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On the Hunt for Better Customer Service

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

The world always seems to be on the hunt for the next thing that will be bigger and better – the newest tech gadget, the latest fashion trend, the hottest social media challenge, the next break-out Netflix show. As customers, we want the best deal, the most innovative products and the greatest experience possible. This means that companies are always on the hunt for ways to meet those expectations, build brand loyalty and deliver a better customer experience.

Last week we celebrated Customer Service Week and CX Day, two annual events that place a spotlight on the importance of customer service and your overall customer experience as well as the people involved in supporting your customers. At Creative Virtual, we recognised these global celebrations with a special series of blog posts written by members of our expert team and published throughout the week. Each contributor selected their own topic independently, and the result was a well-rounded look at how humans and machines can help companies on that hunt for better customer service.

On Tuesday, we published a post by Rachel Freeman in which she explores the struggles contact centres have been facing during the pandemic. Long wait times have been fuelled by a sharp rise in calls combined with the unpredictability of available agents due to office closures and quarantines. She advocates for letting self-help tools, such as virtual agents and chatbots, share the burden being felt by contact centres.

“Let’s give the machines space to help, freedom to work” Rachel writes. This combination of humans and machines can create a seamless experience and more efficient customer service interactions. At the same time, using this approach helps companies prioritise the health and well-being of both their customers and employees.

This provided the perfect set-up for Laura Ludmany’s Customer Service Week Musings on how a machine knows if it’s wrong which we published on Wednesday. In her post, she takes a closer look at the different approaches that can be used to ‘teach’ chatbots and virtual agents. Her conclusion? When it comes to using these AI tools to provide customer service, they can only be trained appropriately with real-life user inputs.

Laura uses her experience working with self-service virtual agents to describe this hybrid approach and the different ways data can be collected from users and applied by the tool to learn about what is right and wrong. “As long as AI tools serve customer queries,” she explains, “they will always face unknown questions, hence they will never stop learning and rewriting their existing set of rules.”

She ends her post by recognising the important role humans, both customers and the virtual agent experts, have in helping these self-service tools deliver a continuously improving experience. This theme of the importance of the human touch was then picked up in Thursday’s post by Björn Gülsdorff.

Björn starts by recalling the presentation he gave in March at the CCW 2020 conference in Berlin which was all about the human touch in AI. The human touch was a hot topic at the event, being seen as the latest trend in Bot Building, and one that Creative Virtual has been doing for years. In his session, Björn talked about putting your customer in the centre of the project, keeping the human experts involved and giving the virtual agent’s responses a personal touch to improve the customer experience.

Now, seven months on from that conference, Björn acknowledges, “The human touch has a different meaning in a world where hugs are considered a danger.” He advocates for the use of technology to bridge the gaps created by the physical distancing needed to control the spread of COVID-19 but stresses the importance of remembering that these are just tools being used to connect people. Keeping the human touch in customer service by keeping humans in the loop is more important than ever.

So, what does this all mean for companies on the hunt for a better customer service experience? Having the right technology in place to enable customers to self-serve is imperative. The pandemic has accelerated the need for digital customer service. Customers who may have turned to digital channels and self-service options out of necessity this year, are now familiar with their convenience and are more likely to make them a part of their new customer service expectations. Contact centres also benefit from this technology with a better agent experience and improved customer interactions.

However, having the technology does not automatically ensure success. It needs to be combined with the right human expertise and support in order to be developed, implemented and maintained correctly for your organisation, customers and agents. That type of knowledge doesn’t happen overnight or come from reading a few blog posts (even great ones like these!). It takes a deep understanding of the technology, how the tools work and the ways users interact with implementations. That expertise only comes from years of actual experience in developing, implementing and maintaining self-service solutions.

Customer Service Week may be over for this year, but the never-ending hunt for better customer service – by companies and customers – goes on. 2020 has forced changes on all of us and accelerated the push for digital transformation. Smart companies know the present and future of better customer service lies in the combination of humans and machines, people and technology, live agents and virtual agents.

Customer Service and the Voice of Your Customers and Team

By Katrin Zieren, Business Development Consultant

V-Person from Creative VirtualThe communication habits of your customers have changed and are changing yet. They are increasingly using voice for entries rather than typing. They are speaking into their mobile devices to create messages on apps such as WhatsApp or Telegram, asking their search engine for information or giving commands to smart speakers like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Or – wow, this is amazing 😉 – they are using their mobile phone to call your service centre.

What’s the impact on your customer service? It’s not complicated. Just consider voice as part of your strategy when you want to offer self-service, whether if it is for your clients or your team.

The good news is that the natural language understanding (NLU) solution of Creative Virtual, or let’s say “the brain of your self-service supply”, does not really care about the input type. It is processing text and there are different possibilities to convert speech to text (STT) and text to speech (TTS).

Now, let’s take a look at the different possibilities of speech conversion:

mobile virtual agentOn mobile devices, speech recognition and language generation are built-in features under full customer control and no further integration is needed.  So, if you have, for example, a chatbot on your website, users can use the voice capabilities of their mobile device to ask their question. You don’t have to consider anything. The device converts speech to text and the outcome is the same as if the user would type into the entry box.

 

smart speaker chatbotA variety of smart speakers, like Alexa, Cortana or Google Home, can be integrated with our self-service virtual agents. For example, Virtual Agent Roger for Rest is available on the web as well as through Google Home. The Virtual Agent for Transport for NSW uses Alexa to let the user know if there are any issues on their commute at that time.

 

contact center agent assist

If you want to offer phone as a contact point for self-service, you need STT and TTS. We have a very big partner network for this technology, and can integrate with any other third-party system of your choice, provided they have a full featured API. Also, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and avatars with lip synchronisation are covered by our partners.

 

So this Customer Service Week, make sure your support strategy fits with your users’ communication habits. Are you enabling them to self-serve within their channel and language modus of choice?

If you want to learn more about our voice solutions, just schedule a live demo with us.

Harnessing Human and Machine During the Pandemic

By Rachel F Freeman, Operations Director

A direct quote of the explanatory theme for this Customer Service Week says: “The impact of events affecting the world today have changed the way in which companies and their employees engage with customers.”

Indeed this is true, and all of us in our businesses and in our personal lives can feel the effects of how services of all kinds have altered in ways ranging from barely discernible to completely different (filling out forms, having temperatures taken, tape and measurements of distance being assessed amidst a lot of Perspex dividers). A main thing that became apparent in call centre scenarios was that call wait times for an array of customer services were much longer and users still are advised in recorded messages that “due to Covid-19” call wait time may be impacted.

I can testify that I’ve never had to wait 25-30 minutes to speak to a representative for whatever service I needed before Spring 2020 but experienced that exact scenario at least four times in the past few months. Speaker phones have never been so handy so that one can do other tasks whilst being on hold for extended periods of time!

Cue the virtual agents, chatbots and virtual assistants. Now more than ever before it is a no brainer that online self-help tools that are available 24/7 should come into their own in this period of uncertainty and continued delays blamed on Covid. Self-help tools need not be subject to the same rules of quarantine which makes them more reliable when it is impossible to predict when humans will be available to handle and field queries based on who is in the office and who is self-isolating.

Now more than ever, in the spirit of seamless customer experience, let’s let the self-help tools do what they are designed to do. Let’s let them share the burden of the increasing pressure on call centre agents and take advantage of them working to their fullest potential. Let’s give the machines space to help, freedom to work whilst the humans that are healthy can spend time not only speaking to customers who truly need a human but also to check in from time to time on the accuracy of the responses of the virtual agent. A smart combination of self-help and human guidance creates confidence that the job will get done with the right tools.

We’re all being told to stay safe and be alert – so let’s work in parallel with the tools to help make that happen. We can enable more efficient customer service interactions whilst at the same time prioritising the health and well-being of both customers and employees.

Check out the Neutrino release of V-Person™ to learn how Creative Virtual is delivering some of the most up-to-date and seamless self-help tools available. Also download the ‘Conversational AI Trends 2020’ ebook from AI Time Journal for virtual agent success stories during the pandemic.

The way companies and their employees are engaging with customers may have changed significantly this year, but with the right tools a positive, seamless experience is possible. This Customer Service Week let’s celebrate both the people and the technology that are delivering safe and seamless customer support in this period of uncertainty.

Two Thumbs Up for Customer Service Week

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Happy Customer Service Week! Today we kick off the annual week-long international celebration of the importance of customer service, the people who deliver that service and the impact it has on successful business practices. 2020 has brought new customer service challenges for companies and altered the way customers engage with businesses, perhaps forever. Delivering service that gets two thumbs up from customers has been – and continues to be – no easy feat!

This is the fifth year I’ve put together a blog post roundup to start off Customer Service Week, and it might just be the most important one yet. The global pandemic has put digital transformation projects on the fast-track for many organisations, including digital customer service initiatives. Having expert insights, resources and industry stats is important for getting those strategies right. Here are some of the key blog posts on customer support we’ve shared over the past year that can help you with improving and extending the customer service you provide:

  • Delivering Self-Service During the COVID-10 Uncertainty, Part 1: Supporting Customers – COVID-19 has put organisations under immense pressure to deliver quality service and support over digital channels. This three-part blog series explores the business value of using a chatbot or virtual agent to provide easy-to-use self-service, starting with supporting customers. Also take a look at Part 2: Supporting Contact Centre Agents and Part 3: Supporting Employees.
  • Helping Financial Organisations Deliver 24/7 Customer Support: Part 1 and Part 2 – This two-part blog series dives into the real experiences of financial organisations as they took quick action to keep the information they were providing to customers up-to-date during a period of fast-paced changes. They used their existing virtual agent implementations both to analyse customer needs and deliver 24/7 support for better customer service.
  • Virtual Agents in 2020: Usage Spikes and the Banking Sector – Starting in late February and early March, Creative Virtual saw a spike in virtual agent traffic that surpassed anything the company had seen in over 16 years of being in the industry. By the end of the first week in July, those virtual agents had already recorded about 75% of the total transactions completed the previous year. While some sectors saw a return to more normal usage after the initial spike, the Banking sector continued to see increased usage compared with the first two months of 2020.
  • A New Ebook and a Conversational AI Success Story During Times of Pandemic – In August, AI Time Journal published a new ebook, Conversational AI Trends 2020, exploring the rapid advances in conversational AI technologies and the new applications and use cases emerging across industries. The ebook also covered several conversational AI success stories, including one telling how an international financial services group’s virtual agent rose to the challenges of customer support during the pandemic.
  • The Chatbot & Virtual Agent Experts Have Spoken: Experience Matters – If you are considering virtual agent or chatbot options and providers, then you will benefit from the expertise of this group of industry insiders. Together they offer 83 years of experience in a field that has only been commercially viable for about two decades. Learn about the six areas of experience that are necessary for the success of a conversational self-help tool.
  • APAC Contact Centres Embracing AI and Virtual Agent Technologies – There has been a shift in the APAC region as an increasing number of organisations look to use AI and virtual agents within the human customer service area of their CX strategies to support contact centre agents, relationship managers and other employees. Contact centres need to be prepared for the impact of new technologies on their operations, structure and workload.
  • Hindsight May be 20/20 But CX Needs a 20/20 Vision – Customers are expecting more from the companies they give their business to, and that includes effective service across touchpoints. Just as each company is unique, so should be their chatbot, virtual agent and live chat strategy. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that guarantees success.
  • A Successful Self-Service Strategy Requires Looking at the Bigger Picture – While companies needing to implement a new self-service solution or upgrade an existing one are feeling a sense of urgency, they still need to be thoughtful about the technology they select and how it is implemented. Having a successful self-service strategy requires looking at the bigger picture of your overall customer service and experience to avoid frustrating customers with a disjointed, unhelpful experience.
  • Tips for Deploying AI Chatbots & Virtual Agents – Chatbots, smart help, virtual assistants, virtual agents, conversational AI – there are lots of names for this automated, self-service technology being used today. Whatever you call it, the objective for including it as part of your customer service strategy is to deliver quick, easy access to information. Selecting and deploying the right technology for your company is key to achieving success.
  • Out with the Old and in with AI for a Better Contact Centre – A ContactBabel customer service survey found business leaders agreed that AI will be important to the future of the contact centre. While long-established customer communication channels haven’t disappeared, companies need to look to new technologies to help them support those channels in a better and more cost-effective way.

 

Helping Financial Organisations Deliver 24/7 Customer Support: Part 1

By Laura Ludmany, Knowledgebase Engineer

We are experiencing unprecedented times and the world is rapidly transforming with loads of uncertainty arising day by day. Our normal routine has changed, and we need to get used to dealing with coronavirus related situations and disruptions. Naturally, we are all seeking reassurance, guidance, help and support.

At Creative Virtual, we monitor our deployments continuously, and our tools are very sensitive to quick changes. We can always clearly see social patterns and trends being reflected in the usage of our virtual agents. During crisis times, no matter how big or small, the usage stats always jump up and the vast majority of the increase can often be attributed to those recent events or announcements.

In the last 4 weeks, on average, the traffic of our banking virtual agents has doubled. We could see a huge increase in usage during other crisis periods in the last 6 months (such as the Thomas Cook bankruptcy in September and Brexit related queries). However, this huge spike is unrivalled. As we kept a close eye on incoming stats, I sent a quick review to my clients of user inputs mentioning coronavirus and synonyms at a very early stage.

As the situation developed, organisations had to react quickly to changes and provide instant support and help to their customers. A quick and initial solution was to add a general FAQ for coronavirus, with high priority, meaning that single keyword would pick up any virtual agent inputs containing the word ‘coronavirus’ (even if the question contained other recognisable words, such as ‘loans’). In these times, a proactive approach by financial organisations can really make a difference to customers, as everyone wants to feel reassured instantly and see how their bank copes with the crisis. With this quick coronavirus keyword solution, customers who reached out to their bank through Creative Virtual powered chatbots, could see the responsiveness of their bank and could be guided to the general ‘Coronavirus Hub’ FAQs.

The next question organisations had to figure out was what customers were really asking for, in regard to the pandemic, to be able to provide self-service options (both through their virtual agent and other website updates). Within a few days, one of the banking virtual agents I look after had more than 3,000 recorded user queries around the crisis. All of these user queries were recognised by our high prioritised keyword and allowed me to start our analysis and content tuning. In these times, when call centres and live chat agents are under immense pressure, having thousands of customer questions being handled by an automated 24/7 service is invaluable.

I find it fascinating to work on these queries and look for patterns. After cleaning the data and removing very general inputs about ‘Coronavirus’, we could identify 9 main topics users are after. Some of these topics were expected, such as credit card and mortgage payment holidays. However, we also identified topics which we initially haven’t thought about, such as travel, holiday and flight cancellations and premium club cinema ticket expiry dates. This analysis and suggested list of FAQs/topics were sent to the client. This insight was extremely helpful and enabled them to act quickly, reaching out to all internal departments of the company in order to update both website and virtual agent content accordingly. Within 48 hours, the company’s virtual agents (deployed across multiple branded websites) were able to provide instant and appropriate guidance and support to all these coronavirus related questions and hopefully give a bit of comfort to users who are looking for answers to their questions in these uncertain times.

The increases in virtual agent traffic our customers are seeing isn’t only coming from coronavirus questions, though. Due to lockdowns, stay-at-home measurements and customer care centres’ increased waiting times, people are more likely to reach out to virtual agents generally – and here comes a personal story!

As I was chatting with my brother last weekend, he was complaining that he couldn’t get to speak with a live chat agent either on the banking app nor the website, and he needed his IBAN urgently (I would say, typical user behaviour – an IBAN is badly needed, 9pm on Saturday!). He happens to be a customer of the very same financial organisation this blog post is about, so this is an insight into a real-life customer. I explained to him, with great care, that live chat agents are very likely to be not working at this time of day, and then I proudly guided him to the virtual agent I’ve been working on for years now. After asking ‘What’s my IBAN’, he was overly impressed as he managed to find it immediately. I have encouraged him to use the virtual agent frequently, without sparing good feedback. Also, this was the first time I could demonstrate my actual work as a Knowledgebase Engineer to my brother!

The recently added Coronavirus FAQs are triggered thousands of times weekly (sometimes daily), but there is also a general trend of people increasingly interacting with our virtual agents for help with a variety of topics, which continues to prove their value. We keep monitoring performance to discover more and more topics, so we are able to better help people as we are all in this together.

For some more information about the benefits of using virtual agents to support customers during this uncertain time, check out Part 1 of this blog series on self-service. You can also request a personalised demo to see first-hand how this technology, and Knowledgebase Engineers like myself, can help your organisation improve your self-service.

What are You Doing to Deal with Stress?

By Rachael Needham, Head of Delivery Management

A key to good relations with our (yours and mine) clients is dealing with stress. When we’re negatively stressed or stressed out, we are less likely to be friendly, come up with creative solutions, or handle difficult situations well.

There is lots of great information about stress and handling it, so this is just a little reminder and snapshot of stress and handling it. Let’s take a look!

1. Is stress good or bad?

It’s both. There is stress that gets you up and going, which is good. However, bad stress is distress. It impacts you physically as well as mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and just about any another “ally” you can think of.

2. The physical impact of stress

Stress sets off inflammation in the body, stomachaches, headaches, and a long list of other issues. The biggest cause of inflammation in the body is from stress. The physical impacts can lead to illness, fatigue, brain fog, etc. And what happens when we have physical issues?

3. The psychological impact of stress

What affects us physically affects us psychologically, and vice versa. Studies show that just one night of poor sleep impacts our reaction time while driving and our decision making. Negative stress will have a knock-on effect as we work with colleagues and clients. Negative stress can sneak up on us, and begin impacting our decisions, words, and interactions, which can cause smaller issues to become escalations. Escalations create more stress and may draw others into negative stress, compounding issues by triggering stress motivated reactions.

4. Simple Solutions

There are lots of solutions for dealing with stress. Sometimes the smallest changes to your regular routine can have a major impact. Which of these things could you start doing for yourself?

  • Go to bed 30 minutes early a few nights a week
  • Walk barefoot in the grass once a week / month
  • Bounce on an exercise ball / on a trampoline / in place for 5-15 minutes a day
  • Stop looking at your phone / watching TV an hour before going to bed
  • Take a pharmaceutical grade, bio-available, quality nutritional
  • Eat a fresh salad / avocado twice a week (or an additional time if you’re already great about consuming veggies)
  • Chat with a trusted friend or co-worker
  • Take two 15-minute breaks a week to breathe / pray / meditate
  • Read a book on personal development / techniques to handle stress
  • Meet with a therapist
  • Watch a funny video that will make you laugh out loud

stress less

If you’re dealing with high negative stress and feel like it’s more than you can handle, please reach out to a doctor or professional counselor who is willing to look at both your physical and mental health.

 

Here’s to a great life ahead as you pursue stress-free health and supporting customers and clients from a place of wellbeing!

Building a Positive Relationship for Better Customer Service

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

The relationships you have with your customers directly affect your bottom line. Happy customers are more likely to be loyal, repeat customers and recommend you to their friends, family and social media connections. Every service and support engagement you have with a customer can make or break that relationship.

At Creative Virtual one of our passions is helping our customers deliver a positive service experience to their customers. In order to do that, we work to build a close and collaborative relationship with each of our customer organisations. We get to know their business and goals and then strive to deliver the support they need to achieve their customer service objectives.

Customer Service Week is all about celebrating the people around the world who are delivering great service and support, and so I’d like to give a special shout out to the Creative Virtual team. It is your experience, expertise and dedication to building those positive relationships that have enabled the company to cultivate a growing list of happy customers for over 15 years.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Over the past several months, some of Creative Virtual’s customers have been leaving verified reviews of our company and technology on the Gartner Peer Insights* website. Here’s what they have to say about working with our team:

Relation Based on Trust and Successful Deliveries

“Working with Creative Virtual is easy. Our key contacts are always available to support us on any issues, new projects or last minute requirements. We appreciate the rapidity of answer as well as the flexibility around the Vendor Management. HSBC is working with Creative Virtual since 2011. A real trust has been developed as long as successful projects are delivered. This is a real win-win situation.” (Read the full review)

 

Moved Fast to Launch a Chatbot that Answers Inquiries in a Conversational Way

“Creative Virtual is very responsive to our needs. They are supportive and agile as our business evolves to take advantage of their product offerings.” (Read the full review)

 

If You Want a Company that Focuses on Your Needs, Only Look at Creative Virtual

“Creative Virtual are a very professional company that treats each company as an individual. They get to understand a companies’ needs and offer solutions, they don’t try to apply a one solution fits all approach. I highly recommend Chris as I have worked with him for over 10 years in large corporations. CV place the customer first and this comes through in every interaction.” (Read the full review)

 

Responsive and Adaptive, Thought Leaders, Consistently Delivers Meaningful Results

“Responsive and adaptive; very nimble delivery model (fast ramp up time, fast engagement and assignment of resources). Collaborative and agile approach. Highly skilled resources with deep subject matter expertise. Strong thought leadership. Meaningful results (improved call deflection rates). Innovative product set and roadmap, with particular strength in process mining tools and method combined with intent libraries.” (Read the full review)

As they say, the proof is in the pudding – and there’s no better feeling than knowing we have happy, satisfied customers. So happy, in fact, that they are willing to take time out of their busy days to complete a review and share their positive experiences with their peers. Thank you to all of our customers for collaborating with our team and trusting us to help you with your customer service!

To learn more about our technology and working with our team, request your own live demo. We’d love to add you to the Creative Virtual family!

 

*Gartner Peer Insights reviews constitute the subjective opinions of individual end users based on their own experiences, and do not represent the views of Gartner or its affiliates.

The Cycle of a Successful and Harmonious Customer Service Experience

By Rachel Freeman, Operations Director

It’s 2019 and time again to celebrate Customer Service Week. It’s Autumn and leaves are falling in the Northern Hemisphere – a testament to the changing seasons of a cyclical and (hopefully) never-ending cycle. The cyclical concept seems apt this week as we mark this week-long celebration again this year (although we should be thinking about customer service every week of course!) and seasons are changing.

So many aspects found in our lives are cyclical. On a personal level we have the cycle of life. One of my personal favourites is the circle of fifths which, on the most basic of levels, can be defined loosely as a musical concept involving the relationship of various tones found in major and minor keys which can explain why certain things might sound sharp or flat or in perfect harmony. Stay tuned for more on this later.

Moving into business we can look at software development, with stages including planning through to maintenance with the objective to move back to planning for more improvements based on feedback. Similarly, we can look at the product cycle where there is a season for production after research and development, and then an ultimate season of decline which feeds right back into R&D to work out what can be improved for the next version.

Closer to home, I consider how Creative Virtual’s suite of customer and employee engagement tools fulfil a tidy cycle which feeds upon itself to deliver a successful and harmonious customer experience. Like the circle of fifths, there is no end point. The relationships of tones and questions and points of contact exist in a wheel and the feedback loop – whether musical or user generated – provides enough information to confirm either perfect harmony or an experience needing more tuning.

customer serviceTo explain further – picture a user needing information about an upgrade to a banking service that may affect his/her account. The user asks a question via the self-help portal and gets a response that delivers an accurate explanation, but it is not specific enough for his/her unique situation. So, the user decides to escalate to live chat. The virtual agent passes the user over to the live chat advisor along with the transcript of the conversation so the agent can respond to the latest query and not start over at the beginning. The live agent “speaks” to the user who then asks another question about the bank policy on “xyz”. The agent, not knowing all of the policies, seeks advice on the internal advisor-facing self-help portal (serviced by Creative Virtual from same knowledgebase), finds the reference on policy number and feeds back the info to the user quickly.

The “journey” went full circle: user finding information on the self-help tool – self-help tool escalating the user to a live agent – live agent finding information on the internal self-help tool – a combination of humans and technology delivering exactly what the user needed to know. Possibly not a symphony but I’d call that a most successful and enjoyable customer prelude.

Happy Customer Service Week!

The Ever-Changing World of Customer Service Chatbot Creation

By Jeff Clifford, Project/Account Manager

I started building virtual agents and chatbots for customer service more than 12 years ago. A lot has certainly changed in that time. I talked about some of the changes in my Meet the Team interview a couple of years ago, but the industry has continued to evolve since then.

In my experience, there has been a major shift in customer expectations since 2015/2016 in the customer service chatbot industry. Pre-2014, most companies were looking to deploy chatbots that were pretty straight forward and consisted largely of FAQs, scripted conversation flows, keywords and a flat or standard UI. Some forward-thinking organisations were exceptions to that, and Creative Virtual worked with companies that took their solutions to the next level with innovative functionality like account integration to give personalised answers to logged in users.

Now, as we approach the end of 2019, chatbots and virtual agents are increasingly becoming the face of company help centres. Simple chatbot implementations are no longer enough to meet customer expectations. Customers also now expect self-service on new channels, such as Facebook Messenger and Amazon Alexa, that weren’t popular for customer service even a few years ago. The look of chatbots has also changed, with many companies now embedding their virtual agent into their own UI to give a cleaner, streamlined look and experience.

While previously personalised self-service was a major differentiator, now customers expect an experience tailored for them. Chatbots designed for enterprises have the features, functionality and integration options to deliver that. For example, chatbots are able to detect a customer’s language and country via integration with their user profile. This means the chatbot can display the user’s preferred language and can also return location-specific responses, such as a correct payment cut-off time that varies by country or time zone. Chatbots can also provide customised responses depending on where it was launched from, such as a section of your website about a particular product or service.

The goal of a seamless, omnichannel experience is becoming standard practice in organisations. Chatbots that can be deployed across channels are helping companies move away from a siloed approach to their customer service. When backed by the right orchestration platform, a single knowledgebase can be used across all channels while still delivering a specific answer based on the user’s device (such as a shorter answer on a mobile). A tight integration with live chat allows the virtual agent to pass a user over to a live agent seamlessly in the same panel while in the background passing over a full history of the conversation.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes in the chatbot industry is the use of more artificial intelligence (AI), and companies now want a chatbot that has AI capabilities. A good chatbot technology brings together different methods including semantic algorithms, deep learning, neural networks and machine learning in a way that still gives companies control. Chatbots are able to learn customer behaviours based on how users interact it with it and what suggested questions they are selecting in order to continuously improve. However, this shouldn’t be a black box. To be successful in a customer service role, the chatbot needs to have some level of human intervention and sign-off on content to keep information accurate and compliant.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of simple chatbots out there today that leave customers annoyed and with a bad impression of the technology. The team at Creative Virtual are on a mission to help save as many of these chatbots as we can by transforming them into tools that meet customer expectations and are worthy of being the face of the company’s help centre.

The chatbot and virtual agent industry is an exciting space to be in, and I love being able to help my clients implement the newest developments in their virtual agent projects. At Creative Virtual, we’re always pushing the boundaries of what the industry thinks is possible and consistently striving to bring new innovations to the table. It gives me a real feeling of pride to see long-standing chatbot implementations evolve along with these changes and continue to deliver the service that customers expect.

Our Charity Runs for the RSPCA

By Laura Ludmany, Knowledgebase Engineer

As per our company tradition, Creative Virtual this year again is fundraising for the RSPCA – but this time with a twist. Previous years we selected a 10k in London and put together a team of runners to take part as a group. This year, people who were willing to be a part of our ‘Team Animal’ and participate in a race could join a local one instead of having to travel to London.

I really liked this idea and it made the whole effort more global – like the Creative Virtual team. We had runners in three different countries take part in races in Hamburg, London, Ipswich and Dublin so far. There’s still the opportunity for others to sign up for more races and contribute to our fundraising efforts.

Challenging yourself, setting goals to work towards and making a commitment is a great mental exercise. And, of course, training for your upcoming race keeps you fit as well! Perhaps even more importantly, it’s heartwarming to support a good cause and do something for a charity. Even if you feel like your contribution is small, it can really make a difference.

RSPCA fundraisingThe RSPCA is largest and most well-known animal welfare charity in the UK, founded in 1824, and covers all areas of animal protection and help. Everyone loves animals – who wouldn’t like to help our fluffy friends and make their lives better?

I was eager to sign up for a race close to me and started to train and go to gym classes to increase my level of fitness. My enthusiasm even got my friend to sign up for the same race, so we kept motivating each other to prepare for our big day! She has a pug, who we took for our running sessions occasionally so we could really feel the spirit of Team Animal. 🐕

I know my fellow Creative Virtual runners are very experienced runners (Well done to all!!!), but for me it was a great achievement to complete my run that Sunday. It was a lovely day, with some breeze and the course was in a castle park with forest all around. I did 5km in a respectable 30 minutes (there is room for improvement!). I didn’t think it would have gone so smooth, so I’m happy I challenged myself and accomplished this goal. It was a fantastic experience and I will definitely do it again! In fact, I have already checked into upcoming races to feel the rush again.

As I’m writing, we have raised 95% of our fundraising goal for the RSPCA. Thank you to everyone who has already sponsored our team of runners! You can donate towards this very worth cause through our JustGiving page.

Go Team Animal!