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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.

Upcoming Webinar: Innovations and Trends to Enhance the Customer Experience

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Personalised, consistent and accurate engagement anytime, anywhere – customers expect it but many companies struggle to deliver it. With customer experience being a significant driver in customer loyalty and buying decisions, organisations need to find a way to meet these expectations at a cost that makes business sense. In CRMXchange’s upcoming Tech Tank webcast, Innovations and Trends to Enhance the Customer Experience, the roundtable speakers will show how organisations of all sizes are taking advantage of cost-effective innovations and techniques to deliver consistently satisfying customer care.

Chris Ezekiel, Creative Virtual’s Founder & CEO, will join the roundtable to give live demonstrations of how companies are currently using our innovative Smart Help solutions to offer 24/7 easy access to information and support across contact channels. These solutions are designed to be complementary to the systems and processes already in place to help brands quickly create better customer experiences without lengthy or expensive development projects.

The key to the success of Creative Virtual’s customer engagement platform is the unique combination of natural language virtual agents (V-Person™) with the backing of a powerful knowledge management, workflow management and business intelligence reporting platform (V-Portal™). Chris will demonstrate how organisations are improving customer satisfaction, increasing sales and building brand loyalty while also reducing their support costs.

Speakers from Fonolo and TeamSupport will also be joining the roundtable scheduled for Thursday, 16 June. Professionals interested in learning about cutting-edge customer engagement solutions and seeing live demonstrations of the technology in action, should be sure to register for this webcast through the CRMXchange website. For those unable to attend the live webinar, CRMXchange will make a recording available after the event and you can request your own live demo.

Why Self-Service Has Become an Imperative Despite the Obstacles That Block It

By Karen McFarlane, Marketing, Americas

On April 6th, Creative Virtual USA joined over 150 customer care executives at the Argyle Customer Care Leadership Forum in New York City to discuss how the challenges of the current economic landscape are forcing organizations to examine and reduce costs and why the need for a customer-first approach is more important than ever. A core part of this discussion revolved around the growth of self-service channels, which is supported by analyst research predicting that by 2017, over 2/3 of all customer service interaction will no longer require the support of a human.

With customers practically begging for self-service, we wanted to see what other executives thought about implementing self-service channels and the biggest obstacles they are facing. So we took the opportunity to ask them at the Argyle Customer Care Leadership Forum and polled all 150 attendees. 81% of them said knowledge management and gaining organizational support were the key obstacles to successful self-service deployment. You can download the full results of that report here.

Given these findings, the desire to deliver self-service remains strong, but making the business case and finding supportive technology that can galvanize traditionally siloed departments remains a challenge for many organizations. However, some brands have paved the way as early adopters and are having positive experiences iterating as they go.  Frank Schneider, VP of Customer Experience Solutions, joined a panel at the Argyle Forum, “The Future of Customer Service: Customer Empowerment and Expectations,” where he, along with executives from General Electric, Quest Diagnostics, Panasonic and Confirmit, discussed the strategies, technologies, and tactics they used to support their self-service investments. Below is an excerpt of the 50-minute panel discussion where they shared some of the challenges and achievements. The full recording is available here.

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Q&A Excerpt: The Future of Customer Service: Customer Empowerment and Expectations

Creating Your Self-Service Strategy

Q: What tactics have you started to use in terms of bringing the tech savvy customer in and starting to learn from what they need and what the experiences are to give them a better, richer experience?

Creative Virtual: Customers want to adopt these technologies and you have to keep it simple… make it conversational and give the customer a chance to tell us what they need…It’s easy to just wrap it in the wrapper of personalization, but if you actually take the time to listen to your customers and say, “OK, well, let’s meet them at this point and help facilitate that, we find that’s key.” Knowing who I am, knowing the type of customer I am, what package I have and leveraging that context to make this tool whatever it is, digital engagement or even an agent to respect me by showing the intelligence that you know me, makes a big difference. We try to enable that with our solution in particular and this is something I think all brands are hungry for.

Formulating a Business Case

Q: This morning we heard a lot about the investment and how do we finance it? Part of any investment, have you started seeing any reduction in cost? You talked about transferring some of the volume of calls to self-serve, have you started seeing that and are you measuring that somehow and how are you going about that?

Quest Diagnostics: One of the key pieces that we do measure is contacts into our call center per 1,000 patient requisition…we’re seeing that contacts per 1,000 requisitions come down and seeing it similarly increase in those digital or those self-service opportunities, which enables us to better manage that team. I think that’s been a really key piece that we’re looking at. Right now, we’re doing a lot of research to understand in the physician offices those who are active adopters and why they love it?… As we move more into a self-service environment, we’re seeing the reduction in that incoming volume, which is allowing us to be more cost effective. It’s improving their satisfaction and their stickiness.

Measuring Effectiveness

Q: How about cognitive analytics? How is that coming into the play in terms of how we’re using the data and how we’re predicting customer behavior?

Panasonic: In my case, because I have different responsibilities, we have metrics for the call center, which are pretty much the standard everybody’s measuring, AHT and things of that nature. We have web-related activity as to how our customers think we’re doing and the kind of activity from a service stand point. We have actually had some cases where we can react to customers and respond to them within a certain time period because we’re getting information and can communicate with the customer. When you can call somebody within a half hour of a problem, that makes a really big difference.

What the Future Holds

Q: How have you seen the customer service changing in particular with all the new technology that we’re trying to drive?

Confirmit: The role is changing in a lot of ways but not necessarily specific to technology. There is an elevation of the role and elevation of customer experience. You’re seeing investments being made with CCO’s and new directors of customer experience. Ten years ago, this did not exist. We’re just seeing a focus on putting dollars and focus and attention on customer experience. I think that the rest of it, the technology the marrying, the journey, all of that follows the focus because we now have a seat at the table to talk about the actual customer experience. I think there’s a huge investment being made in the roles, the people.

Quest Diagnostics: How do you continue to have that interaction, a dialogue? That’s a big piece and I think we found for us, that’s been critical is even changing the nomenclature in the organization to we were talking very clinically… If I’m a Phlebotomist caring for a patient one on one, they want a different feel and they want a different language set. That’s to your point, changing and meeting that customer how they want to be met. I think about investments around and the way we look at it, as an elevation customer care and that element is one piece of it. It’s that whole end to end and how we’re looking at all of those investments linked together.

Creative Virtual: Ultimately, without being too corny, ultimately technology is always supposed to improve our lives. Throughout history any advancement is supposed to improve our lives…. It’s common sense that we need to meet our customers in all these moments of truth and we win their hearts and minds by actually meeting them intelligently and being accessible and instantly available. Getting as much help as we can. When we can actually say, “Hey we can’t right now, here’s how we can.”

Panasonic: It’s more experiential. With all the new tools and stuff, customer reps are going to have to do more, do different things differently. They might have to do phone chat, social, things related that they didn’t have to do before. Selling things, revenue, we’re starting to do revenue as well and it is a different mindset.

To listen to the full recording of the panel discussion, click here.