Can V-Person™ customer support platform integrate with existing business databases?

By the Creative Virtual Team

Yes. Our solution was not designed as a platform to operate separately from your other business systems. Instead, we created our virtual assistant with the ability to draw on other tools being used by various departments across the organization. Not only does this make the implementation of your virtual assistant much easier, it enhances the customer experience in a few important ways.

How our self-service customer support solution integrates with other knowledge sources

One example of AI knowledge integration is the practice of uploading content to an artificial intelligence entity so that it can incorporate the information in its day-to-day activities. A great example: in May of 2016, Google uploaded over 11,000 books for its AI to read in an effort to teach it how to write poetry.

This type of manual learning is just one way AI can draw on existing sources of knowledge. In a business context, AI-based digital customer service software can automatically integrate with several important databases:

  • CRM platforms can be queried automatically to determine what type of solutions a customer has purchased and how frequently they buy
  • Accounting databases can be accessed to allow the virtual assistant to see what a customer’s payment status is and remind them of any upcoming or past-due payments
  • Customer support records from phone calls and live chats can be scanned to see if an individual customer has had problems with a certain issue in the past

These are just a few examples – thanks to the prevalence of today’s API economy, our virtual agent can integrate with almost any other system, online service or interactive technology.

V-Portal™: the key to seamless integration with business databases

At this point, you may be wondering exactly how our virtual assistant can integrate with so many different knowledge sources. The reason our customer service tools are so flexible is V-Portal, Creative Virtual’s omnichannel knowledge management system.

When a new client begins implementing our solution, we meet with pertinent team members to get a better understanding of their tools and workflows. We learn which APIs they use and how they apply them within the context of their business procedures.

From there, our clients can use V-Portal to manage workflows and database integration. With V-Portal, clients can:

  • Decide which databases, services or interactive platforms they want their virtual assistant to integrate with
  • Set guidelines for how information is categorized: by product, business line or channel
  • Determine how the virtual assistant uses categories and buyer attributes to offer proactive suggestions
  • Create safeguards that protect against repeated data to ensure customers are presented with unique information

V-Portal allows users to manage these and other functions without any technical or coding knowledge. The portal’s intuitive, visual dashboard uses a drag-and-drop interface that is simple to work with, even on a smartphone or tablet.

Virtual customer service knowledge integration for your business

The most important thing to understand about our customer engagement platform is that all of its integration features are designed to drive sales and customer service goals. We’ve applied knowledge gained from years of working with Fortune 500 banks, telecom providers and hospitality brands to design a robust virtual agent solution that is strengthened by our clients’ existing databases and workflows.

As the leader in virtual customer service, Creative Virtual specializes in the science of conversation. Sign up for a free demonstration here.

Does V-Person™ Customer Service Technology Self-Learn?

By the Creative Virtual Team

Artificial intelligence is a popular technology, used today for everything from diagnosing breast cancer to completing levels of Super Mario World. A big catalyst in the advancement of this technology is the concept of self-learning, which allows AI to autonomously improve decision-making to achieve desired outcomes.

Self-learning is a valuable component of our V-Person customer engagement solution, but it alone doesn’t make our platform a cutting-edge tool for customer service.

Why self-learning is not the ultimate goal for customer experience solutions

Customer service platforms are designed to do just that: serve the customer. Self-learning technology in fields like art and music is free to continuously iterate upon what it has learned, which makes it possible for AI to paint and create music. Continual improvement in this manner is valuable and helps push the field of AI forward.

Customer engagement platforms share this ability to self-learn and iterate, but apply it only within the context of helping people. Because they are used as a front-facing communication option, AI virtual assistants must be periodically monitored and adjusted by real humans, to ensure its messaging stays consistent.

Applying self-learning for a great customer experience

In March of 2016, Microsoft pulled the plug on its “Tay” Twitter bot, after it began tweeting profane, racist statements and professing its support for Adolf Hitler.

This is an example of unbridled self-learning, which is not the goal for any effective customer service platform. Instead, self-learning should be applied to functional tasks that help customers find what they need in a prompt, intelligent manner. A few examples of this kind of self-learning include:

  • Determining what type of product or service a customer has and offering them customized solutions based on that knowledge
  • Checking a customer’s purchasing history to understand how frequently they buy a product or service
  • Looking into a customer’s previous support inquiries to see what kinds of issues they may have had in the past
  • Browsing a knowledgebase for specific keywords pertaining to customer or prospect inquiries
  • Allowing users to perform basic account maintenance functions like resetting their password or changing their personal information

These basic tasks might not be as sexy as the creation of a vivid abstract painting or the writing of a complex, multilayered orchestra piece, but they are vital for companies looking to harness AI for business purposes.

Don’t lose the practical AI trees for the self-learning forest

The ability of artificial intelligence to self-learn is poised to revolutionize many parts of society, from the way we analyze and interpret big data to the way we drive our cars. But when it comes to using AI to offer an enjoyable, efficient customer experience, self-learning should be applied in pragmatic ways that contribute to business goals – exactly the purpose of Creative Virtual’s V-Person customer service solution.

As the leader in virtual customer service, Creative Virtual specializes in the science of conversation. Sign up for a free demonstration here.

The Wharf Innovation in Business Awards: An East End Boy Does Good

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

I enjoy hearing uplifting local success stories in the news. Since receiving word that Creative Virtual is shortlisted for The Wharf Innovation in Business Awards, I’ve felt a little like my own ‘hometown kid does good’ story. An East End boy takes a chance starting his own London-based company, distributing a technology that was still very much in its infancy at the time. Fast forward twelve and a half years and that organisation, now a successful world-leading business developing its own industry-changing technology, is being recognised by an awards programme celebrating the hard work and ingenuity of companies in Canary Wharf, on the Isle of Dogs – the place where it all began for Creative Virtual. I’d like to think that I’ve made me mum and family proud!

Canary WharfWorking on our award entry and then meeting with the judges last week really got me reminiscing about the Wharf. It took me back to the years when the docks were closed and the area was being transformed. What had become a very desolate area is now a bustling, global place to do business. It’s a financial centre, home to some of the world’s largest banks, and a thriving retail and dining destination. I don’t want to show my age too much, but I think it’s safe to say that the Canary Wharf we know today is very different from that of my childhood. You can see some of Canary Wharf’s transformation in this cool collection of photos of London’s Docklands through the years.

Canary Wharf also continues to be home to Creative Virtual’s headquarters. Growing an international company has taken me away from London a good bit over recent years, and I always enjoy visiting our offices, partners and customers in all corners of the world. However, coming back to the Canary Wharf office always feels like coming home – even if some of the team members there do jokingly re-introduce themselves to me when I walk through the door after a particularly long period of travel! And I like having Creative Virtual team members from other parts of the globe visit our headquarters and experience all that Canary Wharf and London’s East End has to offer. Those who follow me on Twitter (@chrisezekiel) will know that I regularly share photos from around the Wharf and the Isle of Dogs – a proud East End boy!

It’s honour to be shortlisted for The Wharf Innovation in Business Awards and to know that our company is continuing to employ local people who are helping us make our mark as a global leader in the exciting world of customer engagement. You can find more information about the awards programme and booking tickets for the awards evening on The Wharf website.

Innovation Showcase to Explore Live Chat and Virtual Agent Best Practice

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Live chat and virtual agents are quickly gaining popularity with customers as their preferences shift towards online support options. According to Forrester Research, customers turn to self-service and digital channels for service because they “offer the least amount of interaction friction”. Forward-thinking organisations are not only acknowledging this customer service trend, but also taking advantage of the powerful combination of virtual and real support.

On Tuesday, 12th July, Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, will explore this emerging trend as part of CRMXchange’s Technology Innovation Showcase webcast series. His presentation, titled Combining the Virtual and the Real for Customer Engagement Success, features live demonstrations of current implementations and a look into the technology powering these solutions. He’ll also share recent research and developments in the industry.

In addition to seeing intelligent virtual agents in action, attendees will also hear tips for integrating self-service options with live chat. When implemented properly, customers can seamlessly escalate from virtual to live agent and live agents can seamlessly provide feedback to keep information up-to-date. The result is an improved experience for both customers and support agents.

Register now to reserve your spot for this Technology Innovation Showcase. A recording of the webinar will be available to view on-demand for those registrants unable to join the live event.

Facebook Messenger, Chatbots and the Opportunity for Customer Engagement

By Alessandro Giordo, Junior Development & Support Technician

When Facebook announced chatbots I went crazy and tried so many different platforms for building one. Being a Developer, I opted for ‘geekier’ versions of it using NodeJS and Python, but I have to say the possibilities are endless. Working with one of the world leaders in virtual assistants and artificial intelligence allows me to spend time exploring this new trend and experimenting with the possibilities.

There are many useful bots that I regularly employ to help me in my daily life routines, and there are others that I talk to once and never again. Bots can be useful but there are horror stories as well, such as Microsoft’s AI bot Tay.

I’ve recently read this post about Facebook ‘business bots’ replacing call centres and this really interested me. The question was: Would you miss traditional call centres? At the time I took the poll, 67% had responded that they would not miss call centres, which I think is very telling about how people actually want to engage with companies.

For organisations, the growing popularity of instant messaging platforms, such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat, and chatbots offers new opportunities for communicating with customers. At Creative Virtual, we have announced the integration of our virtual agent technology, V-Person™, with Facebook Messenger for customer self-service.

With our technology, organisations can have chatbots with personalities that can engage users in chit chat and small talk, but they can also provide integrated, seamless and personalised self-service. By using the same knowledgebase that’s already being used for other channels, companies can easily add Facebook Messenger (and other messaging applications) as new support channels. This connects them with existing channels (self-service, live chat, contact centre) for a consistent customer experience, rather than having a siloed, stand-alone chatbot.

Like many other chatbot or virtual agent tools, V-Person has the ability to become more intelligent and adapt based on usage. However, this method of adaptive learning gives companies control over content and the learning process, so they don’t need to worry about their virtual agent becoming another Tay (if you aren’t familiar with Tay, you can read more in this article).

Check out our official Facebook Messenger announcement for more information about how V-Person integrates with this platform to provide a positive self-service experience.

Also be sure to download this guide for five important questions to ask when choosing a virtual agent solution for instant messaging platforms and SMS.

Upcoming Webinar: Innovations and Trends to Enhance the Customer Experience

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Personalised, consistent and accurate engagement anytime, anywhere – customers expect it but many companies struggle to deliver it. With customer experience being a significant driver in customer loyalty and buying decisions, organisations need to find a way to meet these expectations at a cost that makes business sense. In CRMXchange’s upcoming Tech Tank webcast, Innovations and Trends to Enhance the Customer Experience, the roundtable speakers will show how organisations of all sizes are taking advantage of cost-effective innovations and techniques to deliver consistently satisfying customer care.

Chris Ezekiel, Creative Virtual’s Founder & CEO, will join the roundtable to give live demonstrations of how companies are currently using our innovative Smart Help solutions to offer 24/7 easy access to information and support across contact channels. These solutions are designed to be complementary to the systems and processes already in place to help brands quickly create better customer experiences without lengthy or expensive development projects.

The key to the success of Creative Virtual’s customer engagement platform is the unique combination of natural language virtual agents (V-Person™) with the backing of a powerful knowledge management, workflow management and business intelligence reporting platform (V-Portal™). Chris will demonstrate how organisations are improving customer satisfaction, increasing sales and building brand loyalty while also reducing their support costs.

Speakers from Fonolo and TeamSupport will also be joining the roundtable scheduled for Thursday, 16 June. Professionals interested in learning about cutting-edge customer engagement solutions and seeing live demonstrations of the technology in action, should be sure to register for this webcast through the CRMXchange website. For those unable to attend the live webinar, CRMXchange will make a recording available after the event and you can request your own live demo.

Why Self-Service Has Become an Imperative Despite the Obstacles That Block It

By Karen McFarlane, Marketing, Americas

On April 6th, Creative Virtual USA joined over 150 customer care executives at the Argyle Customer Care Leadership Forum in New York City to discuss how the challenges of the current economic landscape are forcing organizations to examine and reduce costs and why the need for a customer-first approach is more important than ever. A core part of this discussion revolved around the growth of self-service channels, which is supported by analyst research predicting that by 2017, over 2/3 of all customer service interaction will no longer require the support of a human.

With customers practically begging for self-service, we wanted to see what other executives thought about implementing self-service channels and the biggest obstacles they are facing. So we took the opportunity to ask them at the Argyle Customer Care Leadership Forum and polled all 150 attendees. 81% of them said knowledge management and gaining organizational support were the key obstacles to successful self-service deployment. You can download the full results of that report here.

Given these findings, the desire to deliver self-service remains strong, but making the business case and finding supportive technology that can galvanize traditionally siloed departments remains a challenge for many organizations. However, some brands have paved the way as early adopters and are having positive experiences iterating as they go.  Frank Schneider, VP of Customer Experience Solutions, joined a panel at the Argyle Forum, “The Future of Customer Service: Customer Empowerment and Expectations,” where he, along with executives from General Electric, Quest Diagnostics, Panasonic and Confirmit, discussed the strategies, technologies, and tactics they used to support their self-service investments. Below is an excerpt of the 50-minute panel discussion where they shared some of the challenges and achievements. The full recording is available here.

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Q&A Excerpt: The Future of Customer Service: Customer Empowerment and Expectations

Creating Your Self-Service Strategy

Q: What tactics have you started to use in terms of bringing the tech savvy customer in and starting to learn from what they need and what the experiences are to give them a better, richer experience?

Creative Virtual: Customers want to adopt these technologies and you have to keep it simple… make it conversational and give the customer a chance to tell us what they need…It’s easy to just wrap it in the wrapper of personalization, but if you actually take the time to listen to your customers and say, “OK, well, let’s meet them at this point and help facilitate that, we find that’s key.” Knowing who I am, knowing the type of customer I am, what package I have and leveraging that context to make this tool whatever it is, digital engagement or even an agent to respect me by showing the intelligence that you know me, makes a big difference. We try to enable that with our solution in particular and this is something I think all brands are hungry for.

Formulating a Business Case

Q: This morning we heard a lot about the investment and how do we finance it? Part of any investment, have you started seeing any reduction in cost? You talked about transferring some of the volume of calls to self-serve, have you started seeing that and are you measuring that somehow and how are you going about that?

Quest Diagnostics: One of the key pieces that we do measure is contacts into our call center per 1,000 patient requisition…we’re seeing that contacts per 1,000 requisitions come down and seeing it similarly increase in those digital or those self-service opportunities, which enables us to better manage that team. I think that’s been a really key piece that we’re looking at. Right now, we’re doing a lot of research to understand in the physician offices those who are active adopters and why they love it?… As we move more into a self-service environment, we’re seeing the reduction in that incoming volume, which is allowing us to be more cost effective. It’s improving their satisfaction and their stickiness.

Measuring Effectiveness

Q: How about cognitive analytics? How is that coming into the play in terms of how we’re using the data and how we’re predicting customer behavior?

Panasonic: In my case, because I have different responsibilities, we have metrics for the call center, which are pretty much the standard everybody’s measuring, AHT and things of that nature. We have web-related activity as to how our customers think we’re doing and the kind of activity from a service stand point. We have actually had some cases where we can react to customers and respond to them within a certain time period because we’re getting information and can communicate with the customer. When you can call somebody within a half hour of a problem, that makes a really big difference.

What the Future Holds

Q: How have you seen the customer service changing in particular with all the new technology that we’re trying to drive?

Confirmit: The role is changing in a lot of ways but not necessarily specific to technology. There is an elevation of the role and elevation of customer experience. You’re seeing investments being made with CCO’s and new directors of customer experience. Ten years ago, this did not exist. We’re just seeing a focus on putting dollars and focus and attention on customer experience. I think that the rest of it, the technology the marrying, the journey, all of that follows the focus because we now have a seat at the table to talk about the actual customer experience. I think there’s a huge investment being made in the roles, the people.

Quest Diagnostics: How do you continue to have that interaction, a dialogue? That’s a big piece and I think we found for us, that’s been critical is even changing the nomenclature in the organization to we were talking very clinically… If I’m a Phlebotomist caring for a patient one on one, they want a different feel and they want a different language set. That’s to your point, changing and meeting that customer how they want to be met. I think about investments around and the way we look at it, as an elevation customer care and that element is one piece of it. It’s that whole end to end and how we’re looking at all of those investments linked together.

Creative Virtual: Ultimately, without being too corny, ultimately technology is always supposed to improve our lives. Throughout history any advancement is supposed to improve our lives…. It’s common sense that we need to meet our customers in all these moments of truth and we win their hearts and minds by actually meeting them intelligently and being accessible and instantly available. Getting as much help as we can. When we can actually say, “Hey we can’t right now, here’s how we can.”

Panasonic: It’s more experiential. With all the new tools and stuff, customer reps are going to have to do more, do different things differently. They might have to do phone chat, social, things related that they didn’t have to do before. Selling things, revenue, we’re starting to do revenue as well and it is a different mindset.

To listen to the full recording of the panel discussion, click here.

IAC London 2016 Day 2 – Innovation and Inspiration in the Intelligent Assistants Field

By Rob Foster, Junior Knowledgebase Engineer & Andre Matthews, Knowledgebase Engineer

Day 2 of the Intelligent Assistants Conference burned just as brightly as the first. If you haven’t yet read our colleague’s blog on the first day of the event, you can find it here.

Darrius Jones, AVP of Enterprise Innovation at USAA, started proceedings by giving us some insight into upcoming virtual solutions in the mobile banking sector. In his keynote presentation “This is Our Moonshot”, he assured us that virtual assistants (VAs) have come a long way from the chatbot toys of yesteryear, and people are trusting VAs more and more with handling information about their lives. In fact, when looking for advice about sensitive topics like financial difficulty, often users will feel more comfortable asking a machine for help than a person. Having the right tools in place to handle customers’ needs is essential to ensuring that customers leave pleased with the service they receive. In addition, Darrius discussed how face and voice recognition is being integrated into virtual assistant platforms, cutting out the tedium of the online banking authentication process and helping to combat identity fraud.

IAC 2016 LondonAfter lunch, it was all eyes on Creative Virtual CTO, Peter Behrend as the panel discussed “Striking the ‘People Versus Machine’ Balance”. Peter highlighted the importance of Creative Virtual’s capability to allow the user to seamlessly transfer between the virtual assistant and live chat. The best customer experience is achieved when humans and machines work together, each doing what they do best. He explains that in a single session, the VA is able to offer instant, accurate responses to a wide range of questions, while a live agent can provide personal and empathetic insights if a customer has a specific query. Because VAs are doing the majority of the heavy lifting when it comes to answering the most frequently asked questions, job satisfaction of call centre workers is improving. Live agents are more stimulated now that they can avoid having to answer questions they are asked several times a day. This is a huge benefit for companies that wish to reduce employee churn and save time and money on training. And as we all know, happy workers equals higher productivity and greater customer satisfaction.

Day 2 also saw Atos CTO, David Cunningham join the panel discussion titled “Achieving Digital Transformation with Intelligent Assistants” along with Lee Beardmore from Capgemini. David shared his insights and experiences working with Creative Virtual’s virtual agent technology to deliver Digital Customer Experience Transformation (DCXT). He emphasised the countless opportunities and endless benefits of using VAs on both fronts: internally to assist employees and public-facing to solve problems directly for customers. An employee equipped with the VA is able to swiftly navigate to information needed, allowing them to provide more accurate and informative responses to customer queries. Likewise, customers can quickly get the response to their questions or navigate to the information they need, even when not fully sure what they are looking for, via the features at their disposal.

All in all, it was another day of innovation and inspiration from the Creative Virtual team and other experts in the field of virtual assistance. Congratulations to the Opus Research team on hosting a successful and thought provoking conference! Check out some more photos from the event in our IAC London 2016 album.

IAC London 2016 Day 1 – Pioneering the 4th Industrial Revolution

By Gianandrea Gaetani, Junior Knowledgebase Engineer

With all the talk revolving around the convergence of Artificial Intelligence, the present and future implementations of Intelligent Agents, Robotics, identity and biometrics, quantum, nano bio tech, and 3d printing, the Intelligent Assistants Conference held in London on the 26th and 27th of April left participants debating where we all stand in tech matters. Is it too soon to talk about the 4th Industrial Revolution just yet?

Whether we want to believe it or not, businesses today are left to navigate the chasm in an ever changing digital world. Digital and biological worlds tend to get closer with every passing year and static businesses and websites seem to be coming alive through the implementation of Intelligent Assistance.

As the Channel Owner of Swedbank, Martin Kedback, stated, in our present day, people are engaging with companies like never before. Users seem to now be logging into banking services through mobile devices 21.4 times per month on average. This data calls for a re-design of the way businesses interact with their customers. There is a strong demand for new channels of interaction that has not yet been fully addressed effectively. There is a need to hyper personalize customer experience and deliver it to the users in a quick, trustworthy and efficient way. We live in a world where the very use of our technology will be moulded by a level of hyper personalisation that can only be achieved through Intelligent Assistance.

We now live in a place where the instant access and sharing of information can determine the success or failure of an enterprise. Virtual Assistants will be playing a key role in this personal information economy. These implementations will not only have to be proficient at managing knowledge, but will also have to guarantee an increasing degree of trust, security, and satisfaction.

As silos of information everywhere are opening up to create a wider and faster world, there is a need to establish ways to effectively respond to the task at hand. The new “quick and cheap” chatbot trend seems to be providing a solution that does not guarantee any sort of satisfaction and security in the long run. These unstable solutions and a sharp 57% increase in the number of IA companies trying to enter the market today seem to be calling for the establishment of “best practice” in terms of virtual assistance. The need to respect norms of human behaviour such as permission, respect, mutual value, and trust, must be met with efficiency and security by virtual agents.

Intelligent Assistants ConferenceDuring the first day of IAC London 2016, the team members attending from Creative Virtual really felt the need to address two questions: Where do we stand, and where are we going as a global company? As our Founder and CEO, Chris Ezekiel stated, our expertise in knowledge management, agility, compatibility, technology, and the wealth of having an experienced team with an open mind, will push Creative Virtual to stay at the very top of this evolutionary wave. With regards to the future, during the Executive Summit panel, Chris pushed forth the idea that “we see the personal and commercial assistants converging in the future”. It is this mentality that makes Creative Virtual a leader in the field of Virtual Assistance.

Be sure to follow Creative Virtual on Twitter for more from Day 2 of IAC London 2016. Not able to attend the event but want to know more about our innovative virtual agent technology? Contact us to learn more!

IAC London 2016: Helping humans harness the power of intelligent assistants

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

For the first time Opus Research is bringing their Intelligent Assistants Conference to Europe. IAC London 2016 is being held 26-27 April at Grosvenor House in London and will be co-located with Intelligent Authentication Conference 2016. The Opus Research team has put together an impressive agenda of expert panel discussions and keynote addresses focused on the conference theme of ‘helping humans harness the power of intelligent assistants’.

Creative Virtual is proud to be an event sponsor of IAC London 2016 and to have both our CTO, Peter Behrend, and our Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, speaking as industry experts. Chris will join the ‘Executive Summit – Focus on the Enterprise’ panel discussion at 4:15 pm on Day 1, and Peter will be a panellist in the Day 2 session ‘Striking the “People Versus Machines” Balance’ scheduled to begin at 2:00 pm. Both bring years of experience within the intelligent virtual assistant and self-service space to their panels.

David Cunningham, CTO Solutions at Atos UK and Ireland, will also be speaking at the conference about Atos’ experience in building Digital Customer Experience Transformation (DCXT). Atos has partnered with Creative Virtual and two other industry leaders to deliver DCXT, a dynamic tool for personal finance management which utilises our intelligent virtual assistant technology. This enables customers 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.

As an event sponsor, Creative Virtual will have a stand in the vendor exhibition area. Liam Ryan, Head of Sales, will be available at the stand to provide live demos of our innovative virtual assistant solutions for conference attendees. Be sure to stop by to say hello, see a demo and pick up some additional information.

More conference details and a full agenda can be found on the IAC London 2016 website. If you aren’t able to attend the event but would like to learn more about how your organisation can harness the power of intelligent virtual assistant technology, please contact us.