From Novelty to Proven Self-Service Tool: Creating the Best Virtual Assistant Solutions

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

When I founded Creative Virtual over 13 years ago, virtual assistant and chatbot software was still very much in its infancy. We were a pioneer in the industry and over the years have played a key role in the development and adoption of this technology. It has been exciting to experience first-hand the evolution of these solutions from being considered a novelty in the early days to now being a tried and tested tool employed by large enterprises around the world for providing digital self-service.

Over the years, the ingenuity and dedication of the Creative Virtual team has enabled us to improve the conversational abilities of our V-Person™ virtual agents through advances in natural language processing and AI. We have also kept our finger on the pulse of changing customer expectations and responded with innovations in our technology to allow for flexible back-end integration, easier maintenance and reliable adaptive learning.

Becoming a world leader in virtual assistant and chatbot technology didn’t happen overnight, and is a direct result of the Creative Virtual team’s hard work and innovative thinking. That’s why it is an honour to be named ‘Best Virtual Assistant Solutions Provider 2017’ as part of the 2017 International Software & Cloud Services Awards!

Here are just three reasons why our virtual assistant solutions are recognised as the best in the industry:

  • Our virtual assistants are backed by a knowledge management, workflow management and business intelligence reporting platform, V-Portal™, which is a key differentiator in today’s marketplace. V-Portal provides tightly integrated editing, testing, workflow and reporting functionality to easily manage the flow of content and deployment of virtual agents across contact channels.
  • Our solutions are designed to be complementary to what organisations already have in place, to sit on top of existing infrastructure and integrate with existing systems. This enables companies to create highly personalised virtual conversations quickly and without lengthy or expensive development projects.
  • Our solutions have a proven track record of success and helping our customer organisations reach their customer experience and engagement goals. In fact, our very first customer is still a happy customer today! With proven contact deflection rates of up to 80% and reductions in average call handing time by up to 40% in the contact centre, our solutions are achieving ROI in less than 12 months. Our virtual assistants currently have over 50 million conversations per year, and that number is rapidly growing.

My thanks to the International Software & Cloud Services Awards programme for recognising the hard work and dedication of the Creative Virtual team and naming us the best in the industry!

To see for yourself how our best-in-breed virtual assistants can help you create personalised and seamless support experiences for your customers, request a live demo.

AI Costs People Their Jobs!!!

By Mike Murphy, COO, Creative Virtual USA

You’ve seen the “Technologists” and “Futurists” with their neon-framed spectacles warning us that the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Revolution is going to put all of us out of work. Well…maybe they were right this time! We saw a couple of big news stories just in the last couple of months…first IBM Watson devoured some poor souls at MD Anderson and PWC, then Facebook lost a few fingers in the chatbot gears. The robots did indeed take some jobs…but not in the way the Futurists predicted. These folks were technology casualties because they were operating under the premise that their technology alone can do great things. And they’re right..Machine Learning and AI technology can do great things. But that doesn’t mean that it will. Luckily enough, it looks like people are going to be the key technology to fulfilling the promise of AI in automating human tasks.

It was exceptionally impressive to watch Watson beat Ken at Jeopardy. But the process that Watson underwent to get to that point was the real key to its eventual success, much more so than any inherent technological capability. And that optimization process involved lots of good, old-fashioned humans. The key to successful automation is understanding the process and the artistry behind any task. And every job has an element of artistry. Take doctors for instance. If you ever overhear a conversation between friends recommending a doctor (or mechanic), there’s a pretty good chance it’s because they are ‘a really nice, pleasant person who listens’…or some version thereof. When people share a good customer service story, there are often elements of “empathy” and “ownership” mentioned in their telling as often as “intelligence”. And who hasn’t gone back to a diner more for the entertainment value of the wait staff than for the food? The point here is not to underestimate the complexity of any job, even simple ones, that humans perform today. And betting your own job on Watson to deliver on its promise is much riskier than you may think.

There is an important lesson to learn from IBM & Facebook’s failures with AI. But it isn’t that the technology isn’t ready to make significant impacts on your business. The lesson is an old one…that, when selecting a vendor to partner with, you choose one that best understands and appreciates the complexity of your business. While we’ve helped companies automate millions of conversations over the last 13 years, we still start each engagement by first understanding how their best employees perform the task well. And we understand the importance of a close partnership that continually works together with experts within your own business to ensure our solutions are effective and consistently providing the right customer experience. Avoid losing your job from ill-behaving robots by reaching out to us for more info.

And if you’re attending Enterprise Connect in Orlando, FL be sure to swing by the ‘Contact Centers 2020: What Will Drive Innovation in the Contact Center?’ panel starting at 1:00pm on Monday.

 

Live Chat vs. Virtual Agents: A Story of Overcoming the Divide to Work Together in Perfect Harmony

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

In the not too distant past it wasn’t uncommon to come across organisations struggling to decide between using live chat or a virtual agent on their website for customer support. The customer service marketplace took a very polarised view of these technologies with proponents of each making strong arguments for why their preferred solution was the best for cutting costs, boosting revenue and bettering the customer experience. Even today, some companies still view this as an either-or decision: either they give customers the option to get support online from human chat agents through live chat or they provide a virtual agent so that customers can self-serve online through automated chat.

However, this view is changing and the divide created by the live chat vs. virtual agent debate is disappearing into a discussion of how to bring these two technologies together to work in perfect harmony. Before going any further, let’s take a quick look at each of these solutions individually:

Live Chat – Live chat, also sometimes referred to as web chat, enables organisations to offer customers and prospective customers a one-on-one conversation with a live chat agent. Initially live chat was just used on websites, but now it is also utilised on other engagement channels such as messaging apps and SMS. In the past, supporters of this technology would often highlight the importance of the human touch provided by live chat as a key argument of its superiority over virtual agents.

Virtual Agents – Over the years these automated conversational systems have been given a variety of names, including virtual agent, chatbot, avatar, virtual customer assistant, bot, virtual assistant and chatterbot. In its infancy this technology was used by organisations as basic FAQ systems on websites, but today’s virtual agents are much more advanced and capable of engaging users in sophisticated natural language conversations across many contact channels. In the live chat vs. virtual agents argument, advocates of virtual agents would draw attention to the significantly lower cost per conversation, consistent responses, the ability to have unlimited concurrent conversations and the 24/7 availability of support.

A view within the marketplace of these two solutions being joined up certainly hasn’t happened overnight. Forward-thinking companies seeing the potential of bringing live chat and virtual agents together have set the stage for this change. For example, back in 2012 Creative Virtual was shortlisted for an Econsultancy Innovation Award in the category of ‘Innovation in Customer & User Experience’. Our entry showcased the integration of the virtual agent we provided for a leading telecommunications company in the UK with the live chat product offered by one of our partners. The integration provided a seamless handover from the virtual agent to a live chat agent within the same template. This handover was also signalled by the virtual agent avatar ‘walking off’ and a different avatar representing the live agent ‘walking on’. At the time, this was an extremely innovative approach to combining self-service with human-assisted service in a way that created an improved user experience. Around the same time another Creative Virtual customer, an online financial services company in the US, deployed a virtual agent in front of their existing live chat offering. Their goal was to reduce repetitive questions being handled by live agents which they easily achieved through an 80% reduction in live chat volumes.

These are just two early success stories that helped to draw attention to the potential benefits of bringing these technologies together. This narrative has also been greatly influenced by the evolution of customer expectations. While customers were once ok with simply having the options to communicate with organisations via multiple channels, now they still want those engagement channel options but with a seamless, omnichannel experience.

Widespread adoption of technology, such as smartphones, along with generational changes are having a big impact on how customers want to engage with brands. The future of the contact centre lies in a combination of virtual and real support. Organisations still viewing live chat and virtual agents as an either-or decision and as stand-alone tools instead of as complementary solutions are going to struggle to provide quality digital support experiences for their customers.

In order for live chat and virtual agents to work together in harmony, they need to be powered by a single knowledgebase and backed by a central knowledge management and workflow platform. This gives organisations the ability to keep information up-to-date and consistent across all self-service and human-assisted support channels which builds confidence with customers. Implementing a feedback loop that’s linked with the centralised knowledgebase and workflow enables live agents to provide real-time feedback on content that can easily be reviewed and used to action updates. Live chat agents become knowledge experts sharing the responsibility of keeping self-service channels up-to-date.

There is no doubt in my mind that the future of customer engagement is a blend of artificial intelligence (AI) and human thought. The combination of virtual agents and live chat powered by a single knowledgebase is defining current best practices and, with continuous innovation, will influence the future of customer engagement for organisations around the world.

Curious about how live chat and virtual agents can work together in perfect harmony for your organisation? Download a copy of the V-Person Live Chat™ Overview and then request a demo to see the industry-defining integration for yourself.

Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and Business Disruption

Internet of Things

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) gained a lot of attention last year and are poised to be hot topics again this year. More than just buzzwords, both have been identified as drivers of business disruption in 2017. In fact, many industry experts and researchers feel that IoT needs AI in order to successfully achieve business growth and transformation.

IoT is sometimes referred to as the driver of the fourth Industrial Revolution by industry insiders and has triggered technological changes that span a wide range of fields. In 2015 Gartner forecasted there would be 20.8 billion connected things in use worldwide by 2020, but more recent predictions put the 2020 figure at over 50 billion devices. Various other reports have predicted huge growth in a variety of industries, such as estimating healthcare IoT to be worth $117 billion by 2020 and forecasting 250 million connected vehicles on the road by the same year. IoT developments bring exciting opportunities to make our personal lives easier as well as improving efficiency, productivity and safety for many businesses.

With more connected devices comes more data – lots more data! – that has the potential to provide amazing insights for businesses but presents a new challenge for how to analyse it all. Collecting this data benefits no one unless there is a way to understand it all. This is where AI comes in. Making sense of huge amounts of data is a perfect application for pure AI. By applying the analytic capabilities of AI to data collected by IoT, companies can identify and understand patterns and make more informed decisions. This leads to a variety of benefits for both consumers and companies such as proactive intervention, intelligent automation and highly personalised experiences. It also enables us to find ways for connected devices to work better together and make these systems easier to use. This, in turn, leads to even higher adoption rates.

As more and more connected devices become key fixtures in homes and workplaces, there is another application of AI that will be important for IoT: enabling us to have conversations with these devices. This is where natural language processing (NLP), a branch of AI, come into play. In a nutshell, the goal of NLP is to enable humans to ‘converse’ with computers in both written and spoken contexts using natural human languages instead of computer languages. (You can see NLP in action by asking virtual agent Lisa ‘Can I take my cat?’ on the National Rail Enquiries website.) More connected devices mean higher demand for user support, and these conversational systems can enable users to get instant, 24/7 help and information with their connected devices. Natural language virtual agents and chatbots backed by the right technology lend themselves perfectly to the connected world of IoT because of their unlimited possibilities for integration. This means, for example, the virtual assistants in your home and car can be connected not only to each other but also to your virtual banking assistant so, regardless of whether you’re making dinner or driving to work, you can easily ask about the status of your latest direct deposit.

While it’s easy to see the powerful impact a combination of AI and IoT can produce, businesses do need to be careful about how they are applying AI to connected devices. Pure AI is perfect for analysing data and making sense of the vast amounts of information collected by IoT, but not for providing support and service for users. Those conversational systems should not only be NLP-based, but also employ a hybrid approach of self-learning and human curation of content. This means they consistently ‘learn’ and adapt based on user interactions while also giving businesses control over the reliability of responses – a necessity when applying AI to virtual assistants designed for consumer self-service.

With predictions for IoT to come of age in 2017 and usher in the start of an ‘everything connected’ world, and AI to continue to transform the way businesses are run and streamline B2C interactions, organisations need to look at these areas both individually and as a powerful combined force behind business disruption. There’s huge potential for business growth and making consumer lives easier for those able to bring together connected devices and AI in the right way.

Improving the Customer and Employee Experience with Live Chat Innovation

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Last year Creative Virtual officially introduced our new live chat product, V-Person Live Chat™, to the market and realised our vision of offering organisations the technology to enable seamless, fully-integrated, end-to-end customer engagement. That was an important milestone for the company, and since then we’ve been proud to see organisations use this technology both as a way to improve their customer service as well as to provide better employee support internally.

This week V-Person Live Chat earned us a spot as a finalist in the UK National Innovation Awards’ Live Chat category. Created by the Directors’ Club United Kingdom, the National Innovation Awards recognise business technology innovations and their impact on customer experience, employee engagement, operations performance, product creation and profitable growth. We’ll join the three other finalists in this category on Tuesday, 7th March for a live online final which will be judged by over 100 senior leaders involved in the customer service, customer contact, customer experience and digital spaces.

In order to qualify for this awards programme, those entering needed to show that their live chat technology results in one or more of the following positive impacts on an end-user’s organisation:

  • Improve the operational efficiency of delivering the live chat channel
  • Improve live chat integration in an omnichannel contact centre
  • Improve the customer experience of using live chat
  • Improve the contact centre agent’s experience of delivering live chat
  • Improve customer engagement and satisfaction
  • Improve employee engagement and satisfaction

I’m very proud of the fact that V-Person Live Chat ticks all of these boxes. We have designed and developed our entire suite of Smart Help solutions, including live chat, in order to help enterprises make these improvements. With V-Person Live Chat, we specifically looked to blend virtual and real customer support in a way that will assist contact centres with the transition to more automation. Our unique feedback loop, which enables live chat agents to help keep content accurate and consistent for both virtual and live agents without any extra effort, is defining industry best practice.

As we look to the future of the contact centre, it’s clear that live agents will become knowledge experts sharing the responsibility of keeping self-service channels up-to-date. This will help bridge the gap between these previously siloed engagement channels to improve the overall customer experience and meet the growing expectations of customers for 24/7 access to accurate information and support. By empowering customers with constantly improving self-service tools, live agents no longer have to repeatedly deal with basic questions and are freed up to develop expertise in dealing with more complex issues that require human assistance. This means contact centres benefit from lower costs, reduced staff turnover and more engaged, skilled and happier agents.

My thanks to the Directors’ Club United Kingdom and the National Innovation Awards judges for recognising our innovative live chat technology by naming Creative Virtual as a finalist. I’m looking forward to taking part in the live event final next month.

If you are currently using live chat and/or a chatbot to support customers or employees, or are just starting to think about implementing these tools, I encourage you to read more about V-Person Live Chat and request a personalised demo.

CXM 2017: Meeting New CX Challenges in India

By Shantanu Purandare, Executive Director, India

According to a recent study, the number of internet users in India is expected to reach 600 million by 2020, nearly double the approximately 343 million users currently. A big factor in this growth is the increasing availability and adoption of smartphones. As the world’s second largest mobile phone market, India is predicted to see a growth from 240 million smartphone subscriptions to 520 million by 2020. With more and more customers becoming digitally connected, companies in India are facing new challenges when it comes to building a happy, loyal customer base.

For this reason, creating world-class customer experiences for digitally inspired and demanding customers is the focus of Customer Experience Management 2017, India’s largest customer experience event. CXM 2017, which is being held on February 3rd in Mumbai, will feature insights on how organizations can transform their experiences to meet the heightened expectations of progressively sophisticated, diverse and demanding customers. As the event’s Omni Channel Partner, Creative Virtual is looking forward to showcasing our suite of Smart Help solutions and sharing insights into how enterprises around the world are using these tools to increase customer engagement, reduce customer support costs and increase revenue.

The increasing adoption of smartphones, both in India and globally, is forever altering the way customers engage with businesses. Expectations for instant 24/7 customer service options are becoming the norm. Organizations need to move away from the traditional approach to customer experience and make investments in delivering easy, seamless and personalized smart help across digital channels. In order to remain competitive, they must provide a fully-integrated, omnichannel customer experience that matches with the growing demands of their customer base.

During CXM 2017, I’ll be joining the ‘Analyzing Customer Voice’ panel discussion to specifically talk about how social media is changing the way digitally savvy customers interact with brands. They now have the ability to share their opinions – good and bad – about products and companies with a global audience almost instantly. Organizations need to pay attention to the viewpoints customers are sharing on social channels, but it can be a challenge to know where to start. As a panelist, I’ll share insights into how companies can effectively analyze and apply the customers’ voice to positively impact their customer experience strategies and effectively use this information to their advantage across geographies, cultures and markets.

I hope you’ll join us in Mumbai at the beginning of February for what promises to be an inspiring day of keynote presentations, panel discussions and networking opportunities. My panel discussion on ‘Analyzing Customer Voice’ is set to begin at 11:30. You can learn more and register for the event on the CXM 2017 website.

If you aren’t able to attend, be sure to request your own personalized demo to learn more about our omnichannel smart help solutions.

Don’t Call Me, I’ll Message You

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

There is an advertisement by an insurance company I’ve heard several times recently in which the announcer is reading ‘A Young Person’s Guide to Adulting’. It starts with the all-important ‘you must wear pants’ and ends with the necessity of having an insurance plan. But it’s the tip shared between those two that caught my attention – you can make calls with your smartphone.

This is, of course, a humorous way of trying to sell insurance policies, but it also hits on an important societal trend that has shifted the way we communicate with each other. For many, texting is often quicker, easier and more efficient than making a phone call and has become the preferred way to keep in contact with each other. The introduction and subsequent global adoption of messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger, has further solidified this change in communication preferences. With over 3 billion users around the world, messaging apps are poised to continue to grow in popularity in 2017. In fact, statistics released by GlobalWebIndex in their final quarterly report last year show that WhatsApp is the most frequently used social platform with nearly 60% of its users online more than once a day.

 social platforms


These changes in communication preferences and habits are also impacting expectations when it comes to customer service and support. Consumers, now used to getting fast, efficient responses in their personal communications, are looking for the same speed and ease in their engagements with businesses. And as more and more companies and brands offer support on digital channels such as messaging platforms, customers will increasing come to expect the same from ALL organisations. This reality helped drive the renewed interest in chatbots from customer experience and marketing professionals in the wake of Facebook’s big announcement of bots for Messenger last year. Chatbot and virtual agent technology offers a cost-effective way to provide 24/7 support to customers on these platforms.

This isn’t to say that the phone call is completely gone from our personal or customer service communications. There is a generational gap in preferences with digitally native Millennials gravitating away from the phone, but older generations still consistently opting to make a call as their first point of contact. Yet in some situations, even those who would typically turn to self-service or digital channels prefer to make a phone call or understand that their query needs to be escalated so they can speak with a contact centre agent. This is important for organisations to acknowledge because it highlights the necessity of having a tightly integrated support experience. Offering a standalone chatbot solution on Facebook Messenger may be ok for providing some basic self-service on that platform, but what happens when a customer has a more complex question that needs to be escalated to live chat or a phone call?

Let’s back up a little. The first step is for organisations to accept that customer experience is a key (if not THE key) to remaining competitive and to commit to offering engagement options to customers where they are, particularly in the online channels. Then organisations need to find out where their customers are and identify what digital channels may be missing from their existing customer support strategy. In 2017, that’s likely to be messaging platforms like WhatsApp and WeChat. Before jumping on the messaging app chatbot bandwagon, organisations need to carefully consider how this channel fits with their overall customer experience and select a chatbot solution that will allow for it to be properly integrated with other channels and support options, such as live chat.

The infiltration of messaging platforms into our everyday digital interactions isn’t something that organisations can afford to ignore. In fact, this communication channel offers huge potential for companies to improve engagement and deepen conversations with customers. Organisations need to be smart about their strategy though, and approach it with the appropriate planning and thought to create positive, loyalty-building experiences for customers.

The Future of the Contact Centre

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Much has been written over the last several years about Millennials and their customer service preferences. One article I read recently discussed the irony of the millennial generation’s hatred of making phone calls, despite them constantly using their phones. Another credited their digitally native approach to customer service for bringing about better customer experiences for all of us. The fact of the matter is, Millennials and the generation following them, sometimes referred to as iGen, are used to having instant access to information and prefer to find answers on their own rather than interacting with a live person. So what does that mean for the future of customer service and the contact centre?

In an interview with CRMXchange, Patrick Gallagher, Managing Director ANZ & North Asia at Creative Virtual, drew from his many years of experience in contact centres, IVR and customer experience applications to describe the change he is seeing:

“Over the past three decades, companies have invested millions in their contact centres, offering support to their customers that call to purchase, enquire, complain, apply or just need assistance. Traditionally this has been the ‘tried-and-tested’ option as companies continued to invest in their contact centre in order to build their customer support capability. But as customers move into digital channels (and the majority have already moved there), what are companies doing to ensure they are continuing to support their customers in the new digital channels and offer true online support to their customers? They now face a pressing need to be prioritising investments in online customer service tools, communicating and supporting their customers where they now live, in the online channels.”

Technology is altering the way customers engage with brands and increasing their demands for instant 24/7 customer service. They want effortless interactions with organisations and are increasingly leveraging self-service and digital channels for this reason. The traditional model for call centres and contact centres is no longer providing the experience customers have begun to demand, and customers won’t hesitate to take their business elsewhere when their expectations aren’t met. 2017 is going to be an important year for customer service as organisations look to meet – and exceed – the expectations of digitally-savvy, empowered customers, and changes in the contact centre and the job descriptions of customer service agents are going to be a key part of these transitions.

The new guide titled The Future of the Contact Centre: The Transitioning Role of Agents to Knowledge Experts explores what organisations can do to create and keep happy, loyal customers. It breaks down:

  • What changes contact centres are facing in 2017 and beyond
  • How virtual agents and chatbots fit perfectly with customer expectations
  • Why live agents taking on the role of knowledge experts benefits organisations, customers and the agents

While these contact centre changes won’t happen overnight, it’s important for organisations to shift their attitudes towards customer engagement and begin the transition now. The future of customer service lies in a combination of virtual and real support, and there are enormous opportunities for organisations in this new approach – not only in customer experience improvements but also on the cost savings and sales fronts. Download the new contact centre guide to learn more and help you start the discussion about the future of your contact centre.

CX in 2017: A Tale of Empowered Customers, AI and Self-Service

customer experience

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

For many the end of 2016 couldn’t come soon enough, with the dawn of the New Year bringing a fresh start and a clean slate. Yet, according to Forrester, companies are starting 2017 under attack. While traditionally we would think of this pressure as coming from competitors, today’s organisations are under attack from their customers. Forrester Analyst and Vice President Dane Anderson explains:

“Three years ago, Forrester identified a major shift in the market, ushering in the age of the customer. Power has shifted away from companies and towards digitally savvy, technology-empowered customers who now decide winners and losers.”

For example, Forrester identifies consumers in Asia Pacific as changing along five key dimensions:

  • Increasingly willing to experiment
  • Reliant on technology
  • Inclined to integrate digital and physical experiences
  • Able to handle large volumes of information
  • Determined to create the best experiences for themselves

Forrester has found these key points to explain evolving customer trends and increased customer empowerment. With highly empowered customers willing to take their business elsewhere for a new, exciting experience, organisations need to be customer-obsessed and constantly innovating in order to remain competitive.

This phenomenon isn’t confined to consumers in Asia Pacific. Digitally savvy, technology-empowered customers around the world are placing these expectations on organisations in all industries. Microsoft’s 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report found that an average of 90% of consumers surveyed in Brazil, Germany, Japan, the UK and the USA expect brands to have an online customer self-service portal. 97% of global consumers answered that customer service was either somewhat or very important in their choice of or loyalty to a brand, and 60% reported having stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer service experience.

2016 customer service

The analysts at Gartner have also been following these technology-driven changes in customer preferences. In their report Predicts 2017: CRM Customer Service and Support, they observe that AI is finding rapid uptake as a tool to provide better customer service and predict that by 2020 the use of virtual customer assistants (VCAs), also called virtual agents or chatbots, will increase by 1,000%. They also discuss how changing customer preferences will lead to an increased automation of customer service needs and a growing market for chatbots able to provide customer engagement over messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat. Gartner foresees VCAs and chatbots becoming a necessity for business-to-consumer organisations in order to deal with the demand for 24/7 support and the increased volume of customer interactions.

The panel of industry experts interviewed for Call Centre Helper’s annual Contact Centre Technology Predictions shared similar thoughts on the increase of self-service and the changing role of contact centres in 2017. One contributor predicted the replacement of FAQs with conversational systems that allow for dynamic two-way conversations. Another expert felt 2017 may be the year in which chatbots or virtual agents become widely used in call centres to alleviate workloads and help live agents focus more on important calls. Others echoed these insights through predictions that the investment in customer self-service will gather pace in 2017 and organisations will focus on engaging customers through conversational commerce.

It’s clear that organisations need to take action in 2017 in order to avoid being declared a loser by empowered customers, and digital self-service options will be key to successful customer engagement. This certainly isn’t a surprise to those in the industry. In fact, both Personal Assistants/Intelligent Agents and Artificial Intelligence were in the top four marketing-related searches of 2016 in the UK according to Microsoft’s Bing Ads.

But knowing you need to offer digital self-service and successfully implementing these tools as part of your overall customer engagement plan are two very different things. The best way to begin this journey is to educate yourself about digital engagement solutions, the advancements in and limitations of AI and customer expectations of self-service tools such as chatbots. The whitepaper Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – confusing or what! is a great resource to get you started on your path to creating a tale of customer experience success in 2017.

Your customers may not be giving you a fresh start when it comes to their opinion of your customer experience just because the new year is here, but there’s no time like the present to take a hard look at your CX strategy and identify where you can make improvements. Make 2017 the year digitally savvy, technology-empowered customers declare your company a winner!

Providing Both CX Expertise and Technological Innovation

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

The customer experience landscape is constantly changing, and perhaps never more so than it is as we enter 2017. In my extensive travels I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of customer experience discussions with professionals from many industries in regions around the world, and they universally are faced with the issue of how to meet increasing customer demands. New advances and innovations in technology will certainly be a key factor in helping organisations rise to these challenges, but is that enough?

There’s no doubt in my mind that the answer to that question is a resounding ‘No’. That might seem strange coming from the Founder & CEO of a technology company, but I feel strongly that the way to navigate the ever evolving customer experience landscape is through a combination of people and technology. I’m extremely proud of Creative Virtual’s experienced, expert team and the guidance we are able to provide to our customers and other organisations looking to learn more about digital customer engagement. We collaborate closely with large enterprises around the world to help them revolutionise their customer experiences while also reducing support costs and increasing revenue.

That’s why it is an honour for us at Creative Virtual to be named ‘Best Self-Service CX Management Solutions Consultancy – UK’ by Corporate Vision Magazine’s 2016 Consultancy Awards. This award is a testament to the thought leadership our team provides not only to our customer organisations, but also within the wider customer experience space. We closely monitor trends and the evolution of potential new customer engagement touchpoints in order to provide organisations with the information and cutting-edge technology to grow their customer experience strategy in line with customer expectations.

My thanks to the Consultancy Awards for this recognition! You can read our official announcement here.

I also encourage you to check out some of our latest customer experience resources, including the whitepaper Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – confusing or what! and our new guide The Future of the Contact Centre.