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The Chatbot & Virtual Agent Experts Have Spoken: Experience Matters

By Rachel F Freeman, Operations Director & Laura Ludmany, Knowledgebase Engineer

Whitepapers are designed to be plain-speaking and informative documents spanning an array of subjects. At Creative Virtual, whitepapers are not created too often as they hold a special place in our repository of resources since they offer information that stays valid for a much longer time than other documents. We write them as valuable reference points which can be reviewed when required.

We take great pleasure in introducing this newly created whitepaper from Creative Virtual as it has a lot of straight talk about one of our favourite subjects: user experience in the realm of self-help tools. The insight and intel our Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor: Forget the Technology & Focus on Experience contains spans the width and breadth of the company: sales, marketing, technical and not least the operations team, some of who contributed by submitting their hottest and most relevant tips.

Where else can you find a paper that consolidates industry understanding and expertise from a group of people with a combined 83 years of experience in a field that has only been viable, commercially, for about the past 20?!

In addition to contributions from both of us, the whitepaper also includes insights from Claudio Chico, Rachael Needham, Len Power, Maria Ward, Rob Foster, Peter Studd, Ridhi Mathur and Mandy Reed. We drew from our extensive experience in the virtual agent and chatbot field to explore six areas of experience that are necessary for success. For example, we touch on the importance of skill in building a strong business case, integrating with other systems and technologies, creating the right user experience and identifying future developments.

We were so glad to contribute to this guide as it really brings the whole team closer to the readers. Having that personal touch makes a difference and helps to make the technology as well as industry jargon and terms more understandable. Having to choose a self-service solution can be a daunting task – there are so many industry-specific, and often even provider-specific expressions (which usually all mean pretty much the same thing!), that during your search, you might just feel even more confused than before you started. Demo calls might have the same effect, especially if you need to pass on the gained information to your team.

It helps to have clear, short and objective guides to help with your selection process – our 7-page long whitepaper is a perfect example of this. AI tools don’t need to be complicated and overwhelming if you go with the right team who can make things simple and easily understandable for you.

For example, we’ve found in our personal experience that as we go through the deployment and content curation processes clients, especially those who are new to self-service solutions, often find somewhat abstract our third area covered in the whitepaper: Experience with building and deploying successful solutions. To them, customer behaviour analysis and conversation flows are mysterious things and so they find it difficult to identify and deliver complex user journeys.

For an experienced virtual agent team, this is a typical case when a picture, or in this instance one demo flow, is worth a thousand words. Once we create a prototype flow for our customers, they are able to visualize their content flows and get quickly into the swing of things, supplying us new journeys and loops proactively. This is the sort of invaluable consultation experience you will receive when you work with the right virtual agent vendor.

The right team will also help you with analysing your virtual agent or chatbot’s usage to help you identify some quick wins. For example, for a new project we’ve been recently working on, our analysis enabled us to suggest creating new structured conversation flows by linking together existing content. This meant the client did not have to provide any new content, yet the user experience and their specific KPIs (key performance indicators) were improved significantly. It is personalised recommendations like this that enable you to get the most from your self-service tool, and that only happens when you work with a provider that builds a close relationship with your company and team.

virtual agent & chatbot guideWe encourage you to take a look at the tips and nuggets of wisdom from a dynamic and accomplished group of people on the Creative Virtual team who know their stuff and are happy to share it. We hope you find it useful as reference as you consider self-help tool options and providers. We may be a little biased, but we firmly believe you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better and well-informed source!

Download your copy of our Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor: Forget the Technology & Focus on Experience right now! Don’t forget you can always request more information or your own expert consultation by contacting us here.

A New Ebook and a Conversational AI Success Story During Times of Pandemic

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

We have all been facing new personal, professional and community challenges this year as we continue to deal with the harsh impacts of a global pandemic. At Creative Virtual, the team has been working hard to help our customers with their challenges related to delivering quality customer and employee self-service as information and needs change quickly. So, when AI Time Journal approached us to contribute to their ebook featuring ‘Conversational AI Success Stories During Times of Pandemic,’ it was a no-brainer for us to take part.

The new ebook, Conversational AI Trends 2020, takes a look at the rapid advances in conversational AI technologies and the new applications and use cases emerging across industries. Through a series of interviews with industry experts and innovators, the AI Time Journal Editors dive into current conversational AI trends and predictions for the future. Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO of Creative Virtual, was one of the experts interviewed and made this important observation:

“Organisations have realised the need to have and/or work with people skilled specifically in this technology to implement successful projects – a trend that’s being magnified by the current global pandemic. The increased focus on digital experiences and sudden spike in usage of conversational AI tools have highlighted how important this expertise is to development, maintenance and expansion of projects.”

That need for skill and expertise is reflected in the conversational AI success stories featured in the final section of the ebook. The first success story tells how an international financial services group’s V-Person™ virtual agent is rising to the challenges of customer support during the pandemic.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world in early 2020 and restrictions were put in place, this international financial services group faced the same challenges as many other businesses: the closing of physical locations, new guidelines to keep contact centre agents safe and rapidly changing information. While the organisation’s V-Person virtual agent had been a key part of their customer support strategy for many years, it came to the forefront during this time, becoming their go-to method of communicating with customers.

The quickest way to update information

Accessing the most recent information was important to customers to help them make sound financial decisions during an uncertain time. Providing that information was paramount for this financial services group but meant they had to have a way to keep content up-to-date as the government issued new programmes and schemes, regulations and processes changed, and pandemic restrictions evolved.

The organisation discovered that their virtual agent was the best way to keep up with rapid changes and deliver accurate information to customers. The process to update content within the virtual agent was quicker and easier than updating content on their website, allowing them to make as many changes as needed while minimising the amount of time the team spent actioning those changes.

The support needed for a transitioning call centre

Restrictions and guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19 meant it could no longer be business-as-usual for the organisation’s call centre. As the call centre dealt with rotating shifts and transitioning to a new way of working, they faced a period of having fewer agents available to deal with a rising volume of customer queries. To help relieve pressure from live agents, they began to proactively direct customers to self-serve through their virtual agent.

Since the virtual agent could provide the most updated information available, this approach was a win-win for customers and the call centre. Customers appreciated being able to quickly find answers to their questions without the hassle of making a call and dealing with long hold times. Call centre agents benefited from fewer calls which gave them more time to help customers with complex issues or who preferred to discuss their question with a live agent.

The right collaboration for a better CX

In the past, the team responsible for keeping the virtual agent’s content updated would need to reach out to the call centre for input. Now call centre teams are actively providing feedback and new content to add based on incoming calls from customers. This collaboration is enabling the organisation to keep their virtual agent performing well and delivering accurate answers to customers’ most pressing questions.

During the 3-4-month period of widespread shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, the financial services group saw their virtual agent traffic double and then nearly triple. Even after those large peaks, usage of the virtual agent continues to be greater than usual with high customer satisfaction scores.

While others struggled with their CX, this financial services organisation recognised the potential of their virtual agent and successfully pushed it to the forefront of their strategy.

Download a full copy of the Conversational AI Trends 2020 ebook for a complete look at highlighted industry trends, insights and success stories. You can also request a live demo with a member of the Creative Virtual team to learn more about our V-Person virtual agent, chatbot and live chat solutions and see them in action.

A big thank you to Martin Russo and the team at AI Time Journal for inviting us to take part in this ebook!

A Successful Self-Service Strategy Requires Looking at the Bigger Picture

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Businesses around the world are navigating through unchartered and very uncertain waters at the moment, making difficult decisions and trying to stay afloat. With physical offices and locations closed, many are struggling with the influx of customer questions to their contact centres – an issue that may be compounded by the sudden need to support agents working from home.

Self-service tools, such as conversational chatbots and virtual agents, are a great option to help alleviate some of the pressure from the contact centre and give customers a better option for finding quick answers to their questions. Organisations with an existing self-service solution have a definite advantage. Organisations without one – or with a solution that isn’t up to the challenge – know they must take action right away.

While companies needing to implement a new self-service solution or upgrade an existing one are feeling a sense of urgency, they still need to be thoughtful about the technology they select and how it is implemented. Having a successful self-service strategy requires looking at the bigger picture of your overall customer service and experience. By not doing that, organisations run the risk of making their current situation worse by frustrating customers even more with a disjointed and unhelpful self-service experience.

The good news is that even if organisations take the time to be thoughtful about how a new self-service solution will fit in with the bigger picture, it’s still possible to move the project forward quickly. Working with a vendor that has extensive experience and a deep understanding of how to implement the technology for both quick wins and long-term success is key.

Here are two recently published resources that will help any organisation jumpstart their quest for a successful self-service solution:

How to Select a Chatbot or Virtual Agent for Your Self-Service Project

Download here >>

Part of destinationCRM’s Best Practices Series, this guide provides insider tips for selecting a chatbot or virtual agent to positively impact your customer care. There are recommendations both for companies deploying a chatbot or virtual agent for the first time as well as those struggling with an existing poor-performing chatbot. It breaks down selection criteria for these self-service solutions to help you select the best technology to meet your current needs and enable long-term success.

 

The Inner Circle Guide to AI-Enabled Self-Service

Download here >>

This independent research report published by ContactBabel explores survey responses from consumers on their preferences and usage of self-service channels as well as use cases and results from organisations currently offering self-service options. It takes a deep dive into opportunities for using AI, machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to improve self-service channels. The report guides organisations on important questions to ask and pitfalls to avoid when implementing a new or updated self-service channel.

 

A large part of the world may be panic buying toilet paper, but organisations don’t need to panic about their self-service strategy. By taking a step back to look at their overall customer experience (CX) and working with experts in conversational AI, chatbots and virtual agents, they can make sound decisions while moving forward quickly.

Hindsight May Be 20/20 But CX Needs a 20/20 Vision

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

They say hindsight is 20/20, but companies can’t afford to rely solely on hindsight when it comes to their customer experience (CX). They should, of course, learn from past successes and failures and pay attention to the feedback from both customers and employees. However, that’s not enough to attract new business and build a loyal customer base. Companies also need to have a 20/20 CX vision.

Recently customer service and experience expert Shep Hyken tweeted his thoughts on customer service, pointing out the fact that “customers are getting smarter and expecting more”:

That “expecting more” includes effective service across touchpoints. For organisations, that means offering end-to-end engagement that blends self-service and human assisted support options. Just as each company is unique, so should be their chatbot, virtual agent and live chat strategy – there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that guarantees success.

Frost & Sullivan has identified 2020 as the year CX will overtake product and price as the number one way by which companies will differentiate themselves from the competition. There’s no avoiding the reality that it’s more important than ever to effectively serve and engage customers across touchpoints. It’s key that organisations work with a vendor that has the right tools and expertise to help them create and implement a chatbot, virtual agent and live chat vision that is unique to them and their customers.

To help get you started, the expert team at Creative Virtual has put together a new guide: Creating a 20/20 Vision for Your Chatbot, Virtual Agent & Live Chat Strategy. The guide includes:

  • Three steps for creating a successful chatbot, virtual agent and live chat strategy
  • A checklist for selecting and partnering with the right vendor
  • Tips for using existing chatbot projects and live chat transcripts to jumpstart your vision

The new year is all about looking forward, so learn from your 2019 CX hits and misses but also take the time to map out an updated vision for 2020. Make it your resolution to be one of those “great companies” Shep Hyken referenced in his tweet this year. Download this guide for creating a 20/20 vision to get the inspirational juices flowing with our actionable steps, tips and vendor checklist.

Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Chatbots and virtual agents have proven themselves to be quality self-service solutions, being increasingly implemented by smart organisations to provide support and being increasingly preferred by customers and employees for quick, easy access to information. Many more organisations around the world either have a virtual agent on their 2019 roadmap or are considering adding one. Yet, despite all the success stories, there are also stories of failed implementations and conflicting messages about artificial intelligence (AI) that are giving decisionmakers pause.

The explosion of interest in chatbots over the last several years helped bring attention to the technology but has left the market confused with media hype and a growing number of new, inexperienced vendors trying to break into the industry. It can be difficult to know how to select the best technology and implement it for long-term success, but organisations shouldn’t let this deter them from plans to offer a conversational self-service tool.

Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019 addresses the most important items organisations should consider when evaluating and deploying this technology with eight actionable recommendations covering topics including:

  • Building your business case around the right key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Selecting a technology that fits with your roadmap and provides the necessary security and integration options
  • Collaborating with a vendor that can provide expertise beyond just the technology
  • Implementing your solution to create a seamless omnichannel experience
  • Keeping your solution accurate and up-to-date with the right combination of humans and AI

Chatbot and virtual agent technology continues to change quickly, and organisations need to keep in mind that the technology of 2019 is not the same as that of even a few years ago. Educating yourself – and others in your organisation – about the current capabilities and deployment options of these solutions needs to be the first step in your chatbot or virtual agent journey. Companies with failed chatbot implementations or tools that haven’t kept pace with more recent technology developments will also find these eight tips helpful to determine next steps for finding a replacement solution.

Download Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019 for help with selecting, deploying and maintaining a successful self-service solution this year.