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A Seamless Support Experience is Music to Your Customers’ Ears

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Every month Creative Virtual’s Founder & CEO writes his Virtual Viewpoint column for Wharf Life, a local newspaper available in the area around the company’s headquarters in London. You can also read the paper online, getting an insider’s look at what’s going on in the area as well as Chris’ perspective on a variety of topics from technology developments to stress management to space exploration.

In his latest Virtual Viewpoint column, Chris shares his recent experience attending a string quartet recital. He marvels at how in sync the musicians were, each bringing their own style and sound together for a cohesive performance. He compares this to running a successful company. Each member of the team contributes their unique skills and style but must work together towards a common goal.

The same principles are true for delivering a positive customer service experience. Creating your overall strategy is similar to writing a musical score – you have to pay attention not only to the performance of each individual component but also how they interact with each other over the course of the journey. You need to ensure each element is utilised to emphasise its strengths but do so in a way that creates a joined-up, seamless experience.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that a number of my own personal customer service experiences have revealed a strategy that is out-of-sync. Way too often a company’s digital experience appears to come from a completely different strategy than other parts of the experience. While many customers were willing to cut businesses a little slack as they dealt with sudden pandemic-related changes, that’s no longer a valid excuse for the disjointed support experience so many companies are still delivering.

Recently I’ve come across some articles claiming customers, who are increasingly turning to digital channels, hate using chatbots and just want to talk to a human. However, when you delve into the real reasons behind these claims, you realise that it’s not the automated self-service tool that customers hate but rather the poor experience that some of them are delivering. If the chatbot can understand their questions, provide accurate and relevant information, and give the option to escalate to a human if needed, then customers have no issue with using a chatbot.

This highlights a failure in both the development of these chatbot solutions and their implementation as part of a synchronised support strategy. A quality chatbot must be backed by conversational AI technology that combines machine learning with a human-in-the-loop. It must be integrated with human-assisted support channels, such as live chat, for a seamless handover. It must be approached as one piece of a comprehensive customer service strategy and not as a stand-alone tool or side project. All of these elements are essential for your solution to be effective, but companies often struggle because they don’t have enough knowledge in this field.

Rachel F Freeman, a conversational AI expert, started working with chatbots and virtual agents in 2000. She has experienced first-hand the evolution of the technology, and today collaborates closely with organisations on the development and implementation of their solutions. She shared this important piece of advice in a chatbot vendor selection guide:

“You should feel comfortable saying to your vendor, “we don’t know what we don’t know and are looking to you as the experts”. This applies to everything from possible use cases to suggestions for conversational flows to UI design tips. If you don’t have confidence they will guide you in the right direction, you’re working with the wrong team.”

This is sage advice for companies as they make conversational AI a part of their customer service strategy. If you don’t want your customers to hate your chatbot, then give them a chatbot that delivers the experience they want. That requires working with knowledgeable experts to ensure your self-service tool is properly developed and integrated with your overarching support strategy, goals, and customer needs.

While engaging with a company for customer support will likely never be as enjoyable as listening to a professional string quartet recital, the experience should be just as seamless and in sync. This is certainly not an easy feat, but is one made easier when you work with the right experts. And when you are able to deliver a seamless, omnichannel support experience, it will be music to your customers’ ears.

Successful Conversational AI: Blending Machine Learning & Human Intelligence, Part 1

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

In February ISG, a leading global technology research and advisory firm, published their ‘ISG Provider Lens™ Intelligent Automation – Solutions & Services’ report. In the report Mrinal Rai, Principal Analyst at ISG, evaluated 19 conversational AI vendors based on a set of market-driven criteria. The result of that evaluation placed Creative Virtual as the clear Leader in conversational AI, surpassing all other vendors with our competitive strengths.

Recently Mrinal and I (virtually!) sat down with Jan Erik Aase, Partner and Global Head – ISG Provider Lens, for a discussion on conversational AI. Our conversation covered a lot of ground, including current industry trends, the impact of the pandemic, and setting conversational AI project goals. We talked about the findings of ISG’s research as well as current successful conversational AI implementations.

We have divided our nearly 30-minute-long discussion into three parts, the first of which I’m excited to share with you in this post (scroll to the bottom to watch Part 1).

Jan Erik and Mrinal start off the discussion by diving into the ISG Provider Lens™ Quadrant Report and why Creative Virtual has been identified as a Leader. Mrinal points out that when it comes to conversational AI, it’s not just about the solutions themselves but also how they blend with human intelligence. His evaluation focused on both V-Person™ (our virtual agent, chatbot, and live chat technology) and V-Portal™ (our innovative orchestration platform). The power of our technology to blend machine learning and human intelligence along with our strong presence in the market were the key factors that led to ISG positioning Creative Virtual as a Leader in the space.

I then joined the conversation to discuss with Jan Erik some questions that ISG see coming up with their advisors as well as their clients. In Part 1 of the discussion, we explore:

  • What current trends and developments in conversational AI are important when evaluating virtual agent and chatbot management platforms?
  • With conversational AI now being a key part of omnichannel support strategies, how are the roles and responsibilities of contact centre agents and customer service professionals evolving?

Check out Part 1 of our ‘Successful Conversational AI: Blending Machine Learning & Human Intelligence’ discussion:

 

 

My next post will take a look at Part 2 of our session where we explore some of the biggest barriers organisations face when it comes to building, deploying, and maintaining successful conversational AI projects. In the meantime, be sure to download your copy of the ISG Provider Lens™ – Conversational AI Quadrant Report.

Combining Chatbots and Voice for Omnichannel Experiences

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

Last week Creative Virtual joined our partner Spitch as co-sponsors of The European Chatbot & Conversational AI Summit. The event was 100% virtual this year and featured two afternoons of various presentations, workshops, and panel debates. While being virtual is never quite the same as talking with someone face-to-face, it was great to see so many thought-provoking exchanges on the Discussion board and interesting questions asked by attendees during the sessions.

I teamed up with Gary Williams from Spitch to present on Day 1 of the Summit. Our session, The Omnichannel Solution: Chatbots + Voice, explored combining natural language chatbots with speech recognition capabilities to create powerful voicebot solutions. We shared some industry research from ContactBabel that showed 85% of CX professionals identified creating omnichannel/connected journeys as very or somewhat important to their strategies in the next two years (download the full report here). It’s no secret that customers want and expect an omnichannel support experience.

The tight integration of chatbots and voice creates a seamless journey as users switch between channels to help you deliver that connected experience. Gary and I shared two example voicebot use cases, one for customer support and one for employee support, that showed how the user could start a process on one channel and complete it on another in a smooth, seamless way.

For those interested in getting started with their own voicebot project, we ended our session with three important tips:

  1. Work with experienced vendors – Today’s market is crowded with new start-ups and inexperienced providers. You want to work with vendors that already have proven experience with both deploying and maintaining these solutions in your industry or sector. By partnering with experts, you immediately benefit from their experience. They can help you avoid common pitfalls, guide you on best practices, and ensure compliance with industry requirements and regulations.
  2. Select reliable technologies – This is why Creative Virtual and Spitch have partnered on voicebot solutions. We both bring years of expertise and documented results for each of our respective technologies. Be cautious about vendors that have attempted to tack on their own poorly developed chatbot or voice technologies to their main solution just so they can shout ‘Me too!’ You want technologies that are secure, can scale to current and future requirements, offer the hosting options you need, and will give you reliable results.
  3. Understand the integration options – When it comes to integrations, you need to first make sure there is a deep, seamless integration of the chatbot and speech technology to have a successful voicebot. Then consider what other integrations you are going to need to create a personalised user experience. You want a solution that can easily integrate with any existing content sources, backend systems, CRMs, other communication channels, etc. so that you can create a custom experience and connected journey.

If you’re interested in learning more about voicebots, schedule a demo to see these solutions in action and discuss possible use cases. You can also read more about the Creative Virtual and Spitch collaboration in our integration overview.

Thanks to Gary and Spitch for their event partnership and to The European Chatbot & Conversational AI Summit organisers and attendees for two days of great virtual content!

APPEX Omnichannel Takes Home Top Catalyst Honours at TM Forum Live! 2017

By Liam Ryan, Head of Sales

Enhancing the omnichannel customer experience should be a goal of every company, but we all know how challenging this can be when it comes to the reality of designing and implementing a consistent and seamless experience. That’s why at Creative Virtual we’re excited to be participating in the APPEX Omnichannel Catalyst as part of TM Forum’s Catalyst Project. And we’re proud to share that the project recently took home the ‘Outstanding Performance’ award in the Customer Centricity & Analytics stream of the Catalyst Program at TM Forum Live! 2017 in Nice, France!

First, a little about TM Forum and the Catalyst Program. TM Forum is the global industry association that drives collaboration and collective problem-solving to maximise the business success of communication and digital service providers and their ecosystem of suppliers. Catalysts are member-driven proof-of-concept projects which connect diverse organisations to develop innovative, commercially viable prototypes of new digital services and business models.

The object of the APPEX Omnichannel Catalyst has been the creation of an omnichannel solution environment for the service provider sector to encourage omnichannel adoption in order to enhance the customer experience across all channels. Creative Virtual joined the Catalyst this year as the project’s chatbot technology provider. Check out this interview with Deepanshu Motani, Enterprise Architect, Vodafone Group to understand more about the APPEX Omnichannel initiative:

 

A record-breaking number of Catalysts were showcased at TM Forum Live! this year, which was held 15-18 May at the Acropolis Convention Center in Nice. Each team provided demos of the projects on their stand for event attendees and TM Forum’s Strategy Committee who served as the judges. Visitors to the APPEX Omnichannel stand were treated to a fully immersive experience while watching the video below through the use of virtual reality technology.

TM Forum Live! 2017

 

TM Forum announced the winners of the 2017 Catalyst Awards at the end of the day on 17 May, and we were thrilled to hear APPEX Omnichannel announced as winners of the ‘Outstanding Performance in the Catalyst Program’ award! Congratulations to the entire APPEX Omnichannel team, and thanks to Huawei for inviting Creative Virtual to be a part of this exciting initiative.

Check out our TM Forum Live! 2017 photo album for more photos from the event.