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For a Better CX, Get Out of Your Customer’s Way

By Björn Gülsdorff, Chief Business Development Officer

It is Customer Service Week, time to give customer service and customer experience (CX) some thought. Wait a minute – even more thought? Isn’t it all about CX these days?

It is, albeit lip service most of it. Also, we know we have gone too far when you are being asked about your “shopping experience” in a supermarket. Or, as happened to me the other day, how to improve my airport experience. Seriously? Well, get the “airport experience” out of the way. Whatever you plan, the money is better spent on quicker security and boarding, minimizing my time at the airport.

I admit I am ranting a bit based on some recent unpleasant travel “experiences”, but there is a relation with CX. It was all well when it meant to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and be less product or project centric. But we lost it at some point when we still said ‘experience’ but started thinking ‘sensation’.

Instead, if you want to deliver good CX, get out of the way! Do not get between the customers and their goals. Integrate your various tools seamlessly. Don’t just be multi-channel (or omnichannel), go beyond channels and blend the different touchpoints as you blend different information sources.

Provide a one-stop shop for information and self-service, powered by natural language conversations. Make it as easy as possible for the customer – great CX is when they don’t notice.

My current travels have taken me to GITEX Technology Week with our partner ixtel. GITEX is the biggest tech show in the Middle East and has all the global players plus a lot of “local” ones which just happen to serve millions of people. They all have some cool stuff in the pipeline. All of which need NLP (natural language processing) power, of course. 😉

Scanning Twitter for some inspiration on where to look next I came across https://t.co/8zmViTW5r9, which I liked a lot and which is definitely far on the sensational side. So, I considered deleting my half-finished blog post. But then I did not, because all of this is certainly cool, but it will only be a great experience if it helps me do what I want. When it helps me to get my shopping done, not when it interferes with it. So, while I cherish all the nice visuals, I cling to my claim: A great experience is when it it easy, seamless and smooth.

Check out our annual Customer Service Week blog post roundup for some trends, tips and statistics to help you deliver an easy, seamless experience for your customers.

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!

Conversational AI for Financial Services

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

Traditional banks and financial institutions can no longer count on lifelong loyalty from their customers. Gone are the days of people selecting and staying with a bank simply because their family has been banking with that institution for generations. Fintechs and digital start-ups are disrupting the space, and customers are increasingly willing to take their business to a financial brand that offers them a personalised, easy experience that fits with their lifestyle.

Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and analytics can help financial brands keep pace with customer expectations, but these types of digital transformation projects aren’t always easy to get off the ground. At the AI & CX Transforming Financial Services Directors’ Forum at the end of June, the expert speakers and panellists addressed some of the customer experience (CX) challenges the industry is facing.

Our Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel’s opening keynote – Taking Your CX into the Future with Conversational AI – got the day started with a look at AI-enhanced chatbots, virtual agents and live chat. Chris gave insights into what is possible with conversational AI technology and then backed that up with real examples through a series of live demos. He emphasised the need for the contact centre to be a part of digital transformation initiatives, which had many in attendance nodding their heads in agreement.

One theme that ran through the various presentations and panel debates was the great opportunity the financial services industry has to make life easier for customers and employees with new AI solutions. Whether it be giving customers easy, 24/7 access to smart self-service or helping compliance teams stay on top of changing regulations, AI technologies should be approached as positive additions to transformation strategies. However, internal education about the real benefits and limitations of the technologies and getting executive buy-in continue to be major challenges in many organisations.

During the networking breaks, there continued to be insightful discussions about AI and machine learning, including lessons learned through both successful and unsuccessful projects and ideas on how to overcome anti-AI sentiment based on misunderstandings of the technologies. We had a number of attendees stop by the Creative Virtual table to see more live examples of chatbots and virtual agents. They were excited to see how financial brands are using the technology today to provide customer self-service, assist agents in the contact centre and provide internal HR and service desk support. We even had one attendee say she had specifically come to the event to hear Chris’ presentation because his live demos always provide her with great use cases to share in her consulting work.

If you’re thinking about adding a chatbot to your digital strategy, or have a failing chatbot project you’re ready to abandon, download our Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019. Our team would also love to show you our AI-enhanced self-service solutions in action, so I encourage you to request a live demo.

Our thanks to the Informed.AI team for putting together an insightful forum agenda and a delicious lunchtime spread. We’re looking forward to joining you again for the CXtech Conference & Showcase in October.

AI & CX in Financial Services

AI, Customer Experience and the Financial Services Industry

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

When I founded Creative Virtual over 15 years ago, our very first customer was a financial organisation. Not only are they still a customer today, but they also became the first on a long list of brands our team would work with in the financial services industry. Over the years, we’ve developed an expertise in creating, implementing and maintaining chatbot, virtual agent and live chat solutions for major financial organisations. I’m looking forward to sharing some of those insights with you in my opening keynote at the AI & CX Transforming Financial Services Directors’ Forum.

This one-day interactive event will be held on Thursday, 27 June at The Shard in London. The agenda features a combination of presentations, case studies and panel debates designed for attendees to gather insights and advice from leading experts and practitioners in the financial services space.

In my keynote, Taking Your CX into the Future with Conversational AI, I’ll explore the growing role customer experience (CX) is playing in customer acquisition and retention and address the specific challenges financial brands are facing as they look to incorporate new CX technologies with legacy systems while still maintaining compliance with strict industry regulations. Through a series of live demonstrations, I’ll show best practices for implementing chatbots, virtual agents and live chat. I’ll also explain why a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and human input is necessary for successful and reliable CX solutions.

In today’s highly connected digital world, customers expect the same level of personalised, easy-to-access service and support from their financial institutions as they receive from companies across all other industries. It’s important for financial brands to work with an experienced team that provides best practice expertise – both specifically in the financial services industry and more generally in current and developing customer service trends – alongside innovative technology to deliver conversational AI solutions that are reliable, compliant and futureproof.

I’m also looking forward to being on a panel debate hosted by Martin Hill-Wilson, an expert in customer engagement strategy and implementation. Creative Virtual is the official sponsor of the Directors’ Forum, and we’ll have members of our team on hand to share more live demos and tips to help attendees build their business case for conversational AI.

There are a limited number of tickets still available for the AI & CX Transforming Financial Services Directors’ Forum, so reserve your spot today!

You can also learn more by downloading our Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019 and see our conversational AI platform in action by requesting a personalised demo.

Is Your Customer Experience Ready for 2020?

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Every one of us has a story we can share about a bad customer experience – and we love to tell those stories. In fact, a survey conducted in 2018 across six countries found that 60% of customers said they had shared their bad experiences with others, either in-person or online. And for many of us, we also love to hear or read about those experiences before we make our own purchasing decisions, meaning that a single poor experience can have a negative knock-on effect on countless other potential new customers.

It’s certainly no secret that your customer experience (CX) has a direct impact on your company’s bottom line. The results of that same survey also showed that 56% of customers had stopped doing business with a brand or switched to a competitor after a single bad customer service experience. According to Frost & Sullivan, US companies are currently losing more than $83 billion annually because of poor customer experiences. Despite being armed with this understanding, many organisations are still struggling to meet the expectations of today’s highly connected, digitally-savvy customers.

In their The Future of IT report, Forrester drives home the point that soon nearly all companies will operate as digital entities with their ability to maximise on the potential of new technologies determining their success. One force behind this change are customers:

“Digitally insatiable customers have a marginal and fickle loyalty to traditional brands, are willing to experiment, and are conditioned to switch affinity and spend based on a single poor experience. Customers have an affection for novelty brands and, notably, brands that ‘get’ and tap into their day-to-day lives.”

When it comes to service and support, tapping into a customer’s day-to-day life means providing the options to find information and resolve issues on a growing number of channels. More traditional channels like the phone are still important, but customers now also want to engage with brands on newer channels like messenger apps and smart speakers – channels that are becoming more integrated into other aspects of our daily lives.

Yet just being present on these channels isn’t enough to create a positive customer experience. As Gartner points out:

“It’s not just what channels customers use to resolve issues, but why they use them that leaders need to understand.”

Service leaders must understand the entire customer journey and the realities of what it takes to solve a particular issue in order to optimise each channel appropriately and then guide customers to the correct channel as needed. While all channels should aim to make customer resolution easier, every channel can’t be viewed with a one-size-fits-all mindset.

To be able to guide customers to the right channels and create an easy, seamless experience, organisations need to approach their digital CX initiatives with an omnichannel view. For example, adding a chatbot on a messenger app is a great way to provide customers with quick self-service, but it can’t be a standalone tool. It must also be integrated with other channels so users can be properly guided or handed over to a different channel if needed, such as live chat or the contact centre, to have their issue resolved.

There have been lots of predictions over the past several years about how important CX will become for brands. A recent report identifies the year 2020 as the point when customer experience will overtake product and price as the number one way companies will differentiate themselves from the competition. As we quickly approach the middle of 2019, organisations need to take the time to really evaluate their experience and identify the technologies that will prepare their customer service for the future.

C+UX: Innovations and Tips for Your Customer Experience Strategy

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

According to Frost & Sullivan, customer experience will overtake product and price as the number one means of differentiation for organisations by 2020. Companies that get their customer experience (CX) right are rewarded, with 74% of consumers spending more with a business due to a history of good service. While most companies understand the importance of delivering a positive CX, creating and deploying the right tools to create happy customers remains a challenge.

If you’re looking for CX inspiration and help in developing a successful strategy, don’t miss the C+UX Expo taking place in London on 27 & 28 March. Tickets for the UK’s biggest customer and user experience event are free and will give you access to several other co-located events, including the Call & Contact Centre Expo and the Marketing Technology Expo.

Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel will be presenting a seminar on Thursday at 14:00 in Theatre 16, ‘Top Tips for Implementing Chatbots and Virtual Agents in 2019’. Be sure to join Chris as he cuts through the artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbot hype to share best practices for selecting, deploying and maintaining a successful self-service solution. Drawing on demos of live implementations, he’ll cover everything from building your business case to setting your solution up for long-term success.

The Creative Virtual team will also be on Stand 920 both days of the event sharing insights and live demos of our award-winning virtual agent, chatbot and live chat solutions. Our multi-lingual technology can be deployed across touchpoints – web, mobile, social, messaging apps, SMS, contact centre, service desk, IVR and smart speakers – to deliver information quickly and efficiently to customers and employees. Stop by to see some of our current implementations in action and learn how we are helping businesses implement these solutions to create seamless omnichannel engagement.

Tickets for C+UX are free, but you must register in advance through the event website. If you aren’t able to attend the expo but are interested in learning more about how you can optimise digital conversations with your customers and employees, request a personalised demo with an expert member of our team.

Employee Engagement Remains a Top Priority Alongside Customer Engagement for 2019

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

Welcoming a new year often goes along with an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ mindset, but two things that are staying hot on companies’ 2019 agendas are customer engagement and employee engagement. This was glaringly obvious at the recent AI & Robotics Directors’ Forum: AI Enhancing Customer & Employee Engagement. From the delicious smoked salmon and cheese bagels served for breakfast to the final moments of the drinks reception at the end of the day, the event highlighted companies’ increased focus on improving engagement across the board.

Customer experience and engagement has been a top priority for most organisations for years, but improving employee engagement is a more recent addition to agendas. Organisations are coming to understand the benefits of providing better and easier support for employees. They are also coming to understand that many of the same digital tools, such as chatbots and virtual agents, that they are utilising to improve their customer experience can also be leveraged to improve their employee experience.

The event agenda featured presentations and panel discussions focused around practical uses of artificial intelligence (AI) in the customer and employee engagement spaces. I was joined at the event by Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, who presented a morning session titled ‘Taking Engagement to the Next Level: Conversational AI for customers & employees’. He shared some insights into the expectations of customers and employees and then took an in-depth look at how organisations can bring everything together to centrally control a consistent, convenient and efficient experience for both customers and employees.

Using a single orchestration platform enables you to deliver consistent information and support across touchpoints and allows you to more easily engage users on the devices, channels and apps they are already using in their everyday lives through chatbots, virtual agents and live chat. For conversational AI to be effective, it must use a hybrid approach of machine learning and human input. The orchestration platform you put in place must allow you to manage that combination of humans and AI so you can deliver the best experience to users and maximise on your investments.

During his session, Chris shared a few live demonstrations to illustrate industry best practices. The best way to really understand how this all comes together is to see it in action, so if you weren’t at the event I encourage you to request a demo. Our team is always happy to arrange a time that works with your schedule so you can experience the ways conversational AI can help you improve your customer and employee engagement.

Our thanks to the AI & Robotics Directors’ Forum organisers for inviting Creative Virtual to take part in your last event of the year!

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

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

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

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

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

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

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

A Chatbot for Your Contact Center

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Contact centers around the world are celebrating Customer Service Week this week, recognizing their agents who deliver service and support to customers all year long. But many of those contact centers are missing an important team member. A team member who never needs a day off, who doesn’t get annoyed answering the same questions over and over, and who makes the rest of the team better at their jobs. They are missing a chatbot.

Chatbots and virtual agents have become essential tools for providing 24/7 self-service to digital customers. Yet many organizations are missing out on the added benefits of using these solutions in the contact center. Contact centers require a great deal of investment – from recruiting and training staff to putting the necessary tools in place for agents. A chatbot can help you maximize on those investments while creating a positive omnichannel experience for customers. They instantly provide agents with information to assist customers, reduce average call handling times, and increase first contact resolution. Training time for live agents is drastically reduced, and you build confidence with customers by assuring consistent communication from all agents.

A chatbot in your contact center works essentially the same way as a chatbot on your website, except the users are your agents instead of your customers. The tool understands questions asked in natural langue, as well as common abbreviations used by your contact center, and can guide agents through processes and forms step-by-step as they assist customers. By giving all staff easy access to the same level of knowledge regardless of experience, anyone from support teams to trainers and coaches can step in to answer customer questions with confidence at peak or busy times.

Contact centers looking to implement a chatbot need to be aware that not all chatbot and virtual agent technology is created equal, and not all solutions on the market have been designed for the contact center. The new whitepaper A Chatbot for Your Contact Center explores tips for selecting and implementing a conversational platform to support agents and provide an omnichannel customer experience. Designed to act as a buyer’s guide, it provides questions to ask when selecting chatbot technology for your contact center, guidelines for how to align your contact center with digital channels for seamless customer support, and best practices for successfully implementing and maintaining a conversational platform.

Outlining and executing successful digital customer experience (CX) initiatives continues to grow in importance as consumers become more digitally-savvy and digital natives gain more buying power. A successful digital CX strategy goes beyond what your customers are experiencing online to include what’s happening in your contact center. It’s crucial to select contact center tools that will not only improve performance now but set your contact center up for continued integration with the digital channels of the future. With chatbots, you can maximize on contact center investments, provide seamless omnichannel customer support, and incorporate your contact center into your digital CX strategy.

Download your copy of A Chatbot for Your Contact Center for important tips and questions to ask when selecting and implementing a conversational platform for your contact center agents.

Happy Customer Service Week!

Five Stars for Customer Service Week

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Happy Customer Service Week! Today marks the first day of the annual week-long international celebration of the importance of customer service and the people who serve and support customers on a daily basis 365 days a year. Delivering five-star customer service experiences doesn’t happen by accident. It takes careful planning, execution and cooperation across the organisation.

Whether delivered face-to-face or over digital channels, your customer service is a key part of your overall customer experience and a big factor in customer loyalty. Let’s take a look back at some of the customer service tips, trends and statistics we’ve shared over the past year in our annual blog post roundup:

  • It’s Time to be Realistic about AI, Chatbots and Live Chat – Right now we’re in a digital and artificial intelligence revolution, and it’s directly affecting organisations’ customer service strategies. Companies need to be realistic in their expectations about chatbots and virtual agents and how these solutions integrate with the changing role of the contact centre.
  • CX in 2018: Digital Transformation Means Combining Humans and Chatbots – When it comes to customer service and engagement, digital transformation means combining humans and machines. Organisations that ignore the importance of the human element or try to rely on pure AI are going to see their initiatives crash and burn.
  • What Goes Around Comes Around: A look at customer sentiment and intent – When it comes to building relationships with customers through self-service, true conversations need to happen – not just a session with Q&A pairs. It’s important to bring together customer sentiment and intent to deliver the best service experience.
  • Overcome Language and Culture Barriers with Chatbots – A major challenge for many organisations is engaging a customer base spread out across multiple languages with varying cultural expectations. This is especially true in the dynamic Asian markets. Deploying a chatbot in different languages breaks through the barrier of initial customer engagement in doing business in these countries.
  • Using Artificial Intelligence to Build Better Relationships with Customers – Customer service can be a key differentiator for companies in the marketplace, and recent research shows that the customer experience is still growing in importance when it comes to making purchasing decisions. It’s important that organisations go beyond the buzz and really understand how AI can help them build better relationships with their customers.
  • A Complete Omnichannel Experience for Those at a Desk and on the Move – Chatbots and virtual agents can now provide a complete omnichannel experience for customers at a desk or on the move. By being able to linkup channels – web, mobile, Facebook, messenger apps, voice assistants, etc. – companies are benefiting from delivering a consistent, accurate and seamless support experience that’s available to customers 24/7.
  • Meet the Team interviews – Members of the Creative Virtual team share insights, tips and expert advice from their many years of experience working with organisations around the globe to deliver quality customer service, engage digital customers and improve the overall customer experience.