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.

I Have Live Chat. Why Do I Need an IVA?

By Karen McFarlane, VP of Marketing (Americas)

Great question and glad you asked! The answer is quite simple. To start, think about why you employed live chat in the first place. Was it to:

  • Reduce volume to your contact center?
  • Provide online customer assistance?
  • Increase customer loyalty and reduce barriers to engagement?

All of the above reasons have significant monetary benefits – reduced costs, higher retention, increased sales – and demonstrate that live chat is a wise investment. In fact, a Forrester survey showed that “44% of respondents said that having a live person answer their questions while they were in the middle of an online purchase was one of the most important features a website could offer.” This is a great stat., but how can you make live chat work better?

Another great question! To find the answer:

  • Think about the human resources that are needed for your current live chat system and determine ROI. (You probably have this figure.)
  • Identify how many customers your live agents can handle at one time, and determine how that affects your wait times. (Check out this blog: Live Chat Is All Too Human.)
  • Analyze your live chat transcripts to learn more about the questions that are being asked by your customers, and ask yourself what portion can be answered by an automated system? 10%, 20%, 30% or more.

This is where an intelligent virtual assistant provides tremendous value. What if you employed an IVA to answer 10, 20 or 30% of your live chat conversations? IVAs can converse with thousands of customers simultaneously in virtually any channel – web, mobile, SMS and IVR – and effectively “partner” with live agents to answer customer questions. Using sophisticated machine learning and natural language technology, an IVA can hold meaningful conversations with a customer and oftentimes resolve any issues without involving a live agent. However, if the issue requires human-assisted service, the IVA can easily escalate the customer to a live agent passing the entire exchange through so that the customer has a seamless experience.  To that end:

  • All interactions are personalized and relevant
  • All interactions are seamless no matter the channel or escalation path
  • Inquiries can be answered quickly, accurately and with great satisfaction anytime, anywhere

Now that’s what customers want. And when you pair live chat and intelligent virtual assistants together – you not only give your customers more of what they want, you can exponentially increase call deflection rates, decrease call handling times and improve the productivity of your workforce. Ah ha – more monetary benefits to your business. Now, that’s how you make live chat work better.

So now that I’ve piqued your interest a bit, here’s your next step. Download our 10 Point Checklist: 10 Ways IVAs Complement and Support Live Chat Systems. If at least three of the points speak to you, then your next action is to contact us. We’ll give you a demo, help you estimate ROI for an IVA, and answer any more questions you have about pairing live chat with an intelligent virtual assistant.

5 New Year’s Resolutions That May Not Have Made Your List

By Karen McFarlane, VP of Marketing (Americas)

As you start implementing your 2016 plans, don’t forget that you already have a powerful marketing tool at your disposal that you need to consistently nurture – your customers. They are your single most important marketing tool and no amount of money can equal their impact. With customer service being called the new marketing, it’s imperative that organizations not only understand how customers currently engage with their brand, but also how customers want to engage going forward. To help you with this thought process, I propose five New Year’s Resolutions to add to your list.

  1. Treat existing customers like gold: It’s harder to acquire a new customer than it is to keep and upsell an existing one. You’ve heard that before, but have you crunched the numbers? Calculate your cost per acquisition (CAC) and compare it to your retention numbers including churn and lifetime value (LTV) to determine the true value of your customer. Once you’ve figured that out, make sure you dedicate the time, resources and dollars to support that value. In turn, you’ll create happy customers who will remain loyal, become brand ambassadors and refer new customers.
  2. Empower your live agents: Live agents are often the first point of human contact for new and existing customers. When customers contact you, they want swift and helpful resolution. Therefore, you must develop a “customer-first” philosophy that is backed by your mission, vision and internal processes. Think about the tools and resources you can provide live agents to help increase their productivity and ability to achieve first contact resolution for every customer. And be specific. Let them know what kinds of decisions they can make on their own before having to escalate to a supervisor. To start, review your transcripts and find common problems that can be solved quickly through a live agent without the help of a supervisor, and break out the ones that can be handled through self-service tools.
  3. Know your customers: Customers don’t really want to talk to you, especially Millennials. Shocking, but true. They are more apt to seek answers for themselves turning to social media, forums, FAQs – anything they can get their hands on without having to wait in the dreaded queue. Think about how you can make more information available on-demand. Tools like live chat and intelligent virtual assistants help them sift through the clutter. Also, be sure you can provide self-service options on multiple devices. People are on-the-go and don’t want to be slowed down by unresponsive designs or apps that don’t provide real value.
  4. Enhance your existing tools. Dive into the data and be honest about your hits and misses. Whatever you’re doing well, make it better. Whatever you’re not doing well, ditch it or make it better. But be careful not to get bogged down by data. Going back to #3, take into consideration what your customers really want. So while your call center may be ringing off the hook, that doesn’t necessarily mean that customers want to talk to you; it could simply mean that they couldn’t find what they are looking for. Read between the lines, look for gaps and fill them.
  5. Embrace new technology. Automation is your friend and technology is getting better every day at solving our most insurmountable challenges. Intelligent virtual agents are able to talk to thousands of customers at the same time in any language and on every channel. There is no way you could have facilitated this a few years ago. Most of all, don’t be afraid to combine technologies to create even better experiences like live chat and IVAs. Dare to be creative. It doesn’t hurt to try.

Opportunity for Retail Banking Solutions in 2016

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

In December BAI Banking Strategies published an Executive Report examining the coming year for the retail banking sector, and found the general outlook to be a combination of optimism and uncertainty. While this report focused mainly on the US, I know many of the challenges and opportunities identified will resonate with other financial organisations around the world as well.

I had the pleasure of contributing to one of the articles in the report, ‘Opportunity for Solutions Providers in 2016’, which takes a look at the trends and developments vendors are seeing as we enter the new year. It’s interesting to note that even though those interviewed have expertise in a variety of different types of solutions, there was a common theme that emerged: banking customers are expecting convenient, consistent and personalised experiences. This presents a variety of challenges for banks as they battle for customers in a highly competitive marketplace while also dealing with internal struggles against legacy systems and out-dated, siloed processes.

At Creative Virtual we have a strong track record in this sector, signing our first financial customer shortly after our company started trading (and I’m proud to say they are still our customer today!) and now working with banks in regions around the world. We know first-hand that over the years many financial organisations have already made large investments in improving their customer experience. That’s why it is important for us to offer solutions designed to be complementary to what organisations already have in place and which can be implemented without lengthy or complicated development projects.

As I explain in the article, Virtual Customer Assistants (VCA), also known as intelligent virtual agents, combined with a knowledge management platform empower banks to address their customers’ expectations of convenient, consistent and personalised experiences. As a complementary solution, a VCA can be integrated with other support options, existing CRM and contact centre systems, personalised account information and community forums – to name a few possibilities. Focusing on an omnichannel customer experience will really be key for financial organisations in 2016, and these solutions are a powerful player in meeting those goals.

My thanks to Katie Kuehner-Hebert, author of the article, for inviting me to provide my insights. I appreciate the opportunity! A full copy of the Executive Report can be downloaded from the BAI website. The ‘Opportunities for Solutions Providers in 2016’ article begins on page 21 of the report.

I also invite you to read more about V-Person™ for Finance, Creative Virtual’s solutions designed specifically for the financial services industry, and then experience the technology for yourself by requesting a personalised, live demo.

A Next Generation Digital Solution for Retail Financial Services

By Liam Ryan, Head of Sales

We’re excited to share news of our partnership with Atos to deliver Digital Customer Experience Transformation (DCXT), a next generation digital solution for retail financial services in EMEA. The solution is designed to enable Banks, Wealth Managers and Insurers to attract, keep and grow the value of their customers with a class-leading customer experience platform and intelligent decision support to help them better manage their financial affairs.

Atos selected Creative Virtual as a leader in virtual assistant technology to join them and two other companies, Backbase and Envestnet | Yodlee, as partners in this ‘as a service’ solution. DCXT brings together the strengths of the four industry-leading technology partners to make the most of internal and external data sources in a customer-context sensitive manner and give customers the flexibility to manage their personal finances in a way which reflects their preferences and lifestyle.

The integration with V-Person™ technology, our intelligent virtual assistant technology, enables users to interact with the solution in natural language to pose questions and ask for in-context information based on their current financial position and what they are trying to achieve. This helps customers to define their needs and seize opportunities with context-relevant help and suggestions.

Designed specifically for the highly competitive financial services industry, this unique out-of-the-box solution introduces a new era in customer loyalty, retention and business opportunity. We’re proud to be partnering with Atos on this project and have our flexible virtual assistant technology integrated with other award-winning technologies to offer customers the opportunity to understand and manage their complete financial position in a single platform.

For more information about DCXT, please read our official announcement as well as the launch announcement from Atos.