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The Most Innovative Customer Support Tool

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

At Creative Virtual our vision has always been to offer organisations the technology to enable seamless, fully-integrated, end-to-end customer engagement, and to back that technology with the experience of an expert, knowledgeable team. We saw this vision come to fruition last year when we officially added V-Person Live Chat™ to our suite of Smart Help solutions. Since then, our roadmap has continued to be all about providing a world leading enterprise level end-to-end customer engagement platform.

It is an honour to have this vision and hard work recognised for a third straight year by the Technology Innovator Awards. This year I’m proud to share that we’ve been awarded ‘Best Global Customer Engagement Software Provider 2017’ and ‘Most Innovative Customer Support Tool: V-Person Live Chat’! These awards are a testament to the Creative Virtual team’s dedication to providing enterprises with innovative customer support solutions.

Our technology is designed to assist organisations in aligning their contact centre directly with the digital function to meet the growing expectations of customers for 24/7 access to accurate information and support. We are defining industry best practice through the tight integration of a single knowledgebase for both virtual and real agents and a unique feedback loop that allows live agents to help keep content accurate across self-service channels and human-assisted channels just by doing their normal jobs.

At the heart of our suite of products is our V-Person virtual agent technology which is utilised by organisations around the world to improve their customer support experience, reduce costs, increase sales and build brand loyalty. Our multi-lingual chatbots and virtual agents are currently answering over 50 million questions a year – and that number is always growing! We’ve had a number of exciting additions to our V-Person family over the past several months including Helen, the new chatbot communicating with Octopus users in Hong Kong Cantonese which was implemented with our partner Continuous Technologies. Forward-thinking companies like Octopus recognise that customers are increasingly turning to digital channels and self-service first and are leveraging conversational chatbots to improve their digital engagement.

My thanks to the Technology Innovator Awards for recognising Creative Virtual and our innovative software and solutions for a third year. You can read our official award announcement here.

Check out the video below to learn more about our innovative integration of virtual and real support and request your own personalised demo to see our technology in action.

What’s the Point of Contact Deflection?

By Björn Gülsdorff, Head of Business Development

Contact Deflection – is there a reason why so many companies have this as an objective? Well, our clients tell us what their goals and pain points are, but I can’t help thinking that treating one’s contact centre as a cost centre is past its prime. Also, if you want to make money, contact with your customers is a good thing. At least, that was my theory.

I was therefore quite happy to be able to speak in front of the Call Center Verband (Call Centre Association) in Halle, Germany, as well as meet the European customer service directors of the Deutsche Telekom AG at their gathering in Budapest. An opportunity to talk to people from the field and test my thinking. I expected at least some consensus, though: DTAG gave me 90 minutes of airtime for a speech on “Growth Through Customer Service” (funnily enough the title of one of our blogs from 2015), so I could tell I was on the same page with the organisers at least.

As the Budapest event was with the service directors while the one in Halle was with those who actually run the call centres, the two meetings represented two different points of view on the same topic. Still there was a lot of agreement: Customer service has become a differentiator for companies and a driver of revenue. People expect immediate, seamless service and their user journey starts on a (mobile) device. If you make them call, you can forget about first time resolution, channel containment and similar metrics, because it is too late. When people call or email, they have tried to get help through other channels before – and failed. Another thing came up: In this new scheme, agents need new skills. It was never fair to look at them as FAQ answering machines, but the demand for social and selling skills has grown a lot. It is now all the more important to support them in their work, serve them facts, help with procedures and let them focus on the relationship with the customer.

Not everything received such unanimous consent, however. The pace of such changes, the differences between industries and the rise of voice messages as a new channel left more than enough room for debate. Quite enjoyable, because nothing beats the voice of the customer – ours and theirs!

Check out this contact centre guide to learn more about the changes contact centres are facing and the transitioning role of agents.

Creative Virtual Continues 2017 Digital CX Road Tour – Chicago and Now Indy!

By Christina Wilson, Director of Customer Success, Creative Virtual USA

May began with several of our Executive team members traveling to Chicago for the Argyle CX event last week. This was our second time attending the event and again, we were not disappointed by the success we found in the numerous conversations that took place. This year we had the opportunity to Sponsor the event and had the privilege of hearing a great panel that also included one of our very own, Frank Schneider, VP of Customer Experience Solutions. Simultaneously, our sales team attended the Forrester Digital Transformation 2017, also in Chicago, to pick up strategies on innovation and growth in the digital enterprise.

The collaboration that goes into attending these events for us is simple. We enjoy the engaging conversations we have with both our partners, but also with potential prospects and industry leading practitioners. Having an open forum during the panel gave us insight into the type of breakthrough strategies and approaches driving real innovation in CX. The specific panel we did was titled: “The Modern Day Customer Care and Customer Experience Executive”.

2017 Argyle ForumA few of the day’s highlights included:

  • It was awesome hearing Renee Cacchillo, from Safelight AutoGlass regarding their vision for Customer Experience and using technology to delight the customer.
  • Jasper Weir’s introduction of ENPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) shed a creative light on creating happy employees and in turn elevating Customer Experience at TaskUs.
  • Dan Gingiss, author of Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Design Engaging Experiences on Social Media, spoke about measuring the Customer Experience you want to achieve by having a sincere heart and comparing your experience with your customer’s best experience all around.

What’s next on the CV Road Tour? Genesys CX17 Indy in Indianapolis on May 22nd-25th where we are Genesys AppFoundry Sponsors. Come by Booth #A05 and speak with Scott Tompkins or Rick Hancock. Both have over a decade of enterprise digital CX consulting experience and have had great success with Creative Virtual.

Improving the Customer and Employee Experience with Live Chat Innovation

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Last year Creative Virtual officially introduced our new live chat product, V-Person Live Chat™, to the market and realised our vision of offering organisations the technology to enable seamless, fully-integrated, end-to-end customer engagement. That was an important milestone for the company, and since then we’ve been proud to see organisations use this technology both as a way to improve their customer service as well as to provide better employee support internally.

This week V-Person Live Chat earned us a spot as a finalist in the UK National Innovation Awards’ Live Chat category. Created by the Directors’ Club United Kingdom, the National Innovation Awards recognise business technology innovations and their impact on customer experience, employee engagement, operations performance, product creation and profitable growth. We’ll join the three other finalists in this category on Tuesday, 7th March for a live online final which will be judged by over 100 senior leaders involved in the customer service, customer contact, customer experience and digital spaces.

In order to qualify for this awards programme, those entering needed to show that their live chat technology results in one or more of the following positive impacts on an end-user’s organisation:

  • Improve the operational efficiency of delivering the live chat channel
  • Improve live chat integration in an omnichannel contact centre
  • Improve the customer experience of using live chat
  • Improve the contact centre agent’s experience of delivering live chat
  • Improve customer engagement and satisfaction
  • Improve employee engagement and satisfaction

I’m very proud of the fact that V-Person Live Chat ticks all of these boxes. We have designed and developed our entire suite of Smart Help solutions, including live chat, in order to help enterprises make these improvements. With V-Person Live Chat, we specifically looked to blend virtual and real customer support in a way that will assist contact centres with the transition to more automation. Our unique feedback loop, which enables live chat agents to help keep content accurate and consistent for both virtual and live agents without any extra effort, is defining industry best practice.

As we look to the future of the contact centre, it’s clear that live agents will become knowledge experts sharing the responsibility of keeping self-service channels up-to-date. This will help bridge the gap between these previously siloed engagement channels to improve the overall customer experience and meet the growing expectations of customers for 24/7 access to accurate information and support. By empowering customers with constantly improving self-service tools, live agents no longer have to repeatedly deal with basic questions and are freed up to develop expertise in dealing with more complex issues that require human assistance. This means contact centres benefit from lower costs, reduced staff turnover and more engaged, skilled and happier agents.

My thanks to the Directors’ Club United Kingdom and the National Innovation Awards judges for recognising our innovative live chat technology by naming Creative Virtual as a finalist. I’m looking forward to taking part in the live event final next month.

If you are currently using live chat and/or a chatbot to support customers or employees, or are just starting to think about implementing these tools, I encourage you to read more about V-Person Live Chat and request a personalised demo.

CXM 2017: Meeting New CX Challenges in India

By Shantanu Purandare, Executive Director, India

According to a recent study, the number of internet users in India is expected to reach 600 million by 2020, nearly double the approximately 343 million users currently. A big factor in this growth is the increasing availability and adoption of smartphones. As the world’s second largest mobile phone market, India is predicted to see a growth from 240 million smartphone subscriptions to 520 million by 2020. With more and more customers becoming digitally connected, companies in India are facing new challenges when it comes to building a happy, loyal customer base.

For this reason, creating world-class customer experiences for digitally inspired and demanding customers is the focus of Customer Experience Management 2017, India’s largest customer experience event. CXM 2017, which is being held on February 3rd in Mumbai, will feature insights on how organizations can transform their experiences to meet the heightened expectations of progressively sophisticated, diverse and demanding customers. As the event’s Omni Channel Partner, Creative Virtual is looking forward to showcasing our suite of Smart Help solutions and sharing insights into how enterprises around the world are using these tools to increase customer engagement, reduce customer support costs and increase revenue.

The increasing adoption of smartphones, both in India and globally, is forever altering the way customers engage with businesses. Expectations for instant 24/7 customer service options are becoming the norm. Organizations need to move away from the traditional approach to customer experience and make investments in delivering easy, seamless and personalized smart help across digital channels. In order to remain competitive, they must provide a fully-integrated, omnichannel customer experience that matches with the growing demands of their customer base.

During CXM 2017, I’ll be joining the ‘Analyzing Customer Voice’ panel discussion to specifically talk about how social media is changing the way digitally savvy customers interact with brands. They now have the ability to share their opinions – good and bad – about products and companies with a global audience almost instantly. Organizations need to pay attention to the viewpoints customers are sharing on social channels, but it can be a challenge to know where to start. As a panelist, I’ll share insights into how companies can effectively analyze and apply the customers’ voice to positively impact their customer experience strategies and effectively use this information to their advantage across geographies, cultures and markets.

I hope you’ll join us in Mumbai at the beginning of February for what promises to be an inspiring day of keynote presentations, panel discussions and networking opportunities. My panel discussion on ‘Analyzing Customer Voice’ is set to begin at 11:30. You can learn more and register for the event on the CXM 2017 website.

If you aren’t able to attend, be sure to request your own personalized demo to learn more about our omnichannel smart help solutions.

CX in 2017: A Tale of Empowered Customers, AI and Self-Service

customer experience

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

For many the end of 2016 couldn’t come soon enough, with the dawn of the New Year bringing a fresh start and a clean slate. Yet, according to Forrester, companies are starting 2017 under attack. While traditionally we would think of this pressure as coming from competitors, today’s organisations are under attack from their customers. Forrester Analyst and Vice President Dane Anderson explains:

“Three years ago, Forrester identified a major shift in the market, ushering in the age of the customer. Power has shifted away from companies and towards digitally savvy, technology-empowered customers who now decide winners and losers.”

For example, Forrester identifies consumers in Asia Pacific as changing along five key dimensions:

  • Increasingly willing to experiment
  • Reliant on technology
  • Inclined to integrate digital and physical experiences
  • Able to handle large volumes of information
  • Determined to create the best experiences for themselves

Forrester has found these key points to explain evolving customer trends and increased customer empowerment. With highly empowered customers willing to take their business elsewhere for a new, exciting experience, organisations need to be customer-obsessed and constantly innovating in order to remain competitive.

This phenomenon isn’t confined to consumers in Asia Pacific. Digitally savvy, technology-empowered customers around the world are placing these expectations on organisations in all industries. Microsoft’s 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report found that an average of 90% of consumers surveyed in Brazil, Germany, Japan, the UK and the USA expect brands to have an online customer self-service portal. 97% of global consumers answered that customer service was either somewhat or very important in their choice of or loyalty to a brand, and 60% reported having stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer service experience.

2016 customer service

The analysts at Gartner have also been following these technology-driven changes in customer preferences. In their report Predicts 2017: CRM Customer Service and Support, they observe that AI is finding rapid uptake as a tool to provide better customer service and predict that by 2020 the use of virtual customer assistants (VCAs), also called virtual agents or chatbots, will increase by 1,000%. They also discuss how changing customer preferences will lead to an increased automation of customer service needs and a growing market for chatbots able to provide customer engagement over messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat. Gartner foresees VCAs and chatbots becoming a necessity for business-to-consumer organisations in order to deal with the demand for 24/7 support and the increased volume of customer interactions.

The panel of industry experts interviewed for Call Centre Helper’s annual Contact Centre Technology Predictions shared similar thoughts on the increase of self-service and the changing role of contact centres in 2017. One contributor predicted the replacement of FAQs with conversational systems that allow for dynamic two-way conversations. Another expert felt 2017 may be the year in which chatbots or virtual agents become widely used in call centres to alleviate workloads and help live agents focus more on important calls. Others echoed these insights through predictions that the investment in customer self-service will gather pace in 2017 and organisations will focus on engaging customers through conversational commerce.

It’s clear that organisations need to take action in 2017 in order to avoid being declared a loser by empowered customers, and digital self-service options will be key to successful customer engagement. This certainly isn’t a surprise to those in the industry. In fact, both Personal Assistants/Intelligent Agents and Artificial Intelligence were in the top four marketing-related searches of 2016 in the UK according to Microsoft’s Bing Ads.

But knowing you need to offer digital self-service and successfully implementing these tools as part of your overall customer engagement plan are two very different things. The best way to begin this journey is to educate yourself about digital engagement solutions, the advancements in and limitations of AI and customer expectations of self-service tools such as chatbots. The whitepaper Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – confusing or what! is a great resource to get you started on your path to creating a tale of customer experience success in 2017.

Your customers may not be giving you a fresh start when it comes to their opinion of your customer experience just because the new year is here, but there’s no time like the present to take a hard look at your CX strategy and identify where you can make improvements. Make 2017 the year digitally savvy, technology-empowered customers declare your company a winner!

Providing Both CX Expertise and Technological Innovation

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

The customer experience landscape is constantly changing, and perhaps never more so than it is as we enter 2017. In my extensive travels I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of customer experience discussions with professionals from many industries in regions around the world, and they universally are faced with the issue of how to meet increasing customer demands. New advances and innovations in technology will certainly be a key factor in helping organisations rise to these challenges, but is that enough?

There’s no doubt in my mind that the answer to that question is a resounding ‘No’. That might seem strange coming from the Founder & CEO of a technology company, but I feel strongly that the way to navigate the ever evolving customer experience landscape is through a combination of people and technology. I’m extremely proud of Creative Virtual’s experienced, expert team and the guidance we are able to provide to our customers and other organisations looking to learn more about digital customer engagement. We collaborate closely with large enterprises around the world to help them revolutionise their customer experiences while also reducing support costs and increasing revenue.

That’s why it is an honour for us at Creative Virtual to be named ‘Best Self-Service CX Management Solutions Consultancy – UK’ by Corporate Vision Magazine’s 2016 Consultancy Awards. This award is a testament to the thought leadership our team provides not only to our customer organisations, but also within the wider customer experience space. We closely monitor trends and the evolution of potential new customer engagement touchpoints in order to provide organisations with the information and cutting-edge technology to grow their customer experience strategy in line with customer expectations.

My thanks to the Consultancy Awards for this recognition! You can read our official announcement here.

I also encourage you to check out some of our latest customer experience resources, including the whitepaper Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – confusing or what! and our new guide The Future of the Contact Centre.

Technology That Saves Time, the Most Important Resource of All

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

As we quickly approach the end of 2016, I’m excited to share the news that Creative Virtual has been recognised with two 2016 Softech Business Awards: ‘Best Self-Service CX Technology Company 2016’ and ‘Most Innovative Enterprise CX Management Solution: V-Person™’! Softech Intl Magazine’s 2016 Business Awards is a new awards programme designed to commend industry leaders who are dedicated to changing their field and fundamentally saving time, the most important resource of all.

For nearly 13 years the team at Creative Virtual has worked to develop, implement and constantly improve our self-service technology. It’s an honour to be called the best and to be recognised for our dedication to innovation. As a company, we have seen our industry rapidly evolve over those years and are proud of the role we have played in advancing virtual agent technology.

One of the changes we’ve seen is the growing emphasis placed on saving time, both by customers and organisations. In a Forrester Research survey, 73% of customers said:

“Valuing my time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good customer service.”

Our natural language virtual agent technology V-Person enables enterprises to meet that demand by giving customers a way to ask questions and find information anytime, anywhere. Offering high quality self-service options is key to providing a positive customer experience. Customers are increasingly opting to use virtual agents, also known as chatbots and virtual customer assistants, because they make getting answers quick and easy.

V-Person technology is also designed to be used in the contact centre in order to improve contact centre performance and customer satisfaction. By instantly providing agents with the information they need, average call handling times are reduced by up to 40% and you see increased first contact resolution. This saves time for both customers and agents. V-Person Contact Centre™ can also be used as a training tool and has been proven to drastically reduce training times for live agents, saving everyone even more time.

Earlier this year we officially launched V-Person Service Desk™, a virtual agent solution designed to reduce service desk support costs and improve employee productivity with personalised self-service. V-Person can be used for all types of employee support, saving company time and resources. I think our new video sums this up perfectly:

My thanks to Softech Intl Magazine for these two recognitions and to the Creative Virtual team, our customers and our global partner network for helping us to be the best this year. You can read our official award announcement here.

#CXDay: Bridging the Gap for Great Customer Experiences

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Happy CX Day! Today marks the 4th annual CX Day, a global celebration of great customer experience and the professionals who make it happen. There’s no escaping the fact that customer experience has become a key factor in customer purchasing decisions, often even outweighing price. And to say that delivering a positive experience can be challenging is certainly an understatement!

I was recently reading a blog post from Gartner about improving the customer experience by creating bridges between silos of engagement (more on that later), and it brought to mind a story about Waldameer Park, a small, family-run amusement park along the shores of Lake Erie in the US. In the 1990s, park owner Paul Nelson began the quest to build a new roller coaster, the Ravine Flyer II, to replace the original Ravine Flyer which closed in 1938. He was adamant that, like the original coaster, the new one cross over Peninsula Drive to give riders a unique, thrilling experience. Bridging the 4-lane highway, which is the only access road to popular Presque Isle State Park, became one of the main obstacles Paul would face in gaining approval to construct the new coaster.

Waldameer Park bridgeIn 2008, after nearly 20 years of planning, legal battles and long delays, the Ravine Flyer II opened – featuring a 165-foot-long arched bridge that takes riders over traffic on Peninsula Drive and back during their minute and a half long ride. Paul’s dedication to his vision paid off. The Ravine Flyer II won the prestigious ‘Golden Ticket Award’ as the best new ride in the world for 2008 by Amusement Today and park attendance jumped by 20% that season. The park has continued to maintain those increased levels of attendance in the years since the coaster opened, and the Ravine Flyer II is consistently ranked as one of the Best Wooden Roller Coasters in the world, reaching 5th place in 2016. Riders continue to rave about the experience of the Ravine Flyer II, many returning year-after-year to enjoy the coaster.

Just like bridging the 4 lanes of traffic was an obstacle for the construction of the coaster, so is the bridging of engagement silos for the improvement of the customer experience. According to Gartner analyst Gene Phifer:

“Delivering customer engagement in silos can significantly damage the customer experience. We predict that through 2020, silos of customer engagement will be one of the top three leading causes of customer dissatisfaction for enterprises across all industry segments.”

Even though silos may be the natural result of how your organisation is structured, your customers don’t care. They just want a smooth, seamless journey that enables them to remain oblivious to the fact that they may have transitioned from one internal silo to another. Mr Phifer continued:

“Bridging the silos of customer engagement leads to a seamless transition across channels and devices. Moving from a disconnected, siloed customer experience to a truly unified customer experience is an important step in maintaining and improving the customer experience. This may be nothing new, but the difference now is that it is no longer a ‘nice to have’. It has become a necessity for survival.”

That’s certainly some good food for thought as we celebrate CX Day and great customer experiences around the world. Organisations that want to be truly competitive need to take a step back and evaluate whether or not they are providing their customers with seamless, end-to-end engagement – even if their journeys feel like a roller coaster ride as they switch between channels and devices!

Whether or not you’re a roller coaster enthusiast, I’m sure you can appreciate that it was Mr Nelson’s unwavering commitment to his customer experience vision that made all the difference. While I’ve not met him personally, I’ve been told by someone who has that his passion for Waldameer Park and the experience of his park visitors is very obvious in every business decision he makes. Today we recognise him and all the customer experience professionals who are dedicated to bridging the gaps in order to deliver great experiences that make customers want to come back for more. Thank you for the hard work you do all year long!

 Photos courtesy of Mekis Construction.