Creative Virtual Speaks Up at destinationCRM Roundtable Event

By Courtney Schreier, Marketing Manager, Americas

With Millennials seeking answers on-demand without calling the traditional call center, definitions of good customer service are being turned upside down. For organizations focused on customer service and satisfaction, this can present a challenge. If you want to find out how forward-are adapting to changes in how information is delivered to their customers, then attend destinationCRM’s next roundtable event with our US CEO, Richard Simons as a featured panelist.

destinationcrmStarting at 2:00 pm ET/7:00 pm UK time on Wednesday, September 11, the live webinar Meet Customer Information Demands with Virtual Agents will cover how virtual agents are successfully used to create value for companies, all while improving customer satisfaction and increasing revenue. Today’s virtual agents feature sophisticated abilities, like addressing customers in their native language, and engaging in a more natural “human” interaction. Along with other companies in the virtual agent space, Richard will discuss how technology has changed to accommodate consumers’ needs, rather than vice versa.

Registration for the webinar is free, with one lucky attendee winning an Apple TV! Sign up now to learn more about managing your customer experience across all channels.

Innovation Wins Us a Stevie Award

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

2013 Silver Stevie WinnerWednesday was an exciting day for me personally and for our whole company as we received word that Creative Virtual won a Silver Stevie Award in the category of Most Innovative Company of the Year in Europe as part of the 10th Annual International Business Awards! With over 3,300 nominations made this year from organisations of all sizes and virtually every industry, it is a huge honour to be recognised by the world’s premier business awards programme.

As I’m sure most company founders will agree, it’s an amazing feeling to watch your company grow and develop over the years, to go from having a handful of employees in one small office to having an international workforce in offices around the world. Being recognised as one of the most innovative companies in Europe is an achievement that most organisations can only dream about and one that the entire Creative Virtual team should be very proud of receiving. I am extremely proud not only of our Stevie Award, but of the technology and expertise that our organisation offers our customers; innovation is at the heart of our company and for this to be recognised in this way is fantastic. Through the development of V-Portal™, our unique tool combining virtual assistants, knowledge management and conversational analytics into one platform, we have taken a huge step towards our goal of becoming the world’s leading provider of conversational systems.

Thank you to the IBAs for this prestigious honour and an even bigger thank you to the Creative Virtual team for all your hard work and dedication which has allowed our organisation to be so innovative and worthy of this award.  I look forward to accepting our Stevie Award on behalf of Creative Virtual at the gala awards banquet in Barcelona, Spain on 14th October.

For our official announcement about our Stevie Award win please click here. And, as always, don’t forget that you can also request a live demo to experience our innovative technology for yourself.

Smartphones vs. Tablet: New Report’s Latest Findings

By Peter Behrend, Chief Technical Officer

Few people, I think, (and only the bravest) would have predicted the spectacular success of the tablet market when the original iPad was launched by Apple in 2010. Even as I write this, Microsoft’s spelling correction can autocorrect iPod and iPhone for me, but iPad remains an unknown. With similar communication technology footprints of WiFi and 3G, and with the convergence of tables and smartphones in terms of size (smaller tablets, larger smartphones) one might expect these devices to be used in largely similar ways, but are they?

Adobe recently released its State of Mobile Benchmark Report for Q2 2013 identifying key differentials between these two mobile devices and their owners’ experience across industries, devices and countries. The report is well worth reading in its own right, but below is an executive summary, together with a few observations of my own.

From Adobe’s analysis of the tablet/phone divide by market, it would appear to be “horses for courses”; retail, travel, and hospitality sites received the most tablet traffic, whereas telecom and media & entertainment sites were visited by mostly smartphone users. If you’re spending money, it seems, you like to see what you’re getting for your money. With our successful (and growing) penetration of the telecom and financial services markets, we see the importance of providing more than just brochure-ware. Users are increasingly demanding, and expecting, personalised data feeds and an enriched functional experience which will allow them to engage with their providers interactively and securely. The opportunities for back-end integration afforded by Creative Virtual’s web engine ensure that these needs will be met as the mobile market develops yet further (see, for example, the Verizon story on the website).

When developing your own mobile apps, be mindful of screen size. Tablets are getting smaller and smartphones are getting bigger, but despite this convergence there are still significant differences and you will need to focus on how people will engage with your app from a mobile perspective. For instance, the study found that more people (75%) read using a tablet while only 23% use their smartphones as readers. That might seem blindingly obvious, but it also speaks to the amount of written content you can reasonably expect your users to scan to get to the main point. Video on tablets is still outpacing video on smartphones, so before loading your app with moving pictures, use this information to design your app intelligently so as to promote usability and fast content delivery.

Another important lesson is to think globally. Your app can be accessed by people anywhere in the world. Different operating systems dominate in different parts of the world. While iOS remains the leader in US, UK and France, Android is favoured in Japan and China. Although not listed by Adobe, from my own experience you can also add the Indian subcontinent to the Android fan-club. Wherever you look though, no one single operating system dominates (yet), so don’t make the mistake of just designing for one. Beyond the technical aspects, consider a multi-lingual approach. Most people prefer being addressed in their native language, so identify a delivery system that will enable you to fulfil your long term goals and roll out your app accordingly.

There is one thing, however, that user engagements though mobile and desktop devices do have in common – conversion is almost equally difficult. On anybody’s techno-radar, the two biggest blips are currently social media and mobile, and again we are seeing convergence. Adobe reports, for example, that one third of all likes on Facebook now occur via a mobile device so be prepared to move into social media if you haven’t already done so. With interfaces for both Twitter and Facebook, Creative Virtual is already well placed to help our customers ride the wave.

One final word of caution – service on your mobile device is about more than the strength of your signal. Too often companies become blinkered by conversion, losing sight of the other factors that drive customers to action, such as customer service. When customers have questions, they want answers. Incorporate your customer service model into your app and employ technologies that help facilitate conversations on a mobile device. Here traditional search bars and FAQs won’t work. They require extensive navigation, keyword identification and scrolling. You need tools like virtual agents to help customer finds the content they want – fast.

Source: The State of Mobile Benchmark - Q2 2013

Source: The State of Mobile Benchmark – Q2 2013

A Showcase of Intelligent Virtual Agents in Action

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

CRMXchange Technology Innovation ShowcaseIf, like me, you are tired of watching PowerPoint after PowerPoint, then last week’s CRMXchange Technology Innovation Showcase is for you. The webcast was chalk full of live demonstrations of Creative Virtual’s technology in action—a welcome break from the usual slide show! I feel the best way to understand the capabilities of our natural language virtual assistants  is to actually see them answering questions, providing personalised support and creating a seamless customer experience. My goal during this showcase was to demonstrate how organisations are currently deploying intelligent virtual agents on multiple channels as well as taking advantage of the flexibility to integrate with live XML feeds, live chat and community forums (to just name a few!) which further enhances their customer experience. Along with the demonstrations, I did have to throw a few slides in there to provide some background information and explain a little more about how our technology works from data collection to analytics.

For anyone who missed the live event, the recording is now available to watch on-demand. I’d like to extend a big thank you to CRMXchange and Sheri Greenhaus for hosting our Technology Showcase. And don’t forget that you can always request a live demo tailored specifically for you by a member of the Creative Virtual team.

Unify the Customer Experience on Mobile, Web & Social Channels

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager

It’s no secret that organisations must have a multi-channel customer experience strategy in order to compete in today’s hyper-connected marketplace. But giving customers access to information whenever and wherever they want it can feel like an overwhelming or impossible task. If you are struggling to find a way to create and deploy personalised content across all support channels, or just want to learn ways to improve your existing strategy, then the next installment of the CRMXchange Technology Innovation Showcase series is for you.

Starting at 11:00 am ET/ 4:00 pm UK time on Thursday, the live webcast Unify the Customer Experience on Mobile, Web & Social Channels will be presented by Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel. Chris will discuss the increased demand of customers wanting a personalised self-service experience across multiple channels and provide live demonstrations of how major brands are already using intelligent virtual agents to improve satisfaction levels while decreasing customer support costs. He’ll give an inside look at how Creative Virtual’s technology works from data collection to analytics.

Registration for the webcast is free and the recording will be available to view on-demand after the event. Sign up now to make sure you don’t miss this opportunity to experience the innovative technology that can take your customer support from drab to fab.


CXI Results: How do the U.S. Airlines & Hotels rank in customer experience? (Part 2)

by Frank Schneider, VP Customer Experience Solutions

Forrester’s 2013 Customer Experience Index report  asked 7,500 consumers the following questions about U.S. airlines and hotels:

  1. How well did they meet your need?
  2. How easy were they to do business with?
  3. How enjoyable were they to do business with?

Below are the results for this vertical. While none of the contenders in the airlines industry scored the highest rating of “excellent,” we congratulate Southwest Airlines and JetBlue for getting the highest rankings among their peers with a ranking of “Good.” Alternatively, United Airlines earned the lowest score in the category with a score of 54 representing a “Very Poor” customer experience.

Forrester Customer Experience Index - 2013 - Airlines


Within the hotels industry, Courtyard by Marriot earned a ranking of “excellent” with a high score of 88 out of 100. Following close behind in the “Good” category is Marriot Hotels and Resorts, Choice Hotels, Hampton Inn/Suite, Embassy Suites and Wyndham and Hyatt Hotels and Resorts. The remaining hotels ranked “ok” with none falling into the “poor” or “very poor” categories.

Forrester Customer Experience Index - 2013 - Hotels


The travel industry has taken an interesting turn. Personalization has trended upwards with consumers favoring companies that create the right content for them. More travel plans are done on mobile devices paving the way for more spontaneous purchases and more creative offerings. And with the web comes a global marketplace requiring companies to talk to customers in their native languages. Dealing with a worldwide marketplace, breeds interesting challenges for the travel industry especially airlines and hotels that have to serve a variety of needs. However, technology can help these organizations plan a strategy that can serve your purposes.

  1. Devise a solid mobile strategy that marries all the communication channels your customers use, and include new ones that can create added engagement.
  2. Make it easy for customers to reach their goal – whether it’s finding the right deal, completing a purchase or asking a question.
  3. Think local, but act global. Make sure your tools and people are multilingual. People are more inclined to make a purchase in their native language so remove any barriers you may have.
  4. Review your policies and procedures and find out what’s driving your customers nuts. Again, find way to remove the barriers to a seamless customer experience.

Interested in other industries included in the CXI? Click here for the Forrester report (registration is required) or click here to see our blog post on the CXI for banks.

CXI Results: How do North American Banks Rank in Customer Experience? (Part 1)

by Frank Schneider, VP Customer Experience Solutions

Forrester recently released their 2013 Customer Experience Index results and the findings are very telling for businesses who want to understand how customers view their brand. The survey covers 14 industries with over 7,500 consumers participating in the CXI ranking. We took a look at the banking category, and this is what it revealed.

  • USAA Bank, SunTrust, TD Bank and PNC were all rated “Good” when it comes to customer experience.
  • BB&T, US Bank, Ally Bank, Regions Bank and Chase ranked “OK”
  • Wells Fargo, Citibank, Capital One/ING Direct, and Bank of America rated “Poor”
  • HSBC and Fifth Third rated “Very Poor”

Forrester Customer Experience Index - 2013 - Banks


Interestingly enough, none of the banks rated “excellent.” What this says to me is that no matter where these banks fall on the spectrum, all banks have some work to do when it comes to improving the customer experience. Banks have an interesting challenge, however. According to a 2012 Gallup survey, only 15% of Americans had “a great deal or “quite a lot” of confidence in banks. Dealing with an individual or corporation’s finances is a very personal thing and therefore, it is necessary for banks to create value and deep relationships with their customers. In the customer’s view, it just shouldn’t be difficult to gain access to his/her own information.

What banks need to do is to find a better way of communicating with their customers when and where they want it. Secondly, banks must review their policies and procedures and identify what is not working for their customers. Are banking hours a problem? Adjust them or augment them with a solution that provides 24/7 availability. Thirdly, banks must provide better access to information across the organization. Eliminate silos and find better ways to share customer information so that each touchpoint along the journey provides a benefit to the consumer. Your goal is a seamless customer experience in both online or offline channels. That’s the way you go from good to excellent.

If you want to see how other industries fared, click here for the Forrester report (registration is required).

Conversational Analytics: A Must Read From Big Data Republic

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

During my presentation at Internet World 2013, Identify Your Customer’s Stress & Make It Go Away, I explored the benefits of implementing interactive customer experience technologies on the web, across social media channels and from big data republicmobile applications. One of my three steps for creating positive, engaging interactions with customers was for organisations to predict customer needs through conversational analytics. After my presentation, I had the pleasure of discussing conversational analytics in more detail with Susan Fourtané, Science & Technology Journalist. Over the weekend Susan published her takeaways from our talk on the Big Data Republic website, Conversational Analytics Brings Insight Into Customer Behaviour.

My thanks to Susan for taking the time to talk with me and for putting together such an insightful article. I hope you will take a few minutes to read Susan’s thoughts on conversational analytics because, as she writes, “this unstructured data represents unique customer insight, which mustn’t be ignored or underestimated”. You can find the full article on the Big Data Republic website.

Poll Results (Part 2): Average Call Deflection

By Paulo Barrett, Manger of Implementation Services

As I mentioned in a previous post, we hosted a webinar in which we polled our audience on a couple questions. One of the questions was “What call deflection rate would you expect to get from a virtual assistant?” Here’s what you said.

  • 33% of you would be happy if your virtual assistant deflected 15% of calls to your contact center.
  • About 52% would love call deflection rates to be between 25-35%.
  • 14% of you would be ecstatic if a virtual agent could deflect more than ½ of your calls.

Poll B: What call deflection would you expect from a Virtual Assistant?

The fact is that there is no right answer. Every business is different, but we’ve seen all of these rates. On average our customers deflect 20-30% of their calls, but some customers reach 50%, and one customer deflected 80% of their live chat conversations. What drives this is sometimes how visible your virtual assistant is in the process and how privy it is to information. The deeper your implementation and the more visible your virtual assistant, the better the results will be. But of course it all depends on your goals. Either way, virtual assistants are extremely powerful tools in reducing customer support costs so even a deflection of 15% can make a powerful impact a call center receiving millions of calls per year.

If you missed the webinar or want to watch it again, you can view it online and if you want to see previous poll results, check out this post.

Poll Results (Part 1): Best Source of Content to Power a Virtual Agent

By Paulo Barrett, Manager of Implementation Services

The results are in! Well, they were in when we hosted our last webinar, Implementing a Virtual Agent: RFP, Pilot, Implementation & Results where my CEO and I walked through the entire process of deploying an intelligent virtual agent. If you missed it, you can view the webinar on-demand.  We polled the audience during the webinar about best content sources to power a virtual agent and here’s what we learned.

43.5% of respondents said live chat transcripts were the best source of content, followed by call center transcripts at 39.1%. Nothing shocking there as we agree with you. Transcripts provide trends and patterns of customer questions going answered and unanswered. From these tools, we can build out a powerful conversation that will save your live agents for higher level tasks. Client SME’s and content editors got moderate praise at 12% and 4.3% respectively, but on the other end of the spectrum, no one, absolutely no one thought that their existing help content was a viable option.

Poll A: What do you think the best source of content is to generate a Virtual Agent system?

What this says to me is that organizations are aware that the information they are currently providing is not actually helpful. It’s actually a good sign that companies recognize that they aren’t really providing effective self-help tools for their customers – knowing is half the battle. Their challenge is how to fix it. Admittedly, these results are a bit skewed since attendees of this webinar registered because they wanted to know more about implementing virtual assistant technology. They are now in the phase of discovery and understanding, trying to figure how to fix the problem. But for those of you who are not quite there yet, ask yourself three questions:

  • How effective are my self-help tools?
  • How effective are my self-help tools in deflecting calls and chats to my call center?
  • How can I improve those ratios and lower my cost per conversation?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can determine whether implementing virtual agent technology is a viable solution for your organization. And if you need help figuring it out, feel free to reach out to us

Stay tuned for another post on poll results from the webinar to find out what else your peers said.