership with Service Management Group (SMG) to deliver an industry-first dynamic assistance capability. Dynamic assistance integrates V-Person conversational AI with SMG’s digital experience solution to deliver real-time support to users as they encounter issues during their online purchasing journey. Learn more about the partnership and dynamic assistance here.

2022 ALGIM conferenceWe joined our partner Enghouse Interactive in Christchurch, NZ in November for the ALGIM (Association of Local Government Information Management) 2022 Conference. Creative Virtual’s Patrick Gallagher co-presented a well-attended session on creating award-winning chatbots in local government.

Also in November, Mugdha Desai, our Head of India Operations, took part in the Agile Mumbai 2022 Conference. The event theme was ‘Artificial Intelligence for Business Agility’, and Mugdha was a featured panellist for the session titled, ‘Benefits of AI for End User’.

Founder & CEO, Chris shared his conversational AI insights through a variety of articles, podcasts, and interviews this year, including:

The Creative Virtual team continued our tradition of sharing our expertise through our annual Blog Post Celebration for Customer Service Week and CX Day in October. This year’s posts covered multi-lingual digital customer service, the members on a conversational AI team, the battle between humans and technology, and setting customer service projects up for success. You can find the whole 2022 collection here.

We aim to publish interesting and educational posts on our blog throughout the year. This year I’m proud to have two of my blog posts selected as finalists in the 2022 Customer Experience Update MVP Awards: Composable CX: Becoming Agile and Flexible in the CX Strategy category and Can Conversational AI Make Your CX More Human and Empathetic? in the CX Technology category. Voting for the MVPs – most valuable posts! – has ended, and the winners will be announced later this month.

One of the industries in which the Creative Virtual team has extensive experience is the Insurance sector. We collaborated with Insurance Thought Leadership (ITL) to produce a whitepaper exploring how conversational AI is enabling insurance companies to greatly improve their customer experience while also slashing costs. You can get your own copy of ‘The Virtual Insurance Agent’ whitepaper here.

We also put together a short, animated video to explain V-Person for Insurance, our conversational AI solution designed specifically for the insurance industry:

Another area in which we have extensive experience is improving existing chatbot and virtual agent implementations.  We published an eBook – Conversational AI Issues & Solutions: Transforming Ineffective Chatbot & Virtual Agent Projects – that explores six of the most common reasons business leaders have given for being unhappy with their conversational AI projects and ways to overcome those challenges.

2022 has been a busy and productive year for us at Creative Virtual and, as the year comes to an end, we are excitedly looking forward to 2023. We hope you’ll stay connected by subscribing to our Blog on this page and signing up here for our Monthly Newsletter.

Multi-Lingual Digital Customer Service is Easier Than Ever

By Maria Ward, Account Manager & Knowledgebase Engineer

Good day – Guten tag – Buenos días – Bonne journée – Goededag – Buona giornata – There are more than 7,000 known languages spoken in the world today. So, it’s no surprise that language is a common barrier in both personal and business interactions.

Back in 2014, the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) published a report titled The Growing Need for Multilanguage Customer Support. Their survey of customer service leaders found that 72% said support in a customer’s native language increased their satisfaction with customer support and 58% said it increased loyalty to the brand. Over half acknowledged that offering support in a customer’s native language was a competitive differentiator.

This research is old now, but the desire of customers to have native language support is still very much there. Luckily for businesses, new technologies are making it easier for them to offer multilingual customer service on digital channels than it was in 2014.

One of these technologies is machine translation which has seen huge improvement in recent years. Developments over the past two years have greatly increased the accuracy and reliability of many translation engine applications. This has opened up new possibilities for delivering multilingual customer self-service.

For example, this year I’ve been working on several conversational AI projects with businesses taking advantage of machine translation to provide customer service in multiple languages. One is with an organisation that has used V-Person technology since 2016 on their UK website. They are an international company and became interested in exploring ways they could leverage their successful English-speaking virtual agent in other countries.

Using an automatic translation engine is a great solution for them because it is cheaper, simpler, and easier than creating a whole new virtual agent in a second language. It lets them build on the years of investment they had already made in their English-speaking virtual agent. Now they are using that same knowledgebase to provide self-service on their German website by adding translated versions of their virtual agent answers and integrating with a translation engine.

Here’s how it works: The customer enters their question in German in the virtual agent. A translation engine is utilised to translate that input into English. The translated input is then matched in the knowledgebase to the correct piece of content. The virtual agent selects the German version of the response from the knowledgebase and presents that answer to the customer.

The company started the project by identifying the top FAQs for their German website. They then provided German translations for those pieces of content. The team also worked on making any modifications to the natural language processing (NLP) to accommodate for differences in how a German user might ask those questions or ‘weird’ automatic translations that may be returned by the engine. After a successful launch of the German-speaking virtual agent, work got underway to slowly expand the content.

Another project I’ve been working on recently is for a brand-new virtual agent. One of the reasons Creative Virtual was selected as their conversational AI provider is our ability to integrate with translation engines and manage multiple languages within one knowledgebase. This company is starting their project with seven languages.

The process for this multi-lingual virtual agent has been a little different than my first example because there was no existing knowledgebase at the start. My recommendation for any organisation looking to build a new virtual agent in multiple languages is to start by finalising all content in the main language first. This will save you time with the translation work because changes to an answer typically means having to make updates to that answer across all languages.

Using automatic translation to expand a virtual agent to multiple languages is cost-effective and saves time, but it’s not a perfect solution. You’re likely to encounter content clashes and inputs that aren’t matched with your existing content. This is why you need a virtual agent management platform that has the right functionality to specifically support integration with a translation engine. The projects I’ve been working on are successful because of our V-Portal™ platform.

The right conversational AI platform will support workarounds for the content clashes and customisations for your different languages. It should also use artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide relevant ‘did you mean’ suggestions to users when their input doesn’t match with a specific piece of content. You also have the ability to set the virtual agent to ‘auto-select’ answers. This means that if the NLP fails to match the input directly with the correct answer, it pushes one of the ‘did you mean’ answers automatically as long as that answer meets a specified confidence level.

Maintenance of your multi-lingual virtual agent is also easier when you have a highly functional management platform integrated with a translation engine. When you need to make updates to an answer, you can do that quickly across all languages since all answers are listed under the same intent in the knowledgebase. Also, any changes you make to the NLP in your main language benefits all languages. And as machine translation engines improve, you automatically benefit from the most recent developments without having to do any work on your virtual agent.

The quality of your customer service affects customer loyalty, repeat business, and your brand reputation. Offering native language support can really improve your support experience. Technologies like automatic machine translation are making it easier than ever to give customers multi-lingual customer service options. Contact the experts at Creative Virtual to learn more about how we’re helping companies deliver these solutions.

Are All Members of Your Conversational AI Team Equal?

By Laura Ludmany, Knowledgebase Engineer

There is a question I came across recently which made me think and raises a good discussion for Customer Service Week: Who is the most important participant in the workflow of the development and maintenance of any AI-powered customer service tool?

Let’s imagine we build a virtual assistant from scratch for a large enterprise client where the solution must be scalable, available across multiple channels, and delivering measurable results. There are many out-of-the-box, seemingly quick solutions on the market which catch attention with claims of being up and running with little time and effort. However, these deployments are not often expandable or manageable as the real-life interaction traffic increases. These chatbots often cannot mature at the same pace as the usage, leaving a bitter taste in the users’ mouths and doing more harm than good for the organisation.

To deploy a chatbot just for the sake of having a chatbot, to tick one cool gadget off the list, to appear to be keeping up with the technology trends – none of these are good goals for a conversational AI project. The goal should be a long term one: to leverage the virtual assistant to its full capabilities; to discover new integrations, features, channels and start using it in a proactive way; to listen to your customers’ needs and feedback gathered in conversations; to broadcast news and promote products, offers, and sales to users in a centralised, accessible way.

Building and managing a virtual assistant with the goals described above, requires more people than a reader from outside the industry would probably imagine:

  • We need a salesperson to introduce the technology to the client and translate their business requirements into virtual assistant project specs.
  • We need a project manager who keeps the momentum going between the client and the team, organises the resources, streamlines the workflows, oversees the processes, and really just holds everything together.
  • We need a knowledgebase/AI engineer who designs the user journeys, builds and updates the database of the chatbot, and manages the algorithm that matches the submitted questions with the intent.
  • We need ‘hard techies’, the software engineers and developers who build the user interface, work on the different integrations, design the templates, and ultimately deploy the virtual assistant.
  • We need an analyst to look after the reporting side of the tool, understand the client’s KPIs, implement those indicators to the reporting platforms, and then deliver the required insights and statistics to the desired reporting suites.

Depending on the size and nature of the project, there can be multiple people sharing the same sets of tasks and many times there can be even more experts involved in a launch of a single chatbot.

So, then the question is: Who is the most important part in this workflow? The sales lead as he ‘brings’ the business in and has to pitch the future client? The project manager who deals with both sides and oversees everything? The AI engineers who build and maintain the ‘brain’ of the virtual assistant? The software developers who bring the chatbot to reality by building the user interface? The analytics experts who provide the reports which show the performance and measurable results of the tool?

Hint: there is no right or wrong answer. Everyone has different views and valid arguments about it. We might say very diplomatically that each and every person has equal importance in the process.

I think, based on my experience, the most important participant in a chatbot project is the client. As the conversational AI vendor, we might have the latest integrations, the coolest features on the template and the best performing chatbots ever, but our client needs to be heavily involved in the continuous journey of a conversational AI tool for real success.

There is no sadder thing for us as chatbot professionals, than to build a majestic AI tool which is then no longer looked after as it is supposed to be. There will always be new user trends evolving, new unrecognised user questions to be addressed, and new technology updates becoming available.

Hence each point of contact has a crucial role to play to win the ‘heart’ of the client, to prove and promote the value of the chatbot, to raise interest, show enthusiasm and engage with the stakeholders. Everyone in the team needs to be proactive and showcase the capabilities of the virtual assistant, whether that be through post-sales add-on integrations and launches, regular touch base meetings, analysing and improving user journeys, flagging content gaps, showing the latest technology solutions, or sharing new reporting features. We have to pass on the passion we share within our team to the client who is just starting to discover the endless possibilities and advantages conversational AI has to offer.

So, from my point of view, making the client interested, invested and an advocate for their chatbot will ultimately make them the most important participant in the chatbot workflow. As we celebrate Customer Service Week, we should recognise their crucial role. At Creative Virtual, we celebrate all our clients who are so devoted to keeping their virtual assistants successful and with whom we work hand-in-hand, day-to-day with over years and even decades.

Showing Love for Customer Service Week

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Happy Customer Service Week! Observed every year during the first full week of October, Customer Service Week is an international celebration of the importance of customer service and of the people who serve and support customers on a daily basis.

Delivering service and support that customers love doesn’t happen by chance. Companies known for their positive customer service have a strategy that encompasses the whole organisation. They support their employees and contact centre agents with the right tools. They are available to their customers on the channels they prefer. They regularly review feedback from both customers and employees and take action to improve. They are agile and adapt to changes with a customer-centric approach.

This week we are showing love for the efforts of everyone involved with delivering customer service – employees helping customers face-to-face in brick-and-mortar locations; contact centre agents delivering support over the phone, live chat, and social media; team members working behind the scenes to build and maintain customer service tools.

It’s become tradition at Creative Virtual to start Customer Service Week with our annual blog post roundup. This will be the seventh year I’ve combed through the previous 12 months of posts on our blog to put this together. It’s always a challenge to decide which posts to include, but my goal is to select ones on a variety of customer service topics that deliver expert insights, actionable tips, and/or thought-provoking questions.

And so, without further ado, here are some of the best customer service posts shared on the Creative Virtual Blog over the past year:

  • Solving Common Conversational AI Project Issues – Conversational AI is widely recognised as an important technology in digital customer service and employee support strategies. However, some organisations are struggling with a chatbot that’s not performing as expected, can’t be scaled as their business grows, or doesn’t properly reflect their brand. It’s possible to get these projects back on track without abandoning the investment.
  • The Generic ‘Chat Now’: Virtual Agent or Live Chat? – Customers are more comfortable with and increasingly seeking out digital self-service options. However, if those tools are easily accessible or clearly identified as the place to self-serve (without having to engage with a human) then both customers and businesses are missing out on their benefit.
  • Gen Z and your Customer Self-Service – If you aren’t planning for the expectations of younger customers as they gain more buying power over the next few years, you are missing out on a prime opportunity to put your customer service efforts on the path to future success. Younger generations not only prefer self-service options but are also coming to expect intuitive self-service.
  • Take Your Customer Support from ‘Talking At’ to ‘Listening To’ – Good customer service means listening to your customers and creating a dialogue, not just talking at them. It also means using what you learn from customers to constantly improve. This requires courage – customers will speak their mind! – and the will to act.
  • Can Conversational AI Make Your CX More Human and Empathetic? – No matter how advanced and integrated a self-service tool may be, some support issues are best handled by a real person. However, as companies work to increase customer empathy and provide better service for vulnerable customers, they are finding that supporting their employees and contact centre agents with specially designed conversational AI solutions can actually make engagements with customers more human and empathic.
  • Contact Centres are Crying Out for Help – Contact centres and contact centre agents are under immense pressure, dealing with increased contact volumes, rising customer frustration, and agent attrition. While technology won’t solve all the issues facing the contact centre industry, the right solutions will go a long way in alleviating some of the stress being placed on agents.
  • Conversational AI and the Employee Experience – Your customer experience starts with your employee experience. Employees that feel supported and have the proper tools to do their jobs are going to be happier and more engaged. In turn, that means better products, services, and support for your customers.
  • Building a Cohesive Virtual Agent and Live Chat Solution – Once rival solutions, virtual agents and live chat are now seen as complementary tools for customer service. Organisations are having discussions about how to incorporate both into their digital customer support strategies. The tips in this post address adding a virtual agent to an existing live chat deployment, adding live chat to an existing virtual agent deployment, and adding both solutions or changing providers.
  • Not All Chatbots are Conversational AI Solutions – There are many names often used interchangeably in the industry, but what makes a virtual agent or chatbot a true conversational AI solution? How the technology is using artificial intelligence both in the development stage and for ongoing maintenance is important. However, don’t overlook the need for integration and personalisation, too.
  • Composable CX: Becoming Agile and Flexible – Over the past two years, composability has become a key discussion point for many organisations looking to take a more agile approach to their customer service. Composable CX is about being able to create and deploy solutions quickly but doing so in a way that responds to customer needs in a thoughtful and empathetic way.

The Creative Virtual team is once again marking this week with our annual Customer Service Week Blog Celebration – a series of posts written by expert members of our team on the present and future of customer service. Subscribe to our Blog to get them all delivered right to your Inbox and find them all listed here as each is published.

Innovation Excellence in Conversational AI

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Conversational AI is a very hot and in-demand technology right now. This is not surprising given the pressures on organisations to improve digital experience and provide smarter automation. It’s also not surprising that this demand has led to a very crowded field of competing vendors, from big companies down to small, new start-ups.

An over-crowded and highly competitive marketplace brings both positives and negatives for buyers. While having options can be nice, evaluating so many choices makes it more time consuming and difficult to select the best vendor for you. Competing vendors can drive innovation, but those innovations don’t necessarily mean better solutions and real business benefits. It can be hugely helpful for buyers to have knowledgeable insights from independent industry experts.

This is why AIxOutlook, a part of Sceptertech Digital, are conducting their Best Practice Research. Their uniquely designed evaluation process benchmarks vendors’ performance against competitors to identify industry leaders. They award their Innovation Excellence Leadership recognition to companies committed to innovation and offering the next generation of products and services.

Creative Virtual is proud to be named the Innovation Excellence Leader in the 2022 Conversational Intelligence report! Prasobh Namboothiri, Associate Editor at AIxOutlook says:

“Creative Virtual is the clear Innovation Excellence Leader in a crowded and competitive conversational AI industry. Businesses collaborating with them benefit from their cutting-edge technology as well as their expert consultation, resulting in customised, integrated, and personalised solutions that deliver real business value.”

Conversational AI Innovation Excellence

AIxOutlook’s evaluation focuses on both innovation and customer impact and finds Creative Virtual to be the leading conversational AI innovator driving the industry forward with our V-Person™ technology. They call out V-Person’s flexible integration options that enable organisations to develop customised solutions for delivery of unified, personalised experiences.

Another vital differentiator identified in the report is our approach to AI and the training of our chatbots and virtual agents. The analysts praise our blending of machine learning and a rules-based approach to natural language processing (NLP) and refer to our conversational AI management platform, V-Portal™, as cutting-edge.

Check out the 2022 Innovation Excellence Leadership in Conversational Intelligence report for AIxOutlook’s full independent assessment of our conversational AI capabilities. The report also includes an evaluation of the global conversational AI market along with current developments and trends in the industry.

As a pioneer in the virtual agent and chatbot space, Creative Virtual has always been committed to innovating in a way that will help companies tackle their current challenges and be prepared for future changes. It’s an honour to be recognised for this long-standing dedication to being a trendsetter in the conversational AI market. Our goal is to always deliver the best possible combination of innovative technology and expertise to our customers and partners.

Download a full copy of the 2022 Conversational Intelligence report here. And then request a personalised demo here to discuss how V-Person can help improve your customer and employee experiences with an expert member of our team.

Composable CX: Becoming Agile and Flexible

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Anyone involved in the customer experience (CX) space has likely come across articles, research, and discussions around composable CX. This concept is all about being agile and flexible to deliver better results even when faced with uncertainty and rapid change. It’s certainly no surprise that composable business jumped to the forefront in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, it was one of the main themes of a virtual Gartner conference I attended in November 2020.

Over the past two years, composability has become a key discussion point for many organisations looking to take a more agile approach to their customer experiences. In an August 2021 webinar, Impact CX with the 3 Building Blocks of Composable Business, Gartner shared the prediction that 60% of mainstream organisations will identify composable business as a strategic objective by 2023. The analysts broke this approach down into three areas:

  • Composable thinking starts with the belief that anything can be made composable. It enables employees to better respond to rapidly changing customer needs with empathy and emphasizes the sharing and seeking of ideas from both inside and outside of the organisation.
  • Composable architecture is all about unleashing innovation at scale by creating a resilient application experience through the use of APIs, microservices, and event streams. It allows for both innovative and traditional customer experiences in order to respond to disruption with agility.
  • Composable technologies, including low code, data mesh, composable platforms, and contextual intelligence, offer the needed guidance and flexibility for customers and employees.

During Argyle’s CMO Leadership Forum earlier this month, composable CX was the focus of a panel discussion. Panellists shared insights based on their experiences working with organisations to develop and implement CX strategies as part of a composable approach.

One of the key takeaways from that session for me was the importance of, and value in, making composability a companywide effort. Maximising the benefits of an investment in this approach requires it to become part of the company’s culture. There needs to be collaboration across departments and from the C-suite on down.

The panellists also stressed that just because composability enables you to do something, that doesn’t mean your organisation should do it. You must still be thoughtful about how you approach your CX strategy and solutions, being sure the decisions you make will bring real value to your customer relationships.

Perhaps not surprising, chatbots were raised as an example of a solution that a company may feel pressured to implement because ‘everyone is doing it’ but may not be the best choice for all businesses. Panellists also used chatbots to illustrate the importance of selecting the right technologies for composable CX. Basic chatbot solutions do not deliver the same benefits and flexibility as sophisticated conversational AI platforms.

If you are considering adding a new CX tool or contact channel, such as a chatbot, you should first evaluate if and how that will enhance the overall experience. Using composable thinking, ask yourself:

  • Will my customers use this type of tool or solution? Are my customers already using this channel, app, etc. and interested in engaging with our business there?
  • How will my customers use this tool or channel? Will they expect a personalised experience? What other systems, channels, tools, etc. will need to be integrated with this new solution to meet customer expectations?
  • Can we deliver a positive experience with this tool or channel? Do we have the right resources and technology to create the solution we need? Are we prepared to properly maintain and update this solution for long-term success?

Composable CX is all about being agile and flexible. It is about being able to create and deploy solutions quickly but doing so in a way that responds to customer needs in a thoughtful and empathetic way.

Even if you’re tempted to write off composable business and CX as just the latest industry buzzwords, don’t ignore the concepts and approach behind them. Organisations that are stuck in their traditional, siloed ways of working are going to find it increasingly difficult to compete with competitors that have invested in becoming more agile and flexible.

How to Make Your Chatbot More Conversational

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

When customers use your chatbot to self-serve, what kind of experience do you deliver? Does your chatbot need questions asked a particular way to return the correct response? Do your customers have to guess the correct keywords to enter or know specific terminology to locate the right information? Are users repeatedly told by your chatbot to try rephrasing an input that doesn’t have a direct match in the system?

All of these scenarios provide a frustrating, negative self-service experience. They often lead to an escalation to a live chat session or a call to the contact centre for resolution, meaning your support agents are left to deal with the immediate impacts of that poor experience. With digital self-service such an important piece of customer support, a chatbot with these limited capabilities is detrimental to the success of your customer experience (CX) strategy.

This is why using a high-quality conversational AI technology to build your chatbot is so important. You want your chatbot to engage with users conversationally. That isn’t possible with basic bot platforms which act more like simple FAQ tools or don’t give you options for backend integrations.

Engaging ‘conversationally’ doesn’t mean that a goal of your chatbot should be to make users think they are chatting with a real person. It’s always best to be clear that it is an automated self-service tool. Customers appreciate transparency about whether they are using a human-assisted or automated digital support option. The last thing you want to do is make them feel tricked!

Here are a few ways to create the right conversational engagement through your chatbot:

  • Create a conversational tone – Just because you aren’t trying to make users think they are talking to a real person doesn’t mean that you must make your chatbot’s responses sound stiff and bland. Craft your responses using a conversational tone that reflects your brand and has the same type of language you use on your website and in customer communications.
  • Understand free text inputs – There is more than one way to ask the same question, and in a conversation both participants understand this. Ensure your chatbot is trained to respond to the various ways users can word an input rather than requiring a specific keyword or phrase. This includes taking into account both common synonyms for your language and region as well as those for your particular industry, products, and services. And on occasions when a user’s input can’t be confidently matched to a response and the chatbot asks for the question to be rephrased, also offer some clickable suggestions or possible related FAQs to improve the experience.
  • Craft conversation flows – Adding customised conversation flows enables your chatbot to guide users through a process step-by-step in a very natural, conversational way. These flows are perfect for troubleshooting account or device issues, completing a form with the chatbot, or pinpointing a very specific piece of information to assist the customer.
  • Deliver personalised support – Integrate your chatbot with backend systems so it can provide customised responses based on that customer’s current account, subscriptions, orders, etc. Using sophisticated slot-filling functionality also enables users to authenticate within the chatbot at any time to create a seamless and more personal conversation.

The best conversational AI technology for customer support chatbots uses a blend of machine learning and natural language rules. This lets you take advantage of recent innovations in machine learning so your chatbot is constantly improving based on your users’ activities. At the same time, it gives you control over the AI so you can ensure your chatbot is using those learnings to continue providing accurate, reliable responses in a conversational way.

If you currently have a chatbot that’s failing the conversational test, check out this eBook on Conversational AI Issues & Solutions for ways to improve your solution.

If you don’t have a customer service chatbot yet and are concerned about choosing the right conversational AI technology, check out this Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor for some insider expert tips.

A chatbot can be a valuable self-service option for your customers, but it must be backed by a high-quality conversational AI technology – with an emphasis on conversational.