By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO
“Tra la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la, Happy birthday sweet sixteen,” sings Neil Sedaka in his hit song. Those lyrics popped into my head as I contemplated the sixteen years I’ve spent growing Creative Virtual since founding the company in London’s East End. I’m most proud of building a successful, world-leading company over a sustained period of time with an amazing group of people and keeping our independence along the way. Not an easy feat!
In November, I participated in an executive interview – you can read the full interview here – which happened to coincide with the 16th anniversary of the founding of Creative Virtual. One of the questions was about where I grew up and how my upbringing influenced my career. I talked about growing up on the Isle of Dogs in East London and learning at an early age that there is no substitute for hard work when you want to achieve something. Resilience, mental toughness, and showing and earning respect are all characteristics that have served me well as I’ve grown the company, helping me navigate the inevitable bumps along the way.
Likewise, the culture and values that are instilled in the fabric of a new company in the early days can have a lasting impact on the company as it grows and evolves. For Creative Virtual, it was important to me that the company maintain a culture of ownership, innovation and collaboration. Relationships are at the core of what the company is all about. I’m very proud to say that our first enterprise customer, Lloyds Banking Group, who we first worked with in 2004, are still a customer today. I’ve built Creative Virtual based on long term relationships, and we see all of our customers and resellers as partners in our journey to deliver the best possible customer experience tools.
Being recognised for our innovation and thought leadership in the extremely fast-paced chatbot, virtual agent and live chat market is also important for the company. There are new competitors – both large and small – springing up almost daily in our space. This validates the market of course, but also creates a lot of confusion and makes it more difficult to cut through all the noise. Receiving the five-year Queens Awards for Enterprise: Innovation in 2017 (and getting to meet Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace!) has helped set us apart from our competition. Last year we had further external recognition from analyst group Frost & Sullivan when they named us the AI-Enhanced Customer Self-Service Product Leader – another impressive accomplishment!
Perhaps the only thing that tops those amazing awards is the validation from our customers and partners that we are helping them meet their customer and employee engagement goals. It’s one thing to say that as a company we pride ourselves on continuous innovation, but we know that means nothing if we aren’t able to use those innovations to improve real customer and employee experiences. During 2019, a number of our customers have published verified reviews of our company and technology on the Gartner Peer Insights* website. I am very proud of the positive feedback and five-star reviews!
A common theme in these reviews is the positive experience our customer organisations have working with the Creative Virtual team, describing us as responsive, flexible, supportive, professional, adaptive, collaborative and highly skilled. The experience and expertise we are able to deliver alongside our innovative technology is one of our biggest differentiators in the marketplace. Getting to know each of our customer’s goals and challenges not only allows us to better guide them in the development, implementation and expansion of their individual solutions, but also informs our R&D roadmap so we can focus on what new developments will be the most beneficial in real scenarios and engagement strategies.
As we celebrate our Sweet Sixteen, we are continuing our mission of spreading a realistic view of artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots through our ongoing thought leadership and consulting work. Creative Virtual has been in this space for a long time – since the infancy of virtual agent and chatbot technology – so has a unique understanding of the past, present and future of these solutions. We know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to using the technology and are keenly aware that there are a variety of reasons why chatbot projects fail. Our experience and expertise mean we can guide organisations in developing and implementing their chatbot, virtual agent and live chat roadmaps. We are also assisting companies in saving investments already made in failing and poor performing chatbot projects through our Chatbot Rescue Mission.
In November’s executive interview I was asked what was next in my career, and that answer was easy: To keep innovating and growing the business globally, and make sure we continue to stay on top of our game and be recognised independently for being the best at what we do. That will take hard work and dedication, but I’m excited to see what the next 16 years will bring!
Thank you to Creative Virtual’s team, customers and partners for helping the company reach this important anniversary. Happy Sweet Sixteen!
*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.