Posts

Don’t be a Robot: Are Instant Replies Always Best?

By Alessandro Giordo, Web Developer and Support Technician

I’ve always loved the interaction between human and machine. No wonder I’m a Developer, used to communicating every day with computers and programs using their language, or mine.

When I started using online chats and support chats, I also started wondering about having a computer on the other end “talking”, creating a feeling like it’s a real person answering your questions.

The line between a robot and a human being is quite clear still in many areas, although we have come very far from even a few years ago. There are ways of masking the feeling of artificiality, and I’m here to talk about some of them which can be a reality today.

In a customer service environment effectiveness and accuracy, matched with speed, are essentials. Creative Virtual’s virtual agents (VAs) reply instantly to customers’ questions, providing meaningful answers and giving users a choice of related questions or actions.

What if the VA is used for a game, a social network or something less “businessy”? What if the goal is to create the sensation that there is a real person, character or player giving the response? Is providing an instant answer ideal for these situations?

Now… I do write quite fast, but if I were to answer you in less than half a second I would be Superman, The Flash or a Robot. Unfortunately I’m not Superman…

The idea here is to have a “delay” in answering the question.

Why would you delay something? The quicker the better, right? Well, it depends.  If the objective is to give a sense of reality, of interaction, between you and the AI then perhaps instant replies aren’t better.

Social networks, games and other types of online media look for interaction, community, being social. Although very useful in some applications, a robotic answer is not social and doesn’t provide the friendliness of a human when answering. If I were to answer your questions face-to-face instantly or before you even finished speaking, you would definitely be annoyed by it…

Now think of adding a “typing…” animation to the VA answer, simulating the behaviour of a human being typing – just like in many popular messaging applications – and you have a “real” person at the other side of the screen!

Recent studies indicate that this creates more involvement with the user and a more positive interaction in certain scenarios. There are more options and approaches, such as anticipating what the user might say before they even type it. The possibilities are endless, and I think we are on the right track to make interactions feel more authentic.

What do you think of the interaction between users and computers? Are you as excited as me to see what comes next in the ever-evolving world of technology?

Whether you want to discuss using VAs to provide instant answers or to act as a “real” person, please contact us. We’d love to hear from you!

Is Your Customer Support Team Turning into the Working Dead?

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Recently I read an article discussing the effect multichannel support is having on customer support professionals. Balancing a heavy workload, which is only predicted to increase in 2016 as multichannel support grows, has made the risk of burnout a huge challenge for the industry. With burnout comes less satisfied and engaged team members and, ultimately, a greater turnover of support staff. So what can organisations do to lighten workloads and reduce the risk of their support team turning into the working dead?

Implementing self-service solutions that are easy for customers to use and access is a great first step in reducing your contact centre’s workload. For example, intelligent virtual agents are proven to provide average contact deflection rates of 20-30%. Some organisations are seeing up to 80% reductions in live chat sessions by placing a virtual agent in front of their live chat system.

Self-service virtual assistants benefit your customer support team in a number of ways. They lighten the workload by decreasing the overall volume of questions and support issues that come into your contact centre. Even as the number of customer contact channels grows, the flexibility of this Smart Help technology allows self-service solutions to be deployed across touchpoints, including web, mobile, social, kiosk and IVR. By empowering customers to self-serve for transactional queries and troubleshooting common problems, your support team is freed up to assist customers with more complex issues that truly need human assistance. Not only do customers appreciate being able to get quick resolution without a call or email, but live agents also benefit from no longer having to deal with the tedious task of dealing with those basic issues over and over.

When it comes to fighting burnout, giving your support team the proper tools to do their job is just as important as reducing the volume of contacts coming in from your customers. One organisation excelling at doing this is Motability Operations. Their award-winning virtual assistant ‘Ask Mo’ is helping them achieve top-ranking customer and employee satisfaction scores. The virtual assistant enables their contact centre advisors to search for information in natural language and then provides answers instantly that are easy to digest and customise for the individual customer. Advisors can also provide real-time feedback on missing or incorrect content which gives them an added layer of confidence that answers are current and accurate and allows them to focus on engaging with customers. Motability Operations also uses ‘Ask Mo’ as a training tool, drastically reducing the training time needed for new advisors and creating comfortability from the beginning with the tool they will be using on a daily basis to assist customers.

When backed by the proper knowledge management platform, both self-service and contact centre virtual assistants can be deployed using the same knowledgebase which further relieves stress on customer support teams by ensuring consistent communication. You and your support team can have confidence that regardless of the touchpoint or the live agent providing assistance, customers will receive the same information to answer their questions.

With the growth of multichannel support, organisations need to be proactive in taking steps to keep workloads manageable for their customer support teams in order to reduce burnout. How are you keeping your team from turning into the working dead?

Virtual Agents and Human Agents Join Forces for Customer Service in 2016

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

The New Year is here, and with it the much anticipated 2016 predictions, outlooks and trends for just about every industry and field, including customer service. With customer service a key part of the overall customer experience, every organisation should be keeping an eye on developments in the space and evaluating which can help improve support for their existing and potential customers.

Analyst Kate Leggett shared five of her top trends to watch this year in her blog post Forrester’s Top Trends for Customer Service in 2016. Trend number one should come as no surprise: Companies will make self-service easier. Kate reports that in 2015, web and mobile self-service interactions exceeded those over live-assist channels. Conversations with live agents were more frequently initiated as escalations when customers were unable to successfully self-serve, rather than as the initial channel of contact. In 2016, organisations will strive to make self-service easier for customers by looking at their knowledge management strategies and exploring virtual agent solutions.

The themes of self-service and human assistance – and the combination of those channels – also featured prominently when Call Centre Helper turned to their readers and contact centre experts with the question: What Will Happen to the Contact Centre in 2016 and Beyond? One contributor predicted that artificial intelligence will ‘take care of everything’ with only complaints being escalated to a human agent. Another reader looked to self-care options to handle transactional queries but not be able to replace the desire of customers to speak with a human. A third reader declared that as soon as virtual agents pass the Turing Test, ‘it will be Artificial Intelligence all the way!’

While it’s not likely that contact centres will turn to artificial intelligence ‘all the way’ in 2016, it’s important to recognise the impact that advances in natural language virtual agents are having in the customer service space today. Once stand-alone tools only able to answer basic questions, they are now sophisticated Smart Help solutions proven to improve customer satisfaction while also reducing support costs for organisations. Virtual agents are great at handling transactional queries, including personalised, account-specific questions and tasks, thanks to advanced integration options. When backed by the right knowledge management platform, virtual agents can easily be deployed across customer channels, including web, mobile and social, to make consistent, accurate self-service easier for both companies and their customers.

The virtual agents of 2016 are also designed to be complementary to live chat and other human-assisted support channels, with seamless escalation from self-service to a human agent. They are being successfully deployed within contact centres to support live agents and assure consistent communication from all agents and across contact channels. Through real-time and Voice of the Customer reporting, virtual agents are also giving organisations incredible insight into customer questions and behaviours that help improve their customer service strategies.

With customer preferences shifting towards easy self-service, there’s no better time than 2016 for organisations to explore the combination of virtual and human agents to create a seamless, personalised and convenient customer service experience.