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Conversational AI and the Contact Centre: The perfect customer service pair

By Khushal Hirani, Customer Success Manager

You can’t celebrate Customer Service Week without talking about the contact centre. Onboarding agents in a contact centre can be very time consuming and expensive. From the recruitment process, to training, up until they are on the floor taking calls, it takes a very long time until new agents are self-sufficient.

The job of a fully trained contact centre agent can also be extremely stressful. They must remember how to use several tools and different areas to access certain knowledge. They often must memorise certain scripts and be able to explain detailed processes. This puts a lot of pressure on agents and can result in a poor customer experience, unnecessarily long call times, and low customer satisfaction scores.

For example, contact centre agents tend to keep notepads or workbooks with their own notes at their desks to ensure they remember the processes. This means communication of processes from one agent could be completely different when speaking to clients than from another agent.

Too often contact centre agents are also dealing with many tools and applications to do their job. This means that before they can even start working with customers, they face extensive training to learn them all. Then after completing their training, this makes it hard for contact centre agents to switch between screens while answering customer questions. This increases the time on the call for customers and creates a very disjointed experience.

Fortunately for contact centre agents and customers, conversational AI tools can help eliminate some of these issues and stresses. Here are some benefits of using conversational AI in your contact centre:

  • Training time is reduced – When contact centre agents are onboarded, the training time is reduced as the agents don’t need to learn complicated tools or multiple applications. This means less time to get agents to the floor and more of a focus on training agents on the human side of providing empathetic customer service.
  • Single source of truth – Knowledge and processes are in a single location where everything is accessible to all contact centre agents, giving everyone the same level of knowledge regardless of their experience level. Conversational AI tools like virtual agents can also be set up to provide support through public-facing solutions from the same knowledgebase with answers customised for both agents and self-serving customers.
  • New knowledge identified with agent feedback – Every contact centre agent can identify any knowledge gaps as well as contribute towards creating new processes or updating content with a built-in feedback loop. This keeps the customer experience accurate and consistent by ensuring the most up-to-date information is going out to all the end-users through multiple channels.
  • Integration with back-end systems – Integrations into different applications make it easier for the agents to use conversational AI because they have one tool that lets them find what they need. A customised agent dashboard can bring everything together in one place, including real-time alerts and step-by-step process flows.
  • Reports and metrics tracking – Reporting that is accurate and easy to understand gives important insights into what conversations the agents are having with customers and what knowledge gaps have been identified. This helps you track important metrics and see opportunities to further improve your support experience.

Contact centres are a big investment for companies and important for customer support. When used in the contact centre, conversational AI gives agents easy access to all the knowledge and processes they need to provide a better customer service experience. It makes their jobs easier and lets them focus on the human side of serving customers. Conversational AI and contact centre agents become the perfect customer service pair.

A Customer Service Mantra: Treat your customers like a young baby!

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

The first week of October is when the world celebrates Customer Service Week every year. I became a new dad on 29th June and recently have been realising the parallels between being a parent to a young baby and serving customers. Anticipating his every need. Learning the signs and acting proactively before reaching the escalation stage (the crying!). Reading between the lines when the real need or issue isn’t immediately clear. Providing care when and where he needs it, 24/7/365. I could go on, but I’m guessing you get the picture! I’m not sure the tagline ‘treat your customers like a young baby’ is one that will catch on, but it’s the ethos that matters.

I’m always studying how other companies treat their customers, and there’s no better way than being a customer yourself. We live at a time where customer experience (CX) is the key competitive differentiator, and that’s why I’m really surprised when I experience particularly bad customer service. I had such an experience recently.

The issue was the lift in the housing block where my mum lives being out of service for well over a month. I was chasing up the estate management company for a status update. I sent over ten emails. I eventually got through on the phone to the person responsible, who said that she had been off sick and as I had sent so many emails it had meant she hadn’t seen any of them yet because the new emails kept pushing the email thread to the top of her inbox and she works from the bottom up.

I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t believe I was hearing this from a customer service person at a large property management company. There was no apology and no empathy whatsoever. In fact, she was quite annoyed and advised me that in future I shouldn’t chase up if I don’t hear anything as this just delays things. What an incredulous way to treat a customer! It was certainly in stark contrast to my ‘treat your customers like a young baby’ approach!

Shortly afterwards I had to send another email asking about a different issue. I received no reply and so have no idea if she’s dealing with it, and if I chase up I’m sure I’ll be met with the same annoyance. How can companies like this survive today? Monopolies and pseudo-monopolies like this property management company survive because of the lack of competition, resulting in the lack of customer choice. Unlike my mobile network provider, it’s not easy to change the property management company.

Intrigued to see if this lack of customer empathy was a one-off, I looked up their website. I looked at their `About Us’ page and the management team profiles, and the only reference to the ‘customer’ I could find was on the Sales Director’s profile that has a bullet point: “Driving exceptional customer service standards across the sales division”. I guess that says it all: the customer is only important for sales!

I may be being a bit unfair. The person I’m mentioning here may have been having a bad day., She had only just returned from being off sick, and I’m sure had many emails to deal with. But then again, where was the organisational backup for her? Perhaps a simple out-of-office email with contact details for somebody who was covering, or somebody monitoring her emails. Simple things that would have made all the difference. Exceptional customer service must start with excellent communication.

Just like the baby analogy, always being available to your customers is the most important thing. Of course, technology plays a big part in this today, especially when you need to scale-up the customer service to thousands, or even millions, of customers. From simple ‘out-of-office’ automation to fully fledged virtual agents that can hold consistent, personalised conversations with millions of customers at the same time.

Creating consistency is also key. This means consistency in the information provided as well as in the tone and demeaner of the interaction. A virtual agent is never in a bad mood and can seamlessly hand over to a human when needed. This leaves customer service agents only having to deal with the more complex enquiries, meaning much less volume and hopefully a more satisfying job.  Who wants to answer the same question 50 times a day, especially if it puts you in a bad mood?!

Of course, there are occasions when the customer’s issue can’t be immediately or simply solved, and that’s where communication and empathy play such an important part. Humans certainly have an advantage over virtual agents, at least today, when it comes to empathy. The companies greatest at customer service are the ones who deploy technology and humans to work in perfect harmony, combining the best attributes of each.

As we raise awareness of the importance of great customer service this week, let’s both reflect on the worst examples and celebrate the great ones. Take a look at your organisation’s attitude towards customers. Are you nurturing them with the same attention as you would a baby? Are you working to build a life-long relationship based on consistently positive experiences? Keep in mind that unlike babies, your customers can easily choose new ‘parents’ if they’re not happy.

It may not work as an official tagline, but you should be following this customer service mantra: treat your customers like a young baby.

A Stamp of Approval for Customer Service Week

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Happy Customer Service Week! It’s the first full week of October, and that means it is time once again for the annual week-long global celebration of the importance of customer service, the people who deliver that service, and the impact it has on business success. Since last year’s celebration, businesses have been forced to continue to find ways to overcome challenges the pandemic has raised around the world. Getting that coveted stamp of approval from customers and employees that comes from a successful customer service strategy has been harder than ever.

This is my sixth year creating a blog post roundup to kick off Creative Virtual’s celebration of Customer Service Week. It’s a post I look forward to writing every year even though it’s always difficult to narrow down a year’s worth of informative blog posts into just a couple handfuls to include. As a member of the Creative Virtual team for over 13 years now, I find compiling this roundup makes me contemplate how much has changed in the world of customer service over that time – evolving customer expectations, new contact channels, technological advancements.

But it also reminds me that some things haven’t changed. At the end of the day, customer service is all about people helping people – whether that’s designing self-service tools or answering calls in the contact centre.

And so, without further ado, here are some of the key blog posts on customer service we’ve shared on the Creative Virtual Blog over the past year:

  • Selecting the Right Conversational AI Vendor Makes All the Difference – Chatbots and virtual agents are at the forefront of many digital customer service strategies and selecting the vendor that’s a good fit for you is important for success. To help with that selection process, analyst group ISG evaluated 19 conversational AI vendors based on the depth of their service offerings and market presence.
  • Is Your Inexperienced Approach to Self-Service Driving Customers Away? – Trial-and-error is important in life but taking that approach to customer support can have a devastating effect on your business. When it comes to creating positive service experiences with chatbots, there is no substitute for having hands-on experience with building, integrating, installing, maintaining, and expanding these self-service tools.
  • Conversational AI and the Future of APAC Contact Centres – The companies that have the most success with their CX strategies take an approach that combines digital channels and the contact centre. They build a team that brings them together, which helps with creating and implementing a channel agnostic conversational AI strategy.
  • Combining Chatbots and Voice for Omnichannel Experiences – The tight integration of chatbots and voice creates a seamless journey as customers switch between channels, helping you deliver a connected experience. This post outlines three important tips for companies looking to get started with their own voicebot project.
  • On the Hunt for Better Customer Service – Companies are always on the hunt for ways to meet customer expectations, build brand loyalty, and deliver a better customer experience. Smart companies know the present and future of better customer service lie in the combination of humans and machines, people and technology, live agents and virtual agents.
  • It’s Time to Pull Back the Curtain on Enterprise Conversational AI Pricing – Enterprise software pricing is often shrouded in mystery and the subject of intense negotiations between the supplier and customer. Creative Virtual is removing that shroud of mystery with a guide to conversational AI pricing designed to help organisations properly budget and evaluate costs of these customer service solutions.
  • Past the Point of No Return: Customer and Employee Experience Post-Pandemic – While each of us has had an individual experience and been impacted in our own unique way by the pandemic, it has also been a global event that is leaving lasting effects on communities and companies everywhere. We have experienced too much uncertainty, overcome too many unexpected challenges, developed too many new digital skills, and created too many new expectations to be the same customers and employees as we were prior to the pandemic.
  • Successful Conversational AI: Blending Machine Learning & Human Intelligence – Part 1Part 2Part 3 – Mrinal Rai, Principal Analyst at ISG, and Jan Erik Aase, Partner and Global Head – ISG Provider Lens, joined Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, for a three-part discussion on conversational AI. Watch the recording to hear their conversation about current industry trends, the impact of the pandemic, and setting conversational AI project goals.
  • A Seamless Support Experience is Music to Your Customers’ Ears – Creating your overall customer service strategy is similar to writing a musical score – you have to pay attention not only to the performance of each individual component but also how they interact with each other over the course of the journey. You must ensure each element is utilised to emphasis its strengths but do so in a way that creates a joined-up, seamless experience.
  • Conversational AI Doesn’t Have to Be a Risky Investment – Step 1Step 2Step 3 – It’s a common misconception that conversational AI is always a high-risk investment for organisations, but one that shouldn’t keep you from implementing your own chatbot or virtual agent to improve customer service. This three-part blog series takes you through important steps for minimising risk and maximising benefits when embarking on a conversational AI project.

As we have for the past several years, the Creative Virtual team is joining the festivities this week with our 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 in your Inbox and find them listed here as each is published.

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.