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Is Your Customer Experience Ready for 2020?

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Every one of us has a story we can share about a bad customer experience – and we love to tell those stories. In fact, a survey conducted in 2018 across six countries found that 60% of customers said they had shared their bad experiences with others, either in-person or online. And for many of us, we also love to hear or read about those experiences before we make our own purchasing decisions, meaning that a single poor experience can have a negative knock-on effect on countless other potential new customers.

It’s certainly no secret that your customer experience (CX) has a direct impact on your company’s bottom line. The results of that same survey also showed that 56% of customers had stopped doing business with a brand or switched to a competitor after a single bad customer service experience. According to Frost & Sullivan, US companies are currently losing more than $83 billion annually because of poor customer experiences. Despite being armed with this understanding, many organisations are still struggling to meet the expectations of today’s highly connected, digitally-savvy customers.

In their The Future of IT report, Forrester drives home the point that soon nearly all companies will operate as digital entities with their ability to maximise on the potential of new technologies determining their success. One force behind this change are customers:

“Digitally insatiable customers have a marginal and fickle loyalty to traditional brands, are willing to experiment, and are conditioned to switch affinity and spend based on a single poor experience. Customers have an affection for novelty brands and, notably, brands that ‘get’ and tap into their day-to-day lives.”

When it comes to service and support, tapping into a customer’s day-to-day life means providing the options to find information and resolve issues on a growing number of channels. More traditional channels like the phone are still important, but customers now also want to engage with brands on newer channels like messenger apps and smart speakers – channels that are becoming more integrated into other aspects of our daily lives.

Yet just being present on these channels isn’t enough to create a positive customer experience. As Gartner points out:

“It’s not just what channels customers use to resolve issues, but why they use them that leaders need to understand.”

Service leaders must understand the entire customer journey and the realities of what it takes to solve a particular issue in order to optimise each channel appropriately and then guide customers to the correct channel as needed. While all channels should aim to make customer resolution easier, every channel can’t be viewed with a one-size-fits-all mindset.

To be able to guide customers to the right channels and create an easy, seamless experience, organisations need to approach their digital CX initiatives with an omnichannel view. For example, adding a chatbot on a messenger app is a great way to provide customers with quick self-service, but it can’t be a standalone tool. It must also be integrated with other channels so users can be properly guided or handed over to a different channel if needed, such as live chat or the contact centre, to have their issue resolved.

There have been lots of predictions over the past several years about how important CX will become for brands. A recent report identifies the year 2020 as the point when customer experience will overtake product and price as the number one way companies will differentiate themselves from the competition. As we quickly approach the middle of 2019, organisations need to take the time to really evaluate their experience and identify the technologies that will prepare their customer service for the future.

C+UX: Innovations and Tips for Your Customer Experience Strategy

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

According to Frost & Sullivan, customer experience will overtake product and price as the number one means of differentiation for organisations by 2020. Companies that get their customer experience (CX) right are rewarded, with 74% of consumers spending more with a business due to a history of good service. While most companies understand the importance of delivering a positive CX, creating and deploying the right tools to create happy customers remains a challenge.

If you’re looking for CX inspiration and help in developing a successful strategy, don’t miss the C+UX Expo taking place in London on 27 & 28 March. Tickets for the UK’s biggest customer and user experience event are free and will give you access to several other co-located events, including the Call & Contact Centre Expo and the Marketing Technology Expo.

Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel will be presenting a seminar on Thursday at 14:00 in Theatre 16, ‘Top Tips for Implementing Chatbots and Virtual Agents in 2019’. Be sure to join Chris as he cuts through the artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbot hype to share best practices for selecting, deploying and maintaining a successful self-service solution. Drawing on demos of live implementations, he’ll cover everything from building your business case to setting your solution up for long-term success.

The Creative Virtual team will also be on Stand 920 both days of the event sharing insights and live demos of our award-winning virtual agent, chatbot and live chat solutions. Our multi-lingual technology can be deployed across touchpoints – web, mobile, social, messaging apps, SMS, contact centre, service desk, IVR and smart speakers – to deliver information quickly and efficiently to customers and employees. Stop by to see some of our current implementations in action and learn how we are helping businesses implement these solutions to create seamless omnichannel engagement.

Tickets for C+UX are free, but you must register in advance through the event website. If you aren’t able to attend the expo but are interested in learning more about how you can optimise digital conversations with your customers and employees, request a personalised demo with an expert member of our team.

Employee Engagement Remains a Top Priority Alongside Customer Engagement for 2019

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

Welcoming a new year often goes along with an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ mindset, but two things that are staying hot on companies’ 2019 agendas are customer engagement and employee engagement. This was glaringly obvious at the recent AI & Robotics Directors’ Forum: AI Enhancing Customer & Employee Engagement. From the delicious smoked salmon and cheese bagels served for breakfast to the final moments of the drinks reception at the end of the day, the event highlighted companies’ increased focus on improving engagement across the board.

Customer experience and engagement has been a top priority for most organisations for years, but improving employee engagement is a more recent addition to agendas. Organisations are coming to understand the benefits of providing better and easier support for employees. They are also coming to understand that many of the same digital tools, such as chatbots and virtual agents, that they are utilising to improve their customer experience can also be leveraged to improve their employee experience.

The event agenda featured presentations and panel discussions focused around practical uses of artificial intelligence (AI) in the customer and employee engagement spaces. I was joined at the event by Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, who presented a morning session titled ‘Taking Engagement to the Next Level: Conversational AI for customers & employees’. He shared some insights into the expectations of customers and employees and then took an in-depth look at how organisations can bring everything together to centrally control a consistent, convenient and efficient experience for both customers and employees.

Using a single orchestration platform enables you to deliver consistent information and support across touchpoints and allows you to more easily engage users on the devices, channels and apps they are already using in their everyday lives through chatbots, virtual agents and live chat. For conversational AI to be effective, it must use a hybrid approach of machine learning and human input. The orchestration platform you put in place must allow you to manage that combination of humans and AI so you can deliver the best experience to users and maximise on your investments.

During his session, Chris shared a few live demonstrations to illustrate industry best practices. The best way to really understand how this all comes together is to see it in action, so if you weren’t at the event I encourage you to request a demo. Our team is always happy to arrange a time that works with your schedule so you can experience the ways conversational AI can help you improve your customer and employee engagement.

Our thanks to the AI & Robotics Directors’ Forum organisers for inviting Creative Virtual to take part in your last event of the year!

The Platform at the Heart of a Seamless and Efficient Customer Experience

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

There’s such a buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots today, and it’s certainly a space that has changed a lot since I founded Creative Virtual 15 years ago. The learnings we have gained over the years are an important differentiator for our company and positively influence how we develop and implement our technology. During a recent webinar with Engage Customer, I shared some of those learnings and took attendees through current industry trends and best practices as well as sharing some new innovations. My goal was to show how organisations can orchestrate a seamless and efficient customer experience (CX) across contact channels with chatbots, virtual agents and AI to improve the experience whilst also saving costs.

The virtual agent, chatbot and live chat market is very crowded today with new vendors popping up all the time, and it’s confusing with all the buzz and mixed messages about AI. One of my key tips for any organisation looking at these solutions is that, whether you’re talking about the technology itself or the way chatbots and live chat are implemented and maintained, it’s the people element that’s absolutely crucial. It’s just as much about working with a vendor that can provide consulting expertise as the actual technology. The two need to come together hand-in-hand for a successful project, and that’s something we are very proud to offer at Creative Virtual.

I’m sure it’s not surprising to anyone reading this that over the past several years, customers consistently identify the same factors as being most important when it comes to customer experience and service: efficient, reliable, effortless, flexible. The good news for organisations is that machines, combined with humans, can help them deliver on all these expectations. Another of my key tips is to implement an orchestration platform that can bring together all of your content sources, manage the intents and keep the conversations flowing across all customer touchpoints completely seamlessly in a personalised way and at large scale. The V-Portal™ platform that powers our chatbots, virtual agents and live chat does this while also allowing you to learn from all those conversations going on in real time in such a way that a human, the content owner, works alongside the machine learning component to provide the best possible CX. It’s the machine learning and human curation parts coming together in a hybrid model that makes all of this possible. The orchestration platform is at the heart of creating a seamless and efficient experience.

The best way to understand this is to see real examples, so be sure to watch the webinar recording to see the live demonstrations I shared. You’ll also want to check out the eight recommendations I gave for organisations who are looking to implement chatbots, virtual agents and live chat or want to improve any of those tools they already have in place.

My thanks to Steve Hurst and Engage Customer for hosting this webinar and to all the attendees for their great questions and feedback. You can watch the full recording of Orchestrating a Seamless and Efficient Customer Experience on-demand here.

CXtech: Exploring Technologies that are Transforming Customer Experience

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

CXtech, a new technology conference and showcase, is coming to London on 12 October. Co-located with AI & Robotics: The Main Event, CXtech will explore what’s new, what’s working and what’s coming next in customer experience (CX) technologies as companies are connecting with customers like never before. Previously a sponsor of the AI & Robotics event, Creative Virtual is pleased to be a partner for CXtech this year.

The event brings together thought leadership, innovation and current case studies covering a wide range of CX technologies. In addition to presentations from expert speakers, attendees will also have opportunities to take part in networking sessions and visit the Solutions Showcase to see demonstrations of CX solutions.

Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO of Creative Virtual, is one of the expert speaker at the event, presenting as part of the ‘Digital Automation, Chatbots and Virtual Assistants’ stream. His session, Digital CX & the contact centre: AI, chatbots, live chat & knowledge management, will address the essential components of AI-driven digital transformation in the contact centre. Chris will share live demonstrations of chatbot and live chat implementations and discuss industry best practices for implementing successful digital CX initiatives.

The Creative Virtual team will also take part in the Solutions Showcase, providing live demonstrations of our award-winning chatbot, virtual agent, live chat and knowledge management solutions. Be sure to stop by to see some of our current implementations in action and learn how we are helping brands implement these solutions to create seamless omnichannel engagement. We’ll also be sharing tips to help you build a business case for these CX technologies in your organisation.

You can find more information about CXtech and the full conference programme on the CXtech website. If you haven’t registered yet, be sure to use our promotional code CV295 to receive a £300 discount off the price of a single ticket.

If you aren’t able to attend the event in London but want to learn more, we’d love to arrange a personalised demo at a time that works for you.

A Chatbot for Your Contact Center

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Contact centers around the world are celebrating Customer Service Week this week, recognizing their agents who deliver service and support to customers all year long. But many of those contact centers are missing an important team member. A team member who never needs a day off, who doesn’t get annoyed answering the same questions over and over, and who makes the rest of the team better at their jobs. They are missing a chatbot.

Chatbots and virtual agents have become essential tools for providing 24/7 self-service to digital customers. Yet many organizations are missing out on the added benefits of using these solutions in the contact center. Contact centers require a great deal of investment – from recruiting and training staff to putting the necessary tools in place for agents. A chatbot can help you maximize on those investments while creating a positive omnichannel experience for customers. They instantly provide agents with information to assist customers, reduce average call handling times, and increase first contact resolution. Training time for live agents is drastically reduced, and you build confidence with customers by assuring consistent communication from all agents.

A chatbot in your contact center works essentially the same way as a chatbot on your website, except the users are your agents instead of your customers. The tool understands questions asked in natural langue, as well as common abbreviations used by your contact center, and can guide agents through processes and forms step-by-step as they assist customers. By giving all staff easy access to the same level of knowledge regardless of experience, anyone from support teams to trainers and coaches can step in to answer customer questions with confidence at peak or busy times.

Contact centers looking to implement a chatbot need to be aware that not all chatbot and virtual agent technology is created equal, and not all solutions on the market have been designed for the contact center. The new whitepaper A Chatbot for Your Contact Center explores tips for selecting and implementing a conversational platform to support agents and provide an omnichannel customer experience. Designed to act as a buyer’s guide, it provides questions to ask when selecting chatbot technology for your contact center, guidelines for how to align your contact center with digital channels for seamless customer support, and best practices for successfully implementing and maintaining a conversational platform.

Outlining and executing successful digital customer experience (CX) initiatives continues to grow in importance as consumers become more digitally-savvy and digital natives gain more buying power. A successful digital CX strategy goes beyond what your customers are experiencing online to include what’s happening in your contact center. It’s crucial to select contact center tools that will not only improve performance now but set your contact center up for continued integration with the digital channels of the future. With chatbots, you can maximize on contact center investments, provide seamless omnichannel customer support, and incorporate your contact center into your digital CX strategy.

Download your copy of A Chatbot for Your Contact Center for important tips and questions to ask when selecting and implementing a conversational platform for your contact center agents.

Happy Customer Service Week!

Five Stars for Customer Service Week

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Happy Customer Service Week! Today marks the first day of the annual week-long international celebration of the importance of customer service and the people who serve and support customers on a daily basis 365 days a year. Delivering five-star customer service experiences doesn’t happen by accident. It takes careful planning, execution and cooperation across the organisation.

Whether delivered face-to-face or over digital channels, your customer service is a key part of your overall customer experience and a big factor in customer loyalty. Let’s take a look back at some of the customer service tips, trends and statistics we’ve shared over the past year in our annual blog post roundup:

  • It’s Time to be Realistic about AI, Chatbots and Live Chat – Right now we’re in a digital and artificial intelligence revolution, and it’s directly affecting organisations’ customer service strategies. Companies need to be realistic in their expectations about chatbots and virtual agents and how these solutions integrate with the changing role of the contact centre.
  • CX in 2018: Digital Transformation Means Combining Humans and Chatbots – When it comes to customer service and engagement, digital transformation means combining humans and machines. Organisations that ignore the importance of the human element or try to rely on pure AI are going to see their initiatives crash and burn.
  • What Goes Around Comes Around: A look at customer sentiment and intent – When it comes to building relationships with customers through self-service, true conversations need to happen – not just a session with Q&A pairs. It’s important to bring together customer sentiment and intent to deliver the best service experience.
  • Overcome Language and Culture Barriers with Chatbots – A major challenge for many organisations is engaging a customer base spread out across multiple languages with varying cultural expectations. This is especially true in the dynamic Asian markets. Deploying a chatbot in different languages breaks through the barrier of initial customer engagement in doing business in these countries.
  • Using Artificial Intelligence to Build Better Relationships with Customers – Customer service can be a key differentiator for companies in the marketplace, and recent research shows that the customer experience is still growing in importance when it comes to making purchasing decisions. It’s important that organisations go beyond the buzz and really understand how AI can help them build better relationships with their customers.
  • A Complete Omnichannel Experience for Those at a Desk and on the Move – Chatbots and virtual agents can now provide a complete omnichannel experience for customers at a desk or on the move. By being able to linkup channels – web, mobile, Facebook, messenger apps, voice assistants, etc. – companies are benefiting from delivering a consistent, accurate and seamless support experience that’s available to customers 24/7.
  • Meet the Team interviews – Members of the Creative Virtual team share insights, tips and expert advice from their many years of experience working with organisations around the globe to deliver quality customer service, engage digital customers and improve the overall customer experience.

Aligning Artificial Intelligence with Human Talent to Transform Customer Experience

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

I recently presented on the CRMXchange Technology Innovation Showcase, a webinar we‘ve done for the last six years. Presenting on a webinar for an hour with about a hundred company executives listening from all parts of the world, with potentially hundreds of people listening to the recording later, and without any friendly faces to look at in the audience, or in fact without any feedback whatsoever, doesn’t sound like much fun! But I love it.

The reason I love presenting on a webinar of this nature is that it gives me the opportunity to present the best of what our employees, customers and partners have produced over the past twelve months. I’m fortunate enough to run an organisation that is at the forefront of helping organisations deliver superior customer experience in the modern world. Using technologies like natural language processing and machine learning, combined with the amazing talent within our company, is like a dream come true for me.

Don’t get me wrong, running a company in a highly competitive market is not always a bed of roses, but the joys far outweigh the negatives, and it’s preparing for a webinar like this that gives me the opportunity to reflect on all the great stuff our company does, and at the same time it helps me to contemplate the next generation of our products and services. We have some fantastic research and development projects going on that promise to transform customer experience even further.

The key to our success, though, is not to get too carried away with the latest and greatest shiny stuff, but to align our passion for innovation and technology with the needs of our customers. Timing is crucial for a company to be successful. And judging by the great feedback I received following this latest webinar (thank you!), I’m confident that Creative Virtual remains exactly on the right track.

I would like to say a big thank you to our Creative Virtual team for all their hard work and dedication, and to our customers and partners for all their great support. Thank you all for attending or taking the time to watch the recording, and to Sheri and CRMXchange for hosting the webcast. There’s still an opportunity to view the webinar, Humans & AI: The Perfect CX Power Couple, on-demand here.

CX in 2018: Digital Transformation Means Combining Humans and Chatbots

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

For years there was much more talk about digital transformation than any actual changes for many organisations, but that’s starting to change. More and more digital transformation projects are getting off the ground, and 2018 will be an important year for understanding the reality of the changes needed and putting plans into action.

During a recent roundtable event Econsultancy found that for many, digital transformation programmes are all about survival. Organisations are ‘trying to disrupt ourselves before being disrupted by others’. There is a fear of being made obsolete and digital transformation is a way to head off bankruptcy, particularly for those already struggling or less profitable than their competitors.

Yet well-established and profitable organisations are also moving forward with these types of programmes, particularly when it comes to customer experience. In Hong Kong, some of the biggest banks are launching smart chatbots as a way to serve tech-savvy customers as part of their digital transformations. The corporate banking unit of HSBC, Hong Kong’s largest bank by assets, launched the very first chatbot of its kind in the city. Chatbot Amy is an important part of their innovative digital banking experience and allows customers to get answers quickly and easily.

I recently read an article predicting that 2018 will see AI-enable chatbots providing a better customer experience than human-to-human chat exchanges. I would argue that in some cases they already are. While I disagree with the authors on that point, I wholeheartedly agree on their insistence that customer service chatbots should have human ‘escape hatches’ which seamlessly pass users over to a human.

When it comes to customer service and engagement, digital transformation means combining humans and machines. Organisations that ignore the importance of the human element or try to rely on pure artificial intelligence (AI) are going to see their initiatives crash and burn. Chatbots can be brilliant additions to digital engagement strategies but they need to be implemented in the right way and with the right expectations, like HSBC Hong Kong’s Amy.

One thing that has held back digital transformation efforts is coming to grips with the reality of implementing plans, which is often very different than expected. It’s important to work with an experienced, expert team – particularly when it comes to customer service chatbots. Don’t rush to deploy any old chatbot just to be able to say you have one. Be strategic about it as part of your overall digital customer experience transformation. Know how it can best serve your customers and how you want to integrate it with other support options such as live chat. The whitepaper Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – confusing or what! gives some key features to look for when selecting a chatbot for customer support:

  • Personalisation – Can the chatbot be integrated with personalised account information?
  • Consistency and Accuracy – How will the chatbot help me keep my customer experience consistent and accurate?
  • Seamless Experience – Can I integrate the chatbot with other channels and support options?
  • End-to-End Support Journey – Can the tool bring together virtual and human support channels?

As you embark on new digital transformation initiatives to improve your customer experience this year, ensure that you examine them in context of your overall strategy and customer needs. And don’t overlook the importance of combining humans and machines, live agents and chatbots to best serve your customers and reach your CX goals.

A Look Back: 2017 in Review

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

The end of 2017 is quickly approaching and so, as has become our tradition, it’s time to take a look back at Creative Virtual’s year. To say this has been an exciting and busy year for us, our customers and our partners would be an understatement! 2017 will go down as one of the most important years in Creative Virtual’s history, so let’s take a look at some of the year’s highlights.

Queens Awards for EnterpriseBy far our biggest company announcement came in April when we were officially recognised as the winner of The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017! The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise is the UK’s most prestigious business award for British companies, and we were recognised for innovation for our V-Person™ and V-Portal™ technology. Over the summer, our Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, and CTO, Peter Behrend, attended a Royal Reception at Buckingham Palace for the winners and got to meet Her Majesty the Queen and several other members of the royal family. In September, the company hosted our official award ceremony and celebration, bringing together Creative Virtual team members from around the world, customers, partners and a variety of other guests in London. Mr Leslie Morgan OBE DL, Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London, presented our award on behalf of the Queen, and Jim Fitzpatrick, our local Member of Parliament (MP) for Poplar and Limehouse, also said a few words.

Creative Virtual was recognised by a variety of other awards programmes this year as well, being named ‘Best Customer Service Solutions Provider 2017’, ‘Most Innovative Customer Support Tool: V-Person Live Chat’, and ‘Best Virtual Assistant Solutions Provider 2017’ among others. We were also a proud part of the APPEX Omnichannel Catalyst which took home the Outstanding Performance in the Catalyst Program award at TM Forum Live! 2017.

Two individual members of our UK team were recognised by independent awards programmes this year for their contributions to Creative Virtual. Rachel F Freeman, Operations Director, was a finalist in the Women in IT Excellence Awards in the category of ‘Hero of the Year (SME)’ for demonstrating excellence in her support of others and going beyond the call of duty to achieve a business goal. And I was honoured to be named ‘Best CX Solutions Business Marketer – UK’ in the 2017 Business Woman of the Year Awards for my success in driving brand recognition, thought leadership and lead generation activities. It was certainly a big year for award wins for us as a company and individually!

While we enjoyed celebrating – and walking the red carpet! – this year, we were also busy sponsoring and hosting industry events and delivering thought leadership presentations in 11 different countries – India, the United States, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, France, Luxembourg, Singapore, Germany, Australia and Hungary. Our fifth annual Technology Innovation Showcase webinar (Chatbots, Virtual Agents and Your Contact Centre) with CRMXchange had a record-breaking number of registrations, highlighting the huge surge in interest in chatbots, virtual agents and artificial intelligence (AI). You can still watch that webinar on-demand, as well as our most recent webinar AI, Chatbots & Live Chat: Separating Truth from Myth.

While there has been a marked increase in interest in chatbots and virtual agents this year, there’s also a lot of confusion, unrealistic expectations and false promises being perpetuated in the marketplace. We drew on our expertise to share a realistic view of AI and chatbots in the customer space in our whitepaper AI, Chatbots and Virtual Agents: The Threat to Mankind and the Contact Centre. Founder & CEO Chris similarly tackled this topic in a column for CMRXchange, Are Chatbots, Virtual Agents and Artificial Intelligence Threats to Your Contact Centre?. Chris also shared his expertise in interviews with ReadITQuik and The Wharf Newspaper, and Mike Murphy, CEO of Creative Virtual USA, shared his thoughts on the industry in a CRMXchange Executive Interview. Following on the heels of our launch of V-Person Live Chat last year, early in 2017 we created a new video showing how you can combine self-service virtual agents and human-assisted channels to deliver a fully integrated support experience.

This year we welcomed a number of great organisations to our expanding Global Partner Network. Our V-Person Family continued to grow throughout 2017 with new virtual agent and chatbot deployments across the globe in a variety of languages, and our collaborations with current customers resulted in new features and functionality being added to existing installs. This year Motability Operations’ award-winning ‘Ask Mo’ and National Rail Enquiries popular ‘Ask Lisa’ virtual agents both celebrated their 10th birthdays. REST Industry Super’s virtual agent Roger played a part in two award wins for them this year: ‘Best Innovation Super Feature’ in Money Magazine’s Best of the Best Awards and ‘Best Fund: Innovation 2017’ in the Chant West 2017 Super Fund Awards.

As he does every year, Founder & CEO Chris took the award for most travelling as he once again flew around the world visiting with the Creative Virtual team, partners and customers and taking part in a number of different events. In November, he also added a new job title to his CV, taking on the role of monthly technology columnist with The Wharf Newspaper.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check out our 2017 in Review photo album on the Creative Virtual Facebook page. We’ve compiled shots from our official presentations and events as well as our fun group activities and award celebrations – everything from Founder & CEO Chris meeting to Queen to him taking a pie in the face during our fundraising efforts for the RSPCA. There will still be more photos to come, so be sure to like our Facebook page so you don’t miss any.