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Putting in the Hard Work for That Moment of Recognition

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

I recently attended an awards event organised by ISG where we collected Creative Virtual’s trophy for being named a Leader in the ISG Provider Lens™ for Conversational AI. It was such an honour to be recognised as a leader in a field that contains such technology giants as Microsoft, IBM and Google. After so many virtual events, it was an unusual experience from the very beginning: putting on a business suit after 18+ months of varying degrees of lockdowns and restrictions; meeting so many people face-to-face in such close proximity; and the different ways people have modified their interactions.

There were certainly some different behaviours on display from the last awards ceremony I attended pre-pandemic. Some people wanted to shake hands, some preferred fist bumps, some people wore a mask between dinner courses and sips of wine. What wasn’t different was it being wonderful to celebrate the successes of all the companies being recognised.

Several speakers made jokes about their suits shrinking during the months of lockdown. As I looked around the room, there were certainly many nods of agreement to comments about the ‘Lockdown Bulge’. I had recently taken part in the London Marathon so felt somewhat smug! That got me thinking about the parallels of receiving corporate awards, like this honour from ISG, and completing a marathon.

Accepting an award on behalf of Creative Virtual is always an honour for me. Running a successful technology company with such a great and dedicated team and collaborating with some of the world’s leading organisations is a privilege. There is so much effort, over many years, that goes into making that brief moment possible. A brief moment of joy: stepping on stage, with the loud music and camera flashes, to collect the trophy. It is the same with running a marathon: all that training, the big push on race day which invariably includes pushing through the pain barrier at around the 20-mile mark, culminates in stepping across the finish line and collecting your medal.

All that hard work and dedication leads to that one moment of recognition and celebration. But I think the brevity of these moments is what makes them even more special. In our busy lives, when we’re in need of a boost, we can easily recall those climatic moments that put a smile on our faces. I believe that because these moments are so brief, we are driven to innovate more and train harder in order to experience more of them.

The Creative Virtual team is still hard at work to ensure we are delivering the conversational AI technology and expertise our clients and partners need for success. We are also living up to our status as industry leader by investing in the next generation of our V-Person™ technology. We aren’t doing all of this for awards and trophies, but being recognised by an important analyst group like ISG does provide a little extra motivation!

Congratulations to the global Creative Virtual team on being a Leader in the ISG Provider Lens™ for Conversational AI! And thank you to the team at ISG for organising a wonderful evening of celebrations.

Check out ISG’s Conversational AI quadrant and report here to learn more about why they have named us an industry leader.

The Best Conversational AI Now and in the Future

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Recently Corporate Vision Magazine announced the winners of their 2021 Media Innovator Awards. Creative Virtual proudly accepted the award for ‘Best Conversational AI Solutions Provider – London’! This award recognises our London-headquartered company for our expertise in both developing conversational AI technology and delivering skilled consultation for implementing and maintaining solutions.

We’re coming up on eighteen years since I founded Creative Virtual, and so much has changed in the chatbot and virtual agent space since those early days. As a company, we’ve played a key role in both establishing and advancing the conversational AI market. It’s always an honour to be called the best, but that certainly doesn’t happen by chance. It requires the hard work and collaboration of our entire global team as well as strong relationships with our customers and partners.

Being a leader in a quickly evolving technology space, like the conversational AI industry, also requires a continuous emphasis on innovation. More specifically, that innovation must be focused on helping companies tackle their real challenges and deliver real results, now and in the future. That’s why I’m excited to be receiving this award as we are preparing for our next big product launch in 2022.

Our upcoming Gluon release of V-Person™ is the next generation of our award-winning conversational AI. It draws from our nearly two decades of experience in the industry to deliver updates to our chatbot, virtual agent, and live chat technologies. Gluon also features a re-architecture of V-Portal™, our innovative orchestration platform. The updated user interface will make it easier for our customers and partners to deploy and maintain their conversational AI solutions without compromising on any of the advanced enterprise-grade functionality they rely on to deliver personalised, seamless experiences.

A few of the innovations and features of the Gluon release include:

  • Enhanced natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning
  • Microservices, widgetisation, and containerisation
  • Support for low-code and no-code
  • Ability to interface with multiple intent engines, CRMs, contact centre platforms, and voice technologies
  • Machine comprehension
  • Sophisticated dialogue management, personalisation, and entity extraction

The updates and innovations in our Gluon release are focused on enabling organisations to create accurate, reliable conversational AI solutions quicker and easier than ever. We give them complete control over the AI with a perfect blend of machine learning and natural language rules so there is never a machine learning black box to fear. All of this is designed to help organisations reach their goals for delivering better experiences for their customer, employees, and contact centre agents.

Congratulations to the Creative Virtual team on being named ‘Best Conversational AI Solutions Provider’! And thank you for your contributions to our upcoming product release, supporting our customers and partners with your expertise, and helping us deliver the best chatbot, virtual agent, and live chat solutions every day!

You can read our official award announcement here and watch a sneak peek video on our Gluon release here.

My thanks also to the Media Innovator Awards judges for recognising Creative Virtual’s conversational AI technology and expertise!

Delivering Innovation that Enables Successful Self-Service

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Innovation is essential for companies to stay relevant, be competitive and achieve long-term growth. History is littered with brands that resisted change and failed to keep up with new trends and preferences in the marketplace – like Blockbuster – which ultimately resulted in their demise. However, simply being innovative is not enough to ensure success.

What is too often missing from the emphasis on being innovative is the necessity for that innovation to be applicable to the real life needs and challenges of your company and customers. Having innovation at the heart of our company culture at Creative Virtual has served the company well, but only because we innovate with the objective of delivering products and services that genuinely help our customers meet their goals in increasingly better ways.

Today we announced Creative Virtual’s latest award win: ‘Most Innovative Conversational Self-Service Solutions, 2020’ in Corporate Vision Magazine’s Corporate Excellence Awards. As a company we are proud to receive this recognition for innovation. We are even prouder to know that our dedication to innovation is enabling us to provide both the conversational AI technologies and the expert consultation and managed services needed to create quality self-service experiences.

Conversational self-service tools have progressively become more mainstream in the nearly two decades of Creative Virtual’s history. The COVID-19 pandemic thrust them into the spotlight even more in 2020 as companies scrambled to automate online customer service, better support a remote workforce, and relieve growing pressure on contact centres. Organisations already using V-Person™ solutions from Creative Virtual had a distinct advantage in meeting the challenges of customer support during the pandemic.

Many customer experience (CX) predictions for 2021 foresee conversational self-service becoming more integral to customer support strategies. Shep Hyken, a customer service and experience expert, included chatbots in his Top 10 Business Predictions for this year:

“Chatbots will do more than just communicate with customers. Most companies use chatbots as a way to manage customer support. Chatbots will continue to do that, and get better at it, but they will also help decide what happens next. The initial interaction is the starting point for automating processes or escalating the issue to a human.”

Creative Virtual’s chatbots and virtual agents are already doing that, which is one of the reasons why we were named most innovative by the award judges. In 2020, we introduced the Neutrino release of V-Person (our conversational virtual agent and chatbot technology) which brings together humans and AI with powerful integration options and easy-to-manage workflows. With V-Portal™ (our virtual agent, chatbot and live chat management platform), organisations can create personalised conversations, identify next-best-actions, and escalate from virtual to human support in a seamless way.

Being innovative in this area requires more than just having cool technology, though. It also demands having the experience and expertise to implement that technology in innovative ways to create positive, reliable self-service engagement. This was hugely important in 2020 – and another reason Creative Virtual received this recognition – when businesses, customers, employees, and contact centres were facing new challenges and rapidly changing circumstances. Our team rose to this task, finding ways to help our customers achieve success. In the words of one of our customer contacts from a major financial services group:

“The service from Laura and Andi has been great since we launched our virtual assistants. They have been on hand to support with any question I have and support I’ve needed. During the tough times of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have had to make multiple changes quickly and they have made this process simple.”

Congratulations to the whole Creative Virtual team on this recognition as ‘Most Innovative Conversational Self-Service Solutions, 2020’ and your ongoing dedication to developing and delivering successful self-service!

You can read our official award announcement here and request a personalised demo of our self-service solutions here.

Our thanks to the Corporate Excellence Awards judges for recognising our commitment to innovation and growth throughout 2020!

A Look Back: 2020 in Review

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Around this time every December, I put cursor to page and fingers to keyboard to take a look back over the last 12 months and reflect on some of the highlights of the year for Creative Virtual. This is the seventh time I’ve done this annual year in review blog post, but never have I had to review a year that was like 2020. I don’t need to tell you that not everything went as planned, but there were still some bright spots for us and the chatbot, virtual agent and live chat industry.

Creative Virtual started 2020 celebrating the company’s Sweet Sixteen. Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel shared his pride in ‘building a successful, world-leading company over a sustained period of time with an amazing group of people’ in our first blog post of the year. As an organisation that has been in the industry since the infancy of virtual agents and chatbots, we really understand the past, present and future of these solutions and bring a wealth of experience and expertise alongside our technology.

It is that experience and expertise of the Creative Virtual team that took centre stage this year. As physical offices and business locations were closed to comply with lockdown and stay-at-home orders around the world, our customers were faced with a surge of incoming queries from their customers and new challenges in supporting their employees while also dealing with rapidly changing information and guidance. They turned to our team for advice and assistance in keeping their virtual agent and chatbot solutions updated and proactively relieving pressure from their contact centres. Laura Ludmany, one of our experienced Knowledgebase Engineers, wrote a two-part blog series about helping some of our financial customers with their 24/7 customer support tools during this time. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Several months later, AI Time Journal approached us for a contribution to their upcoming ebook featuring ‘Conversational AI Success Stories During Times of Pandemic’. We were happy to share the experiences of one of our international financial services group customers using our V-Person™ virtual agent to provide customer support. You can read more here and download the full ebook, Conversational AI Trends 2020, here. For this organisation, their virtual agent was the best way to keep up with rapid content changes and deliver accurate information to customers. With the support of our team, they were able to successfully push their virtual agent to the forefront of their CX strategy.

Neutrino release of V-PersonThe consultation and guidance that we provide is also key to the Neutrino release of V-Person which we introduced to the market in June. The localised support, international insights and best practice expertise of our team are combined with our virtual agent/ chatbot technology (V-Person) and orchestration platform (V-Portal™) for the conversational AI industry’s smartest solution yet. With Neutrino, organisations can leverage their existing knowledge to power chatbot, virtual agent and live chat solutions for improved customer and employee experiences.

2020 was a record-breaking year for use of our virtual agent and chatbot implementations. With the help of Creative Virtual Analyst, Lester Lane, we took a look at the usage spikes and trends across different regions and sectors in two blog posts. Our initial look in April showed a spike starting at the end of February and beginning of March that surpassed anything we had seen in the 16+ years of the company’s history. When we reached the halfway point of the year, we again crunched the numbers and discovered that those virtual agents had already recorded approximately 75% of the total transactions from the previous year.

This explosion in usage of virtual agents and chatbots wasn’t surprising given the closure of physical locations and long call centre wait times that many businesses experienced. However, offering these digital self-service tools delivers no benefits to customers or companies if they don’t provide a consistently positive and accurate experience for users. That is what inspired us to publish a new whitepaper this year titled, Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor: Forget the Technology & Focus on Experience.

virtual agent & chatbot guideOn the surface, it may sound like something else crazy happening in 2020 – a technology company saying to forget about the technology! The reality is that it doesn’t matter how great the technology is if you don’t have the skill and know-how to implement it in a way to achieve success. In this whitepaper, Creative Virtual team members once again put our knowledge and expertise in the spotlight, explaining the six essential areas of experience your virtual agent vendor should have and why each is important to the success of your solution. We highlight expert tips from ten members of the team – Rachel F Freeman, Laura Ludmany, Claudio Chico, Rachael Needham, Len Power, Maria Ward, Rob Foster, Peter Studd, Ridhi Mathur and myself – who combined have over 83 years of experience specifically in the virtual agent and chatbot field.

With travel and in-person events unsafe for much of this year, we couldn’t attend and join our partners at industry conferences as we normally do. Instead, after attending CCW 2020 in Berlin with our partner Sogedes in March, we focused on producing content that could be shared, read and watched virtually over digital channels. We held a webinar, Tips for Deploying AI Chatbots & Virtual Agents, which can now be viewed on-demand. Mugdha Desai, Head of Operations for Creative Virtual India, and Shantanu Purandare, Executive Director of Creative Virtual India, each presented in virtual AI and chatbot events. Founder & CEO, Chris spoke for a sixth time at the Hong Kong Customer Contact Association (HKCCA) Symposium at the invitation of our partner Continuous Technologies, but this time virtually. We are sponsoring one more webinar this year with Customer Contact Central on 17 December, The Future of Contact Centers: A New Paradigm for Superior Customer Experience.

The team also produced our annual blog celebration of Customer Service Week (5-9 October) and CX Day (6 October) with insightful tips and recommendations that reflected the new customer service challenges that 2020 brought to businesses. If you missed any, be sure to check them out:

Founder & CEO, Chris may not have been able to do his usual travelling around the world to spend time with our team, partners and customers throughout the year, but he did take part in a podcast and two online interviews. In February, Chris participated in the Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s podcast alongside one of his heroes, Sir Geoff Hurst, to discuss leadership. In AI Time Journal’s interview series AI vs COVID-19: Sharing Sessions with People in AI, he talked about turning the remote work challenge into an opportunity to learn more about each employee, how technology may impact our need for in-person interactions and the difference AI is making in combating the virus. Chris also took part in Startup.info’s Innovators vs COVID-19 interview series where he discussed Creative Virtual’s approach to innovation and the pandemic’s effect on the conversational AI industry.

100 SmartTech Innovators 2020This year we celebrated being named to the Top 100 SmartTech Innovators List. We continued the five-year-long celebration of our Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017, and Chris continued to tell everyone about going to Buckingham Palace with our CTO, Peter Behrend, to meet the Queen – see the photographic evidence here! We grew our Global Partner Network and added new technology integration partnerships, including those we announced this year with Spitch and Semafone’s Cardprotect Relay+.

Unlike other years, we don’t have a 2020 in Review photo album to share with you since we weren’t able to gather much in-person for group activities or events – and no one wants to look at a whole album of grainy screenshots of video conferences! Be sure to check out the Creative Virtual Facebook page though for a few photos and virtual company celebrations.

And now we head into 2021 with a year of overcoming professional and personal challenges under our belts and a deep sense of pride in knowing that the experience and expertise of the Creative Virtual team helped our customers and partners survive their challenges, too. It’s impossible to know what next year will bring, but we’re looking forward to finding out!

Recognition, Acceptance and Delivery: The RAD approach for continued innovation

By Rachel F Freeman, Operations Director

Accolades and list rankings can never be taken for granted no matter how often a company appears on industry recognised lists or is selected for voter’s choice awards. Indeed, even direct positive customer reviews and feedback should be treasured as unique and appreciated even if hundreds or thousands are received, because one bad experience wipes out scores of positive comments. Creative Virtual have had our fair share of acknowledgements in recent years including the coveted Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, a Tech Track 100 award and the Frost & Sullivan Product Leadership Award for AI-enhanced Customer Self-Service.

100 SmartTech InnovatorsWith this caveat, I humbly, excitedly and gratefully acknowledge the latest news that Creative Virtual has been voted 36th out of 100 SmartTech Innovators in the UK! Creative Virtual is being recognised as innovative for our chatbot and live chat technologies that have been developed over 16 years. This has been possible because of the expertise of a devoted team at Creative Virtual who bring a wealth of understanding in the industry across sectors and have been with us for longer than many recent AI inspired companies have been in existence.

We are proud of our retention record, both in terms of our team members and our list of customers. We are proud of how our operations team works closely with our customers and feeds back to our development team to get the best and most optimal results at an agile speed. We are proud of our ability to change tack when required based on market driven requirements which is advantageous in a quickly changing industry.

We bask in the Recognition, Accept and understand why we are chosen and then work on ensuring that we Deliver continually the best, most innovative products and solutions for seamless, self-service customer and employee experiences.

We never rest on our laurels and always aim to harness our years of involvement with self-help tools and AI-enhanced products by producing technology worthy of any award, whilst keeping an eye out for however we can excel and drive change based on the feedback from our customers and partners.

Thank you to everyone who cast their vote for us, the esteemed judging panel and BusinessCloud Media. We are delighted you recognise our dedication to being industry innovators. Our success is buoyed as we look to the future and what we will deliver next for enhanced features and usability. Stay Tuned!

You can find the full 100 SmartTech Innovators ranking here, and you can schedule your own personalised demo with an expert member of our team here to see our innovative technology in action.

The Numbers Don’t Lie: An interesting evening with the Tech Track 100

By Rachel Freeman, Operations Director

Creative Virtual has been receiving a lot of accolades in the past few years and the challenge for a blog post is what to say to make each new title or award stand alone and special. We never want to be complacent, but our readers may be a little tired of hearing all the good news – or not?!

Making it onto The Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 list at 72 was an honour simply because the numbers don’t lie and there is no judging panel doing the placements. The league table ranks Britain’s 100 private technology companies with the fastest-growing sales over their latest three years.

The Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100The 2018 Tech Track list was published in September – read our official announcement here – but attending the awards ceremony was an added wow factor. The event was hosted at The Brewery in London on 6th November and had 294 guests in attendance from the 100 featured companies and sponsors.

Myself, Chris Ezekiel (Founder & CEO) and Peter Behrend (CTO) were in attendance together, but once the canapes were scoffed and a group photo of us taken, we were seated at separate tables with the objective to get all attendees to mingle and learn more about the 100 companies on the list by sitting and speaking to different representatives.

People at my table represented various sectors including trucking, AI (that would be us!), HR incentive packages, insurance, bill paying and venture capitalists. The mood at the event was tingling with drive and achievement and it was a buzz to sit amongst such a varied group of companies – ranging from the altruistic helping people with diabetes to devising ways to make hair removal simpler!

The speakers were interesting and luckily didn’t drag on; the food was noticeably absent of rubber chicken which meant that dinner was quite tasty. Advice from the speakers was offered including: always listen to your customer, ask probing questions, put in the hard graft, don’t give up on your idea and be prepared for the unexpected. The Founder of Candy Crush (a former Tech Track list member before going public) was amongst the speakers, and I found it interesting to hear how unprepared they were for the success that came to them after several years of being on the brink of closure.

Had there been time to sit amongst all 32 tables in the room, I’ve no doubt there would be a cartful of stories and advice and impressive tales of success. The time that we did have was fruitful and dare I say a bit fun if not definitively interesting. It’s a recognition that differs from the others in that the numbers put us on the list and we are then given the opportunity to shine and explain our story… our story is also a great one and whilst three of us were there at the event, we were representing the strong team behind us across the globe.

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.