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Conversational AI and the Future of APAC Contact Centres

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Like many industry events this year, the annual HKCCA (Hong Kong Customer Contact Association) Symposium went virtual on 5 November. Our partner Continuous Technologies (CTINT) was once again an event sponsor and graciously invited me to present on the Symposium theme of Future Fit.

This was my sixth time speaking at the HKCCA Symposium, but the first time doing it from the UK. This event is always one of the highlights of the year for me, and I missed being in Hong Kong in person to take part in the great discussions and awards gala fun. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic changed how we participated in the Symposium, it has also greatly affected how businesses engage with their customers. The theme of Future Fit perfectly reflected the pressure contact centres around the world are experiencing as they tackle these current challenges and prepare for the unknown challenges of the future.

The event speakers covered a variety of topics with a strong emphasis on digital innovation and transformation within the contact centre industry. My session, Conversational AI & the Future of Your Contact Centre, also delved into how the digital CX impacts contact centres and agents. The fact is that even though APAC CX practitioners identify digital CX as a top trend, a majority of organisations are only in the early stages of their digital transformation journey and far from having an integrated, omnichannel experience.

While this may offer a rather gloomy view of the state of CX in the APAC region, I think it also provides an exciting opportunity for organisations to jump ahead of the customer experience curve and really stand out from competitors. Conversational AI is an important technology to help join up the contact centre with digital channels and prepare your contact centre and agents for the future.

Conversational AI is showing itself to be more important this year than ever before as the world comes to grips with the impacts of the pandemic. In 2020 there is an increased focus on automated technologies, such as chatbots and virtual agents, as companies face new customer service and experience challenges and customers alter the ways they engage with businesses. One advantage of this technology is that it can handle massive volumes of conversations at the same time, 24/7. Another advantage is that changes to content can be deployed very quickly, a must-have during a time when keeping information dynamic, up-to-date and accurate is key.

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 instead of keeping them separate as was done traditionally. This helps with creating and implementing an omnichannel, or channel agnostic, conversational AI strategy.

Conversational AI can become the friend, buddy and colleague of the contact centre agent when delivered in the form of an Agent Assist tool. This tool can be used as a research wizard to help agents answer questions. It can also be set up to ‘listen’ to calls or ‘watch’ live chat sessions to make suggestions to the agents with the relevant information. When agents override the tool’s suggestion, those changes are used to help train the chatbot or virtual agent. The future of the contact centre then becomes the training and best practice centre for bots – the Robot Academy, if you will.

In order to maximise the benefits of your contact centre agents’ expertise, be sure to partner with an experienced conversational AI vendor. You want to work with a team that has the experience to guide you through the creation of a business case and realistic project plan and then put that plan into action. Select a vendor that also offers consultation services to assist you with creating a positive experience for both customers and your agents. Having the right technology is important, but without a doubt the most important factor is the human part of building, deploying and maintaining conversational AI solutions.

If you want to learn more about conversational AI in the contact centre, you can request a personalised demo. A member of our team will be happy to set up a virtual session to show you live demonstrations of our implementations and explain more about the technology.

Thank you so much to CTINT for inviting me to speak again at this event, and a special thanks to Mabel Tsim for assisting me with my virtual presentation. Congratulations to the HKCCA team for putting together another great event despite all the extra challenges this year. I hope to see you all in person again next year!

APAC Contact Centres Embracing AI and Virtual Agent Technologies

By Philip Chuck, Territory General Manager, Greater China

This year the Hong Kong Call Centre Association (HKCCA) has been celebrating their 20th anniversary. Every year this not-for-profit organisation holds the HKCCA Symposium and the HKCCA Award Presentation and Gala Ceremony as part of their mission of advancing the contact centre industry. Creative Virtual was excited to be invited back to participate again by our partner Continuous Technologies International Ltd (CTINT) in the Symposium held on 31 October and to attend the Gala the following evening.

HKCCA Symposium - Chris EzekielThis was the fifth year we have attended the event as a solution partner of CTINT and Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, has presented on the event theme. His session was titled Smart Self-Help for a Seamless, Omnichannel Customer Experience and focused on delivering the right information on the right channel at the right time for customers. This hit right at the heart of the challenges faced by customer experience (CX) practitioners across the APAC region.

We had more enquiries this year than ever before about using virtual agent and chatbot technology internally to support contact centre agents, relationship managers and other employees. This reflected the shift we’re seeing in the region of an increasing number of organisations looking to use artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual agents within the human customer service area of their CX strategies. We were able to share with Symposium attendees a few examples of how this technology is already being used:

  • The relationship managers at a bank have access to a virtual agent customised specifically for them to use while meeting face-to-face with customers. It shortens the time they need to search for information so they can provide a better in-person service experience for customers.
  • Starting with their existing self-service FAQs, a utility company is developing a virtual agent for contact centre agents to use while they are handling cases from different channels. They are starting with voice and e-mail and then will expand this to include chat and messaging apps in the future.
  • Another organisation is using our natural language processing (NLP) capabilities to enhance their agent desktop. This means they can provide an AI-assisted virtual agent to reduce average handling times (AHT) for an improved customer experience.

A lot has changed in the contact centre space during the HKCCA’s 20 years. The advancements in AI and virtual agents are bring more changes. Contact centres need to be prepared for the impact of new technologies on their operations, structure and work load. When looking to use AI, NLP and virtual agent technologies, there are lots of important things APAC decision makers should consider, including:

  • Language support – The virtual agent should be able to handle enquiries in different languages and give users the option to get answers in the language of their choice.
  • Omnichannel service – The solution should give you the ability to join up information silos, contact channels, etc. so customers receive a seamless, consistent and accurate service experience.
  • Combination of AI and humans – The virtual agent should be powered by a combination of AI and human input to give your organisation control over the accuracy of information and your agents the ability to help keep content up-to-date through integrated feedback loops.

The HKCCA Symposium’s theme this year of ‘Customer Autonomy’ highlighted the impact technology is having on changing customer expectations. It was exciting to be a part of the discussions of how contact centres can meet new expectations with AI, virtual agents and chatbots.

HKCCA Award Gala 2019On behalf of the Creative Virtual team, I want to express our thanks to CTINT for inviting us to participate in the Symposium and attend the Gala Ceremony. We value your partnership in the region and appreciate all the work you put into making this event a success each year. Thank you!

I also want to wish the HKCCA a Happy 20th Anniversary! We are already looking forward to next year’s event.

To learn more about using AI and virtual agents in your contact centre and what questions to ask when selecting a technology, download the whitepaper A Chatbot for Your Contact Centre. You can also request a live demo to see our solutions in action and discuss with our team how the technology can fit with your CX plans.

Delivering the Right Information on the Right Channel at the Right Time for APAC Customers

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics are two components of customer experience (CX) plans that have the potential to either create noteworthy improvements to customer engagement or undermine efforts to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. It’s essential that companies take advantage of the recent developments in these areas but do so in a thoughtful and strategic way.

The upcoming Hong Kong Contact Centre Association (HKCCA) Symposium is exploring that topic through this year’s event theme of ‘Customer Autonomy’. Creative Virtual will be joining our partner Continuous Technologies at the symposium, which will be held at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort on 31 October 2019. I’m excited to be invited back to speak at the event for a fifth year.

My session, titled Smart Self-Help for a Seamless, Omnichannel Customer Experience, will take a look at the top trends impacting APAC CX practitioners and the challenge of delivering the right information on the right channel at the right time for customers. I’ll discuss ways companies can leverage recent developments in AI to improve their customer support and show live demonstrations of how companies are doing this today. I’ll also share my top tips for incorporating these technologies into CX strategies for long-term success.

It’s always a pleasure to exhibit at the symposium with Continuous Technologies, and members from both our teams will be there showcasing how our chatbot, virtual agent and live chat solutions can help companies deliver the right information on the right channel at the right time to customers in their native language. Symposium delegates will be able to see demos of self-service tools in multiple languages, including Cantonese, Simplified Chinese and English, as well as talk to us about building a business case for this type of technology within their own organisations. I also encourage anyone struggling with a failing or poor performing chatbot project to stop by the stand and ask about our free consultation workshop.

The HKCCA always hosts insightful events, and this year’s symposium promises to be no different. I’m looking forward to participating for a fifth year and meeting everyone attending. Hope to see you there!

If you won’t be at the event, our team would love to arrange an individual demo to show you this technology in action. You can also check out our Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent for recommendations on taking the next step on your journey to implementing a successful chatbot or virtual agent.

Creating Intimacy with APAC Customers Through Artificial Intelligence

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

It’s more important than ever for organisations in Asia Pacific to connect with digital customers and create a convenient, efficient and seamless customer experience. When implemented properly, chatbots are a powerful tool to bring together the contact centre with self-service channels and navigate language and culture barriers to create conversational engagement with customers.

I’m looking forward to sharing how to join up the contact centre with digital channels through a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and human input at the upcoming Hong Kong Call Centre Association (HKCCA) Symposium taking place on 25 October at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. Creative Virtual will once again be supporting our partner company Continuous Technologies at the annual conference. This will be my fourth year presenting on the symposium theme, which this year is ‘Customer Intimacy Through Artificial Intelligence’.

My presentation, titled ‘Artificial Intelligence, Customer Experience & the Contact Centre’, will provide practical advice and best practices for integrating chatbots, virtual agents and live chat with the contact centre to create successful digital transformation strategies. I’ll also be sharing insights from recent industry research along with a series of live demonstrations showcasing how organisations in APAC and around the world are already using AI technologies to improve their customer experience.

It’s a pleasure to be invited back to present at the HKCCA Symposium and great to be taking part with Continuous Technologies. We’ve partnered with them since 2014 and currently collaborate on projects such as Octopus Cards Limited’s virtual assistant Helen. The HKCCA always hosts insightful events, and this year’s theme is especially relevant as the customer experience industry continues to debate AI and organisations struggle with the best way to implement AI technologies.

If you are attending the 2018 HKCCA Symposium, be sure to join me at 14:00 for my presentation and stop by our booth to meet the team and learn more. I look forward to seeing you there!

If you won’t be at the event, we’d love to arrange a personalised demo to show you how your organisation’s customer engagement strategy can benefit from a combination of AI and humans.

I also recommend downloading the new buyer’s guide A Chatbot for Your Contact Centre for tips on using chatbots and virtual agents to align your contact centre with digital channels for seamless customer support.

Conversational Commerce for Demanding APAC Customers

By Philip Chuck, Territory General Manager, Greater China

Effortless, Accurate, Seamless, Effective. When it comes to customer service, this is what customers expect. Yet putting the right technology, process and people in place to delight customers presents challenges for companies. This sparked insightful discussions during the 2017 Hong Kong Call Centre Association (HKCCA) International Symposium on 28 April.

One hot topic was the growth of conversational systems – chatbots and virtual assistants – in Asia Pacific. Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, addressed this in his presentation titled Taking Your Contact Centre into the Future with EASE. He talked about the changes contact centres need to make to meet customer expectations, including best practices for bringing together chatbots and virtual agents with live chat. He shared live examples of virtual assistants in action and demonstrated how a combination of virtual and real support can benefit both customers and contact centres.

His presentation received a positive response from Symposium attendees. In the region we were seeing the change to self-service happening separately from the contact centre which was creating new challenges for companies. Now contact centre professionals are coming to understand that virtual assistants can work together with contact centre agents. They are seeing the benefits of including these conversational systems as part of their overall customer service plans. APAC customers are increasingly reliant on technology and inclined to integrate digital and physical experiences. Joining together the contact centre with self-service channels is necessary for companies to create delighted, loyal customers.

Another key takeaway from the event was that chatbots are one of the technologies that can be realised early along the road of digitalisation. This is important for companies struggling to move forward with their digital transformation. No matter what industry they are in, organisations are seeing the demand for conversational channels from their customers. Chatbot technology enables them to create digital conversations with customers that are effortless, accurate, seamless and effective.

My thanks to HKCCA for hosting another great event! It was a pleasure to take part alongside our partner company Continuous Technologies International Ltd for a third year.

You can learn more about how virtual assistants can work together with contact centre agents by downloading the guide, The Future of the Contact Centre. If you want to learn how chatbots can help your organisation create conversational commerce, request a live demo.

2017 HKCCA Symposium

The Future of CX in Asia Pacific: Effortless, Accurate, Seamless, Effective

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Customers in Asia Pacific are more empowered than ever before and are demanding effortless, accurate, seamless and effective service experiences from companies. Organisations need to move away from the traditional model for call centres that is no longer serving customer needs, and embrace a new approach that enables tight collaboration between the contact centre and digital channels.

This will be the focus of my presentation at the upcoming Hong Kong Call Centre Association (HKCCA) International Symposium being held on 28 April. Creative Virtual will be sponsoring the annual conference alongside our partner company Continuous Technologies International Ltd. I am honoured to once again be invited to speak on the event theme, which this year is “Customers @ EASE – Effortless; Accurate; Seamless; Effective”.

My presentation, titled ‘Taking Your Contact Centre Into the Future with EASE’, will address the changes contact centres must make to meet the expectations of empowered customers. I’ll explore best practices for combining virtual and real support by bringing together chatbots and virtual agents with live chat, as well as the transitioning role of live agents as contact centres evolve.

This will be my third year presenting at a HKCCA event, and I always look forward to engaging with industry professionals from the region. While in some parts of the world the self-service market is being driven by the desire of organisations for cost savings, in Hong Kong and much of APAC the push is coming from customer demands. Research has found that consumers in Asia Pacific are increasingly reliant on technology and inclined to integrate digital and physical experiences. They want anytime, anywhere self-service on any device and are determined to create the best experiences for themselves. In order to provide effortless, accurate, seamless and effective service experiences, companies need to unify their contact centres and self-service channels.

If you are attending the HKCCA International Symposium 2017, be sure to join me at 10:05 am for my presentation and stop by our booth to pick up some additional information and meet the team. I look forward to seeing you there!

If you won’t be at the event, you can contact us at any time for more information and to arrange a live demo of our Smart Help solutions.

Customer Demands Driving Push for Self-Service in APAC

By Philip Chuck, Territory General Manager, Greater China

Customer experience is a hot topic for organisations around the world, and that’s certainly no different for those in the APAC region. Customers are demanding anytime, anywhere support, and companies are looking for effective ways to meet those demands. This was reflected in our busy industry event schedule here in Hong Kong during November.

At the beginning of the month, Creative Virtual sponsored the Asia Pacific Contact Centre Association Leaders (APCCAL) Expo for a second year alongside our partner Continuous Technologies. Hosted by the Hong Kong Call Centre Association (HKCCA) at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, this year’s event theme of ‘Omnichannel Customer Experience’ really resonated with the APAC contact centre professionals in attendance. Chris Ezekiel, Creative Virtual’s Founder & CEO, was a featured speaker and shared insights from his many years of experience in the industry during his presentation titled ‘Omnichannel Customer Engagement with Virtual and Real Customer Assistants’.

Later in the month, we teamed up with Fuji Xerox Hong Kong (FXHK), another of our partners, to take part in their SPARK Innovation Expo. This event showcased a range of smart innovations, technologies and next generation solutions designed to transform business. At the Creative Virtual booth, we shared our omnichannel Smart Help solutions and demonstrated how they automate companies’ support process to deliver fast and accurate responses to customers.

That same day Björn Gülsdorff, Creative Virtual’s Head of Business Development, joined our team in Hong Kong for a Roundtable organised by Asia Pacific Customer Service Consortium (APCSC). The event theme of ‘International Customer Experience Innovation and Engagement with Leadership Effectiveness’ inspired some great discussions, as did Björn’s presentation on best practices for virtual agents and real agents working together.

An important point that was apparent at all of these events is that the market for self-service in APAC is being driven not by cost savings, but rather by demands from end customers. Customers want:

  • Anytime, anywhere self-service on any device
  • Seamless, effortless engagement
  • Native language support
  • Personalised experiences

We are seeing a surge of interest in our omnichannel Smart Help solutions in APAC because our suite of tools enables organisations to effectively meet these demands. From virtual agents on websites to chatbots on messaging apps to tight integration with live chat, we have proven solutions that give customers a convenient, personalised and seamless experience. In the short time since coming to the region, we’ve demonstrated our multi-lingual capability by officially introducing three additional local languages. The feedback mechanism of our virtual agents gives organisations unique insights into the Voice of the Customer (VOC) to help them further improve customer engagement. And, in addition to enabling companies to meet the engagement expectations of their customers, our solutions also help reduce customer support costs and increase sales.

As we prepare for 2017, the marketplace looks exciting for us in Hong Kong and the rest of APAC. We’re looking forward to continuing our partnerships with Continuous Technologies and FXHK, and to bringing our expertise and experience in customer engagement to even more collaborations with customer organisations.

You can learn more about using virtual agents and chatbots for customer self-service in the new whitepaper Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – confusing or what!

Be sure to schedule your own personalised demo to see how our omnichannel solutions can help you meet your growing customer demands.

APCSC Roundtable