Helping Financial Organisations Deliver 24/7 Customer Support: Part 2

By Laura Ludmany, Knowledgebase Engineer

As described in my previous post, financial organisations find themselves under immense pressure due to the unfolding coronavirus crisis; they have to respond quickly to rapid changes. Delivering excellent customer service is more important than ever, as it can be a real ‘make it or break it’ experience for customers looking for quick answers in these uncertain times. I’m going to describe a retail bank’s response to this demand.

In this project, we have built a successful collaboration with the product owners: the client is involved in the content curation process, adding new and amending existing questions and answers, while Creative Virtual deals with the AI related and more complicated tasks, such as NLP (natural language processing), semantics and approvals. However, this workflow can be easily altered at any time, and we can step in to manage and take care of the content completely if this is required.

The product owner of the virtual agent also works closely with their live chat department, enabling the bank to fully optimise their virtual agent content based on their live chat agents’ feedback. This is an extremely beneficial symbiosis – by this continuous cooperation, the virtual agent takes the pressure off the live chat centre and the live chat agents can improve the performance of the chatbot. In early March, after having sent the initial quick review of coronavirus user inputs, there was a very speedy and effective response from the bank. Based on the analysis provided by Creative Virtual, plus their call centre and live chat feedback, they were able to identify the most frequent (and pressing) queries and produce new FAQs for the virtual agent to cover these. This content was placed under a dedicated new FAQ category and also displayed as start content, to make it fully visible and accessible for users.

In this way, the retail bank was really successful in promoting their active ownership of the situation at an early stage. These times can be a dividing line for the marketplace, as reactivity and speed of solution delivery can really win customers’ trust; and a vague general information or a Contact us page won’t help, as each user is looking for a precise answer matching their individual needs. In these unprecedented times, I have found myself reaching out for specific information, often at odd times of the day, and even well-established companies are failing to fulfil the demand to provide effective customer self-service tools. With everything being up in the air, customers are simply not in a mindset to browse through the Help pages, which seem like a maze when searching for that tiny bit of crucial information they need.

As events unfolded, our product owner at this bank was extremely strained due to the high number of customer queries coming through their call centre and live chat departments, thus asked us to take over. This is one of the benefits of our orchestration platform and AI solutions – our clients can look after their own virtual agent, but it doesn’t have to be forgotten and left alone if they suddenly need to put their internal focus elsewhere. The Creative Virtual team can always step in and provide full-service support in these situations to keep the virtual agent regularly updated at especially critical times.

One of the other benefits of our flexible workflows, strong collaborations and close relations with our clients is that we can reduce our turn-around times significantly. As Knowledgebase Engineers work on different projects, we can bring over discoveries to other projects and work on targeted content updates very effectively. I love looking after several projects, as I always get fresh ideas and it’s never a dull day. During this pandemic period, we have created special coronavirus related knowledge packs which are quite easy to implement in multiple projects, so our completion time of required updates became very low. By being involved in and managing these different datasets, we see a more holistic view of user behaviour patterns and can suggest ways to improve customer experience accordingly.

This is a fast-paced period – as things develop, more and more content needs to be amended so the virtual agent is being optimised continuously. However, this client uses a smart approach to deal with rapid changes to sustain the high level of quality answers. In cases when certain FAQs might need to be updated weekly (or even daily), there has been a switch to use reassuring and supportive language, describing the nature of uncertainty of the topic and inserting a link to the appropriate websites (both bank and government sides), where customers can keep an eye on regular updates. Our stats show a high customer satisfaction on these virtual agent answers. Being able to understand the question and deliver an appropriate link to the right section of the website is already enough to give users peace of mind.

Based on this observation, another way this retail bank is maximising their virtual agent has been using it to promote other self-service options on their website to customers. Whenever they have options such as online application platforms, downloadable dispute and refund forms and so forth, the virtual agent will deliver an answer that proactively guides customers to these sections. By updating and adding FAQs to handle these queries too, they have been able to take more pressure off their overly busy contact centres.

With these steps and high level of responsiveness, this retail bank continues to provide immediate support to their customers through their Creative Virtual powered chatbot. Available 24/7 and able to handle thousands of real time user queries simultaneously, the AI-enhanced tool is giving some comfort and peace of mind to customers in these uncertain times.

If your organisation could benefit from offering your own virtual agent, check out this Best Practices Whitepaper from destinationCRM on selecting a virtual agent for your self-service project. You can also request a personalised demo to see how Creative Virtual’s solutions can fit with your internal workflows to improve the self-service you offer.

Helping Financial Organisations Deliver 24/7 Customer Support: Part 1

By Laura Ludmany, Knowledgebase Engineer

We are experiencing unprecedented times and the world is rapidly transforming with loads of uncertainty arising day by day. Our normal routine has changed, and we need to get used to dealing with coronavirus related situations and disruptions. Naturally, we are all seeking reassurance, guidance, help and support.

At Creative Virtual, we monitor our deployments continuously, and our tools are very sensitive to quick changes. We can always clearly see social patterns and trends being reflected in the usage of our virtual agents. During crisis times, no matter how big or small, the usage stats always jump up and the vast majority of the increase can often be attributed to those recent events or announcements.

In the last 4 weeks, on average, the traffic of our banking virtual agents has doubled. We could see a huge increase in usage during other crisis periods in the last 6 months (such as the Thomas Cook bankruptcy in September and Brexit related queries). However, this huge spike is unrivalled. As we kept a close eye on incoming stats, I sent a quick review to my clients of user inputs mentioning coronavirus and synonyms at a very early stage.

As the situation developed, organisations had to react quickly to changes and provide instant support and help to their customers. A quick and initial solution was to add a general FAQ for coronavirus, with high priority, meaning that single keyword would pick up any virtual agent inputs containing the word ‘coronavirus’ (even if the question contained other recognisable words, such as ‘loans’). In these times, a proactive approach by financial organisations can really make a difference to customers, as everyone wants to feel reassured instantly and see how their bank copes with the crisis. With this quick coronavirus keyword solution, customers who reached out to their bank through Creative Virtual powered chatbots, could see the responsiveness of their bank and could be guided to the general ‘Coronavirus Hub’ FAQs.

The next question organisations had to figure out was what customers were really asking for, in regard to the pandemic, to be able to provide self-service options (both through their virtual agent and other website updates). Within a few days, one of the banking virtual agents I look after had more than 3,000 recorded user queries around the crisis. All of these user queries were recognised by our high prioritised keyword and allowed me to start our analysis and content tuning. In these times, when call centres and live chat agents are under immense pressure, having thousands of customer questions being handled by an automated 24/7 service is invaluable.

I find it fascinating to work on these queries and look for patterns. After cleaning the data and removing very general inputs about ‘Coronavirus’, we could identify 9 main topics users are after. Some of these topics were expected, such as credit card and mortgage payment holidays. However, we also identified topics which we initially haven’t thought about, such as travel, holiday and flight cancellations and premium club cinema ticket expiry dates. This analysis and suggested list of FAQs/topics were sent to the client. This insight was extremely helpful and enabled them to act quickly, reaching out to all internal departments of the company in order to update both website and virtual agent content accordingly. Within 48 hours, the company’s virtual agents (deployed across multiple branded websites) were able to provide instant and appropriate guidance and support to all these coronavirus related questions and hopefully give a bit of comfort to users who are looking for answers to their questions in these uncertain times.

The increases in virtual agent traffic our customers are seeing isn’t only coming from coronavirus questions, though. Due to lockdowns, stay-at-home measurements and customer care centres’ increased waiting times, people are more likely to reach out to virtual agents generally – and here comes a personal story!

As I was chatting with my brother last weekend, he was complaining that he couldn’t get to speak with a live chat agent either on the banking app nor the website, and he needed his IBAN urgently (I would say, typical user behaviour – an IBAN is badly needed, 9pm on Saturday!). He happens to be a customer of the very same financial organisation this blog post is about, so this is an insight into a real-life customer. I explained to him, with great care, that live chat agents are very likely to be not working at this time of day, and then I proudly guided him to the virtual agent I’ve been working on for years now. After asking ‘What’s my IBAN’, he was overly impressed as he managed to find it immediately. I have encouraged him to use the virtual agent frequently, without sparing good feedback. Also, this was the first time I could demonstrate my actual work as a Knowledgebase Engineer to my brother!

The recently added Coronavirus FAQs are triggered thousands of times weekly (sometimes daily), but there is also a general trend of people increasingly interacting with our virtual agents for help with a variety of topics, which continues to prove their value. We keep monitoring performance to discover more and more topics, so we are able to better help people as we are all in this together.

For some more information about the benefits of using virtual agents to support customers during this uncertain time, check out Part 1 of this blog series on self-service. You can also request a personalised demo to see first-hand how this technology, and Knowledgebase Engineers like myself, can help your organisation improve your self-service.

Delivering Self-Service During the COVID-19 Uncertainty, Part 3: Supporting Employees

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

So far in this series we have discussed using chatbots, virtual agents and conversational AI to offer easy-to-use customer self-service (Part 1) and as an Agent Assist tool to support contact centre agents (Part 2). In this third and final instalment, let’s explore how this technology can be used to deliver a positive employee support experience.

Organisations of all sizes and across all industries are being faced with difficult decisions as they work to keep employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporting employees has become more important than ever before and, at the same time, more challenging than ever before. With new regulations and policies around social distancing and quarantines, companies are suddenly faced with entire workforces working from home, reductions to just essential employees and the temporary suspension of in-person interactions.

Luckily there are digital tools organisations can put in place that will help employees navigate this ‘new normal’ and improve productivity and efficiency. AI-enhanced chatbots and virtual agents empower employees to self-serve when and where they need support. This both improves the experience for employees and reduces the pressure of staffing human-assisted channels, such as internal support desks and helplines, to deal with increased demand.

The flexibility of conversational virtual agent technology lends itself to a wide range of successful employee support use cases. Here are a few that are especially relevant to support employees in the current uncertain situation:

  • IT supporthelp desk requests, system access and password resets, application support – Employees transitioning to working from home will inevitably have questions, especially if they are using technologies with which they are unfamiliar. There are lots of entertaining stories about technical fails circling the internet, like this story of a boss accidently changing herself into a potato during a videoconference. Finding the humour in these very relatable situations brings us together and is important during such a stressful time. What is not funny for employees is when they can’t get the technical support they need to do their jobs. A chatbot or virtual agent gives them 24/7 access to self-service so regardless of when they run into problems, they can find information and step-by-step troubleshooting guides to help resolve their issues.
  • HR support company policies/procedures support, time-off requests, payroll questions, expense report assistance – In response to the coronavirus pandemic, many companies have put new policies and procedures in place for employees or made updates to existing ones. With so much new information – combined with new working and family routines – employees can benefit from a way to easily get their questions answered. Virtual agents remove the need for employees to search through an entire policy document for a specific piece of information by instantly pulling out the relevant content for them. The technology can also be set up with a handhold feature to guide employees through the completion of forms and HR-related requests.
  • Staff support documentation support, staff training, product guides, device/machine support – This third category covers a wide range of specialised use cases. Organisations are being faced with the challenge of supporting employees digitally – in some cases for the first time ever – and should explore how an internal-facing virtual agent may be able to help them do that. Everything from training programmes to product guides to documentation assistance lend themselves well to intelligent automated support. With options to integrate with Single Sign-On (SSO), employee profiles, knowledge management platforms and other backend systems, these tools can provide an extremely personalised experience for employees.

Take a look at this Customer Success Story from a large government department that has been reducing their internal service desks costs and improving employee productivity with a virtual agent for several years.

I mentioned in Part 1 that chatbots and virtual agents are not only cost-effective tools for providing digital self-service, but that they can also be deployed quickly with a high-level of performance. That quick timeline is hugely important for organisations now as they rise to the challenge of delivering quality service and support. Here are a few recommendations to keep in mind:

  • Do your homework – It’s natural during stressful, uncertain times to act on feelings of panic. Unfortunately, that can lead to decisions that aren’t thought out and ultimately compound the problem. Even if you are moving forward with a virtual agent project quickly, still take the time to do your homework. Make sure the solution you are selecting will work for your organisation’s goals and internal structure. A basic or off-the-shelf chatbot may sound good because it’s super fast to deploy, but will it be able to accurately and consistently answer the questions your customers, agents and/or employees are going to ask? A DIY solution may have an attractive price tag, but do you have the internal expertise and time to build a tool that will provide a positive experience for users?
  • Look at the bigger picture – Even if you’re starting with a small, very specific chatbot deployment you still need to consider how it fits into your larger digital strategy. Select a solution that you will be able to expand and can be integrated with other channels and systems (such as live chat, voice technology, personalised account information, ticketing systems, etc.). Even if you aren’t looking to create a scalable and robust tool right now, you want to have the ability to easily do that down the road. Failure to identify the role of a virtual agent in the overall customer or employee experience often leads to organisations wasting time and money on a project that they end up replacing. If you have an existing tool that isn’t performing well in the current situation or doesn’t fit with the new digital reality of your company, now is the time to upgrade it. The good news is, you won’t have to start a new project from scratch. And that brings me to my third tip. . .
  • Use what you already have – The best way to jumpstart the development of a new chatbot or virtual agent is to use data that you already have as initial training data. This may be live chat transcripts, call centre transcripts or existing chatbot projects. When you are selecting a vendor to work with on your project, make sure to ask if and how they can leverage your existing data to fast-track the development process and give the virtual agent a high level of accuracy from day 1.

If you are looking for industry research to help you with your business case or strategy, be sure to download the recently released ContactBabel report The Inner Circle Guide to AI-Enabled Self-Service. It is a long report but provides valuable insights 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.

When you’re ready to get started on your own chatbot or virtual agent project, the team at Creative Virtual is available and prepared to help you meet your self-service goals – request a personalised demo here.

Delivering Self-Service During the COVID-19 Uncertainty, Part 2: Supporting Contact Centre Agents

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about the immense pressure organisations are under to deliver quality service and support over digital channels during this period of coronavirus-related quarantines, lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. We took a look at some of the benefits of using AI-enhanced chatbots and virtual agents to offer customer self-service. In Part 2, let’s explore how this technology can be deployed as an Agent Assist tool to support your contact centre agents.

No matter where you are in the world or the nature of your business, your contact centre is now dealing with a new reality. For some, this may mean supporting agents working from home. For others, it may be working out the logistics of social distancing and new policies to keep employees safe while in the office. Many organisations are also dealing with an increased number of calls, emails and live chats coming into their contact centres. Despite these disruptions and a bigger workload, agents still must deliver a positive experience to your customers.

Providing contact centre agents with desktop conversational AI as a knowledge source gives them an extra edge in providing customers with quick, competent service. Agents have access to a virtual agent that understands questions asked in natural language. This means agents can type in queries using the same language as the customer they are assisting, instead of having to remember the relevant keywords or phrases to find the information they need. The virtual agent can also be set up to understand internal abbreviations and acronyms commonly used by agents to make it even easier to access the right content quickly. The tool acts a virtual supervisor, giving agents instant access to information and step-by-step guidance through procedures and processes that is current and up to date.

Here are a few benefits of having an Agent Assist tool to support contact centre agents in the current uncertain situation:

  • Reduce average handing times and improve first contact resolution – Average handling time (AHT) and first contact resolution are always important metrics for contact centres. However, they are more important than ever during high volume periods, and it’s essential that they be addressed hand-in-hand. Reducing AHT but not solving those customers’ issues benefits no one. It leaves customers frustrated and dissatisfied and usually results in them reaching out to your contact centre again. An Agent Assist virtual agent gets your agents to the correct, complete information they need quickly, thus cutting back on length of calls and improving the quality of resolution.
  • Provide agents with alerts and instant access to updated, time-sensitive information – As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, things are changing rapidly in many parts of the world with new government directives and updated company policies being issued all the time. The Agent Assist desktop can be configured to provide agents with real-time alerts about important updates and announcements, so they are always in the loop even if they are working remotely. With the ability to update the virtual agent content quickly, organisations can also ensure agents have consistent access to time-sensitive information and the most recent versions of procedures and policies. This helps you improve consistency and compliance across the contact centre as well as the customer experience.
  • Reduce training time for agents – Some businesses are dealing with the increased pressure on their contact centre by reassigning employees from other areas to field customer questions or taking on new agents. This creates an additional challenge of training those people quickly and efficiently. Using a virtual agent in your contact centre reduces training time because it gives all agents the information they need right at their fingertips. The tool is easy to use, doesn’t require agents to remember specific keywords or abbreviations, and can provide step-by-step guidance through procedures, applications, etc. New agents, and seasoned team members, don’t need to worry about retaining the content because they can easily access it as they are interacting with customers. This enables you to focus training more on the best ways to have those interactions and deliver compassionate, emotionally intelligent engagements – which is more important than ever right now.

A great resource for organisations thinking about using conversational AI to support agents is the whitepaper A Chatbot for Your Contact Centre. It provides tips for selecting and implementing a conversational platform that fits with the needs of your organisation as well as best practices for deploying and maintaining an Agent Assist tool. Also included are contact centre specific questions to ask when evaluating different virtual agent offerings.

Coming up in Part 3 of this series on self-service, we’ll take a look at how virtual agent and chatbot technology can alleviate some of the stress of supporting a remote workforce. I will also share my top recommendations for getting new virtual agent projects deployed quickly and upgrading existing tools that aren’t performing well.

Ready to get started on your Agent Assist project? As always, the team at Creative Virtual is available and prepared to help you meet your contact centre goals – request a personalised demo here.

Delivering Self-Service During the COVID-19 Uncertainty, Part 1: Supporting Customers

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

We are currently living in unprecedented times as countries and communities around the world deal with quarantines, lockdowns and stay-at-home orders because of COVID-19. Businesses and brands of all sizes and across industries face new challenges as offices and physical locations close. For some, the flexibility and robustness of their digital strategy is going to play a key role in how, and if, they emerge on the other side.

Organisations are now under immense pressure to deliver quality service and support over digital channels. This includes the need to answer coronavirus-related questions as well as the usual queries about products, services, policies and procedures. Many are looking to fast-track projects that are already in progress or are re-evaluating strategies to add new projects that can be actioned quickly.

Advancements over the past several years in conversational AI technologies, including chatbots and virtual agents, have made them a go-to solution for providing cost-effective and easy-to-use support on digital channels. They also give organisations the opportunity to get self-service projects both deployed and performing well quickly. By working with an industry vendor that provides a combination of technology and implementation expertise and support, companies don’t need to worry about having that knowledge internally to get started.

When talking about self-service virtual agents, the first use case that usually comes to mind is customer service. That’s the capacity in which these solutions first got their start, but companies shouldn’t overlook the benefits of using this technology within the contact centre to support agents as well as to provide self-service for employees in areas such as HR and IT support. As many companies deal with the sudden switch to supporting a remote workforce, exploring these internal-facing solutions is more important than ever.

In Parts 2 and 3 of this series, we’ll take a closer look at using AI-enhanced virtual agents to support contact centre agents and your employees.

First, let’s explore some benefits of using a chatbot or virtual agent to provide self-service for your customers. There are lots of published statistics and success stories that prove the business value of this technology. Here are a few immediate advantages organisations will gain from deploying an AI-enhanced chatbot or virtual agent to support customers in the current uncertain situation:

  • Available 24/7 – For much of the population, the usual daily routine has flown out the window as we transition to working remotely, home schooling our children and supporting more vulnerable members of our family and neighbourhoods. Having to keep track of your company’s contact centre hours is one of the last things your customers want to have to do. A virtual agent gives them instant access to the information and support they need at any time of the day or night, and without the need to find a quiet place to have a phone conversation with a real person.
  • Up-to-date information – Things are changing rapidly in many parts of the world as governments issue new instructions for businesses and leadership teams adjust policies and procedures to keep customers and employees safe. Quality virtual agent solutions enable a quick update of the tool’s content so customers can access the most up-to-date information available. The technology can also enable you to deliver customised information based on factors such as location to provide tailored answers to customers.
  • Relieve pressure from live agents – Contact centres are being overwhelmed with calls, live chats, emails and social posts from customers as COVID-19 related questions are added to the usual mix of regular queries. By adding a conversational self-service solution, companies can relieve some of that pressure from contact centre agents by giving customers another option. A virtual agent can successfully engage with an unlimited number of users at the same time and frees up live agents to assist customers with more complex issues or who want to talk with an agent.

For organisations new to the idea of deploying a virtual agent or those who are unsure how to take the first step, destinationCRM’s Best Practices Series on How to Select a Chatbot or Virtual Agent for Your Self-Service Project is a great place to start. It outlines actionable tips on selecting a solution that will positively impact your customer care.

Coming up in Part 2 of this series on self-service, we’ll take a deeper dive into using a virtual agent as an Agent Assist tool to support contact centre agents. And in Part 3, we’ll take a look at how the technology can alleviate some of the stress of supporting a remote workforce by giving employees reliable self-service options. I will also share my top recommendations for getting new virtual agent projects deployed quickly and upgrading existing tools that aren’t performing well.

Ready to get started on your self-service project? As always, the team at Creative Virtual is available and prepared to help you meet your self-service goals – request a personalised demo here.

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 Practice 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.

Recognition, Acceptance and Delivery: The RAD approach for continued innovation

By Rachel F Freeman, Operations Director

Accolades and list rankings can never be taken for granted no matter how often a company appears on industry recognised lists or is selected for voter’s choice awards. Indeed, even direct positive customer reviews and feedback should be treasured as unique and appreciated even if hundreds or thousands are received, because one bad experience wipes out scores of positive comments. Creative Virtual have had our fair share of acknowledgements in recent years including the coveted Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, a Tech Track 100 award and the Frost & Sullivan Product Leadership Award for AI-enhanced Customer Self-Service.

100 SmartTech InnovatorsWith this caveat, I humbly, excitedly and gratefully acknowledge the latest news that Creative Virtual has been voted 36th out of 100 SmartTech Innovators in the UK! Creative Virtual is being recognised as innovative for our chatbot and live chat technologies that have been developed over 16 years. This has been possible because of the expertise of a devoted team at Creative Virtual who bring a wealth of understanding in the industry across sectors and have been with us for longer than many recent AI inspired companies have been in existence.

We are proud of our retention record, both in terms of our team members and our list of customers. We are proud of how our operations team works closely with our customers and feeds back to our development team to get the best and most optimal results at an agile speed. We are proud of our ability to change tack when required based on market driven requirements which is advantageous in a quickly changing industry.

We bask in the Recognition, Accept and understand why we are chosen and then work on ensuring that we Deliver continually the best, most innovative products and solutions for seamless, self-service customer and employee experiences.

We never rest on our laurels and always aim to harness our years of involvement with self-help tools and AI-enhanced products by producing technology worthy of any award, whilst keeping an eye out for however we can excel and drive change based on the feedback from our customers and partners.

Thank you to everyone who cast their vote for us, the esteemed judging panel and BusinessCloud Media. We are delighted you recognise our dedication to being industry innovators. Our success is buoyed as we look to the future and what we will deliver next for enhanced features and usability. Stay Tuned!

You can find the full 100 SmartTech Innovators ranking here, and you can schedule your own personalised demo with an expert member of our team here to see our innovative technology in action.

A Partnership for Industry-Leading Voicebot Solutions

By Gary Williams, Director of Sales and Consultancy UK and Ireland, Spitch

When Mandy Reed invited me to do a guest blog, I was quite honoured and of course jumped at the chance, so Thank You once again Mandy. The significance of this post is that it coincides with the announcement of a partnership between Creative Virtual and Spitch, something that I am very proud of to say the least.

…but just who on earth are Spitch I hear you say …

So, for those of you, like me, who hate overblown corporate presentations, here is the miniaturised version:

  • 6 years old, HQ in Zurich with offices in Milan, London, Madrid and Moscow
  • Technology – Speech Recognition, A.I., NLP/ NLU, Voice Analytics, Voice Biometrics
  • Solution areas – Omnichannel, self-service, IVR call steering, compliance monitoring, voice identification and much much more
  • Cloud-based OR on-premise (Spitch OR partner hosted)
  • High level, easy-to-use full suite of development tools
  • Multi-language support

That’s just a flavour, but I hope you’ve taken it all in as I will be asking questions later! 🙂

Of course, a glance through the above resume will show that we are a business focused on delivering solutions based upon speech recognition technology and although the word ‘synergy’ is overused in this day and age, it exists in abundance between our two companies. Both are strong innovators who constantly drive their businesses to provide solutions which are simple to use but packing a punch in terms of ability to solve real world business problems whilst delighting the end users – that magical CX factor that so many companies drone on about but few manage to harness with their offerings.

“Sweet Sixteen” was how Chris Ezekiel recently referred to Creative Virtual’s latest anniversary and what a sweet sixteen it has turned out to be with significant numbers of high-profile customers and accolades to match along its path to success. Spitch is young by comparison but already punching way above its weight with some customer profiles that even our largest competitors would be more than proud to showcase. What we lack in years of existence as a company we can more than compensate for – sadly – in age. Joking aside, many of the team having racked up half a lifetime of experience in aspects of speech technology including business, support, development and R&D.

Hopefully by now you’ve got the gist of my tone that I am very excited about this partnership and looking forward to working with Chris, Liam, Mandy and the wider team.  The same is echoed from the Spitch side who are very keen to get fully engaged on the opportunities that have already started to emerge.  Watch this space…

Check out our V-Person™ and Spitch integration overview to learn more about how we’re bringing our technologies together to deliver industry-leading voicebot solutions.

Strong Leadership, Company Culture and Luck: A podcast alongside Sir Geoff Hurst

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

When I was approached by the Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland about doing a podcast on leadership alongside one of my heroes, Sir Geoff Hurst, to say I was over the moon is an understatement! I’m an avid West Ham supporter and so I was VERY humbled to be on a podcast alongside the West Ham and England legend!

Being recognised as a successful leader is a great testament to the whole Creative Virtual team and the market leadership position we have attained. Receiving honours such as Frost & Sullivan’s AI-Enhanced Customer Self-Service Solutions Product Leadership Award and the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation don’t just happen by accident. I couldn’t be more proud of Team Creative Virtual!

There’s lots of clichés of what makes a successful leader. Single-mindedness, hard work, teamwork, passion, vision and being able to steer the company through choppy waters are all essential qualities of course. And it also makes me think of the great leaders that have inspired me over the years, in particular Booby Moore (another West Ham and England legend who led by example), Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher (political legends who led with conviction and epitomised single-mindedness) and Steve Jobs (whose passion and intuition helped create the world’s most successful technology company).

Some less obvious attributes that are very important to me include: keeping fit (healthy body, healthy mind and all that!) gives me the energy to work hard; running gives me the space and time to contemplate, which is particularly important when there’s a big decision to be made (which is quite often so it’s good that I run frequently!).

Creating an open and caring culture where people watch out for each other has always been extremely important to me. That stems from my working-class East End upbringing! J During the podcast interview, I talk about how Creative Virtual’s company culture is an important factor in our growth and success. We spend most of our lives at work, so it’s also crucial to remember to have some fun!

I think it’s important to recognise that luck (or fate) play an important part, which is why it’s essential to keep it real. And, having a love of physics, I believe there’s no better way to do this than to keep in mind the words of the late Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

A big thank you to the podcast host Matthew O’Neill, and everyone at the Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for giving me this wonderful opportunity! You can listen to the full podcast episode on YouTube and Spotify.

Employee Engagement, Employee Experience and Employee Self-Service

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Over the past several years companies have begun to place more importance on their employee experience and to make more strategic investments in employee engagement initiatives. There are lots of benefits to improving your employee experience, from increased staff retention to the knock-on effect on your customer experience. However, companies need to be careful not to mistake high engagement for a positive experience.

According to Caroline Walsh, Director and Team Manager at Gartner:

“Employee engagement remains a valuable baseline measure for any organization. But engagement is an outcome of experience; it doesn’t necessarily signal the expectations employees have for their work experience or help you identify their priorities.”

A Gartner survey found that of highly engaged employees, only 21% report having a high-quality experience. This highlights the fact that engagement must be viewed as part of your overall experience and not as the sole measurement of the success or failure of your employee initiatives. It also highlights the need to make strategic investments in experience improvements.

One way companies can easily improve the experience of employees is by offering personalised self-service options for routine support. Just as virtual agents and chatbots are ideal tools for customer self-service, they also lend themselves well to supporting employees in areas such as IT Service Management (ITSM), human resources (HR) and staff training. They give employees a way to easily access the information they need.

To really be effective though, the virtual agent needs to be integrated with the right backend systems to provide an extremely personalised experience. That could be Single Sign-On (SSO), ticketing systems, knowledge management platforms, employee profiles, voice systems, live chat systems, call back and/or third-party databases depending on your organisation and the use case for your virtual agent. Selecting a technology that allows for the right integrations and customisation is key.

Giving employees an easy way to self-serve and troubleshoot common problems is impactful because it improves their day-to-day experience. When used for IT support, employees can easily self-serve for things like application support, system access and password resets and other help desk requests. A HR virtual agent can provide instant support on company policies and procedures, payroll questions, time-off requests and expense report assistance. The technology can also be used for staff training, customer-facing employee support and product guides. They are an efficient way for employees to find information and get answers to their questions as they go about their daily jobs.

It was predicted last year that by 2020, 20% of organisations would include employee engagement improvement as a performance objective for HR and IT. And with the business benefits associated with higher employee engagement, that’s no surprise. Just as companies are working to better serve digitally-savvy, highly connected customers, they also need to do the same for digitally-savvy, highly connected employees if they want to create a better experience and improved engagement.

Check out Creative Virtual’s V-Person™ for Employee Support overview for a more detailed look at how our chatbot and virtual agent technology is currently being used by organisations around the world – from large government departments to international financial brands – to improve the employee experience.