How Intelligent Virtual Assistants Provide the Data and Insights You Need to Improve Customer Experience

by Richard Simons, CEO of Creative Virtual USA

Virtual assistant technology is an excellent tool for doing something most companies have a hard time executing consistently and productively – listening to their customers. Every conversation held between your customer and your virtual assistant is a goldmine of information that literally allows you to listen in on every customer interaction with your company. But according to Cynthia Clark of 1to1 Media listening isn’t enough.  She says “Organizations need to first listen to what their customers are saying and then act on the insights they’re gathering.”  And that is the conundrum. Information gathering has become relatively easy, but acting on the data has increasingly become a challenge.

So how can companies actively keep their ear to the ground and make real-time improvements for their customers? Enter virtual assistants. Intelligent virtual assistants have this very cool feature we all know as transcripts that if analyzed properly, provide a wealth of information that is invaluable to your organization. There are four key pieces of information that you can extrapolate from virtual agent conversations. They are:

1) What are the common customer issues?

2) Do we have the RIGHT answers to customer questions?

3) Are the answers that we are providing actually solving their problems in a satisfactory manner or resulting in more questions?

4) What questions are we not answering that we should be?

By analyzing conversation transcripts and customer satisfaction survey responses from virtual assistant conversations you can actively improve performance, and make adjustments elsewhere in the organization to better satisfy customers. For example, virtual assistants can help you quickly identify spikes, trends or catch issues, such as website form errors.  Armed with this information, our clients can be more proactive in resolving issues before call centersvportal reporting blog are flooded and satisfaction levels decrease.

Moreover, virtual assistants are capable of holding hundreds, even thousands of simultaneous conversations, thereby providing a wealth of data unavailable through traditional web analytics in a relatively short time span.  Using tools like V-Portal™, you can filter data by business or product areas and drill-down to full conversations for a specific transaction. You can also analyze detailed customer satisfaction surveys and quickly identify gaps and opportunities based on customer feedback without the need for sophisticated business intelligence tools to figure out your next step.

In sum, a virtual assistant as a data tool provides customer experience professionals with the unique ability to manage customer experience based on true engagement metrics. It not only lets you listen intently to your customers, but take the appropriate steps to make sure they know they were heard.

Real Customers. Real Reviews. Join Us On 28th November for a Free Event.

by Mandy Reed, Global Marketing Manager

Earlier this year Reevoo released the results of research conducted with consumers across the UK in which 88% of those surveyed said they sometimes or always consult reviews when making a purchase. While reading about others’ experiences with a particular product or service can be a great way to research before making a purchase, it can often be difficult to spot a fake or paid for review. The best way to learn about the quality of a product or service is to actually speak with a company’s customers, and that is exactly what you will have a chance to do by attending our Customer Experience Networking Event.

This free event is being held on 28th November 2012 in London’s West End and Ask Lisawill feature speakers from two organisations that have utilised our natural language virtual assistant technology since 2007: National Rail Enquiries and Motability Operations. Kathryn Daniels, Information Development Manager at National Rail Enquiries, will share how NRE have worked with us and our partner The Virtual Zone to implement their virtual assistant Ask Lisa across multiple channels, including integration with their Facebook page, to provide a positive customer experience.  Ivan Smith, Service Support Ask MoManager at Motability Operations, will also give an inside look at their V-Person™ (virtual assistant) Ask Mo being used by advisors to find the right solution for callers quickly and efficiently.

After hearing about these and other current V-Person solutions, integrations and products, Founder & CEO of Creative Virtual Ltd, Chris Ezekiel, will then give attendees a chance to glimpse the future of our technology by experiencing our innovative multi-channel knowledge and workflow management system, V-Portal™.  With V-Portal you can create interactive virtual assistants for web, mobile/tablets, social and IVR that deliver personalised conversations to your customers 24 hours per day/7 days per week.

Throw in a buffet lunch where you’ll have time to network with the event speakers and other attendees and a Question and Answer session where you can ask your important customer experience questions, and you have an event you can’t afford to miss!

Registration is free but space is limited, so reserve your place today by completing our online registration form.  We look forward to seeing you on 28th November!

Can Siri Find Light Shoes?

by Frank Schneider, Regional Vice President – Sales, Eastern US

My nearly six year old daughter has been having a difficult week in regards to customer experience. Her old sneakers have developed a hole on the bottom and she needs new ones…and needs them now. She yearns to replicate the same fun customer experience she has had with her current pink shoes. Not just any pink shoes, but pink light shoes from a brand with special laces, designs and straps. Because she is a kindergartner and has a classroom where tablet use is part of the curriculum, she asked to view the variety online, checked their availability and then recommended what store and when we should go to get them…aka, “Mommy, can we go to (retailer A) now…pleeeasseee.”

light shoesMy daughter is already part of the now 90% of consumers (Forrester estimate) who research online before making a purchase. Additionally, she is now going to use at least two channels to make her purchase…unfortunately, when she arrives at the retailer — the second moment of truth — they are out of the shoes. Not only did the retailer not provide their current inventory for our particular store (or more likely, the content was not readily accessible in a convenient way — the first moment of truth), but now my daughter was faced with the need to adapt on the fly. My daughter didn’t whine or complain, but calmly turned to my wife and said, “Mommy ask Siri if there is a (retailer B) near us that has the light shoes?”

I am proud to say, in addition to riding a two-wheel bike, my daughter gets multi-channel and especially mobile customer experience strategy. It is intuitive to want to access content and receive relevant information in a mobile customer service app at a moment’s notice. No queue to sit in like so many lines for ice cream, no IVR forest to navigate like a Dora adventure, no countless web pages to sift through like a spilled box of Cracker Jacks, trying to find your prize. Ask your question, the way you want to ask it, to get what is needed immediately. Simple, isn’t it?

So what can you do with this nugget if you are a customer experience executive?

  1. Intelligent, mobile self-service is a necessity. Look for solutions that can provide 24/7 customer service with an intuitive user interface that is natural language voice-enabled.
  2. Multi-channel is the only channel. Don’t force your customers to traverse a difficult morass to buy from you. They want to feel empowered to manage their purchase life cycle whenever or wherever they want. Respect that and find the ultimate win-win.
  3. Always gather customer opinion. Voice of the customer, especially when it can be completely unfiltered as through a virtual assistant solution, is invaluable.
  4. Wash, rinse, repeat…as you develop innovative ways to meet your customers, ensure your content is relevant and consistent, the experience is top notch and the reporting and analytics are culled, not just for an executive dashboard, but to continue to drive improvement and enhancement.

If retailer A provided intelligent self-service from their home page during my daughter’s research, or if retailer B provided mobile self-service from my daughter’s second moment of truth, either one would have made a customer for life. Isn’t that the best result of strong customer experience strategy?

And yes, since this is our blog, I can be shameless…our voice-enabled mobile solutions would have successfully delivered and then some…2 for 2 on both moments I focused on, not to mention additional enhancements to the customer experience. I’d be happy to share additional details with any reader.

Mobile Access to Information Key in Face of Weather Disasters

by Frank Schnieder, Regional Vice President – Sales, Eastern US

While Sandy created havoc across the mid-Atlantic, the primary thoughts on my mind were regarding the safety and well-being of my family and friends. As I write this, my thoughts and well wishes go out to everyone affected.

Access to information, whether it be nearest shelter locations, how to report down live wires, or road closure updates, quickly became a secondary, albeit important, thought for me as the storm developed.  With power down, my mobile device became my access to the world.

fema_tweet_20121108As my credit card companies began to send out preemptive email forgiveness for late payments, I realized we were in unchartered territory in regards to customer experience. However, it was when FEMA went out of its way to request that people stay off their phones and utilize Twitter and text messages for communication that wasn’t urgent that a new reality of call deflection really hit home for me.

virtual assistant that can provide access to relevant, even personalized content, delivered as answers to my questions asked in natural language, would be a fantastic way to lessen the congestion existing on the PSTN and nationwide cellular networks. Still, several days after the storm 1 in 5 cell towers across the PA, NJ, NY area were down due to backup battery failure or over congestion on the network.

What worked well throughout last week was my cellular data signal – respect to Verizon. With voice call difficulties, 311 having difficulty handling double the volume last Monday alone and updates truly occurring 24/7, a mobile virtual assistant application could have skillfully assisted with the following tasks and more:

  1. My state FEMA could have provided mobile access to a virtual assistant that I could ask, “Where is my nearest shelter?”  A virtual assistant could find my GPS signal and provide the shelter location with navigation to the site. Road closures on the route would make the journey difficult, but a virtual assistant could provide up-to-the-minute content personalized for my area and selected shelter.
  2. With my local power company’s IVR and call centers jammed with calls, I could instruct a virtual assistant to provide instant information to my provider such as “I’d like to report a broken pole at 1st and Main.” In turn, they could provide me with instructions on how to handle or avoid additional dangers if the live wires were to come down completely.
  3. Having a virtual assistant embedded within your social media pages (like National Rail Enquiries’ Ask Lisa on Facebook), can alleviate social media agents to focus on a higher tier of escalated chat, while the virtual assistant could answer questions like, “When will the power be restored in my area?” Based on location, the virtual assistant could provide the ETA on restoration, all embedded within the social channel. FEMA’s request to move things to social channels could be well-accommodated.
  4. Less essential, but relevant to me now that I have spent the bulk of last week cleaning up, is what do I do with this debris? A virtual assistant could provide information about disposal recommendations, altered trash schedules, etc. specific to my area.

Mobile content delivery is always a challenge, and we often cite customer preference as one of the critical reasons for clients to have a strong mobile customer service strategy.  Hurricane Sandy reinforced for me that proper next generation strategies are truly becoming a necessity.

How to Develop A Customer-First Mobile Customer Service Strategy

By Iain Leckie

Traditionally, tackling mobile has been deemed challenging – requiring numerous resources, customer content and specialised development to build and maintain a dedicated mobile App that can effectively interact with customers. Implementing a mobile channel, in which personalised information must be delivered in real-time, was a daunting task indeed.

mobile customer service 3Today, creating a voice-driven mobile agent that integrates with various other services is no longer an insurmountable feat. In fact, that’s the easy part. The real challenge is managing the potentially huge amounts of information that is made available to these systems and wrapping it up in an efficient and engaging mobile experience.

In our ten years of helping organisations develop and define their CRM strategies, we’ve consistently found that barriers and challenges usually crop up when different business channels in the same organisation have a stake in the same project. This is especially true when it comes to mobile. In fact, typical enterprise web arrangements tend to have the effect of isolating information into little fiefdoms. But, in the new age of customer service, information needs to be universally available and universally created to meet customer needs first, and organisational needs second.

In order to create a great customer experience on mobile devices, you must ask yourself these five questions:

  1. What information will be delivered through a mobile virtual assistant?
  2. What are the main drivers spiking email, live chat and call volume?
  3. What information can satisfy these inquiries without live assistance?
  4. How personalised can you make this information?
  5. Is content suitable for delivery in mobile applications?

By answering these questions, you develop a framework for your mobile implementation that can be shared with other departments to formulate a comprehensive customer-first mobile CRM strategy. In doing so, the company will gain a greater awareness of the big picture of its information, and work together to resolve customer inquiries while driving loyalty.

Creative Virtual Adds Valuable Insight to Successful Roundtable for KMWorld Magazine

by Richard Simons, CEO of Creative Virtual USA

On October 23, 2012, I participated in KMWorld’s roundtable webinar, Creating a Great Customer Experience: People + Process + Technology.  Over 250 attendees registered for the event, and my fellow speakers were Kelly Koelliker, Product Marketing Manager for Kana, and Duane George, Director of Knova Product Management for Aptean.  The roundtable focused on bridging the gap between a company’s corporate knowledgebase, and the intimacy of a customer interaction.  The key methods for doing so, which were covered in the roundtable, are knowledge-centered support and personalizing the customer experience.

All 3 speakers, including myself, discussed knowledge-centered support and how it can be utilized to create a satisfying customer experience.  Some key topics brought up during the event were building a successful multi-channel knowledge management solution that is effective and engaging, the value of customer feedback and delivering audience-specific answers through one central knowledgebase.

My presentation focused on the shift in peoples’ preference for how they would like to receive customer support.  According to Forrester, 65% of consumers now prefer to receive support online.  According to Gartner Research, by the end of 2012, consumers will be willing to perform all customer service functions online themselves.  Yet most companies aren’t ready to make that possible.  Companies must have the ability to replicate a call center online, and in order to do so, they need the right tools.  The tools you use must enable access via different channels, and allow the customer experience to be personalized.  One of these tools is V-Portal™, Creative Virtual’s multi-channel knowledge management platform.

If you missed the event, click here to watch the presentation on-demand.

Why Mobile Customer Service Is No Longer Optional

by Iain Leckie

Driven by recent advances in voice recognition combined with the commercial success of Siri, Apple’s personal assistant, everyone wants to have an agent in the user’s pocket. While providing customer access through mobile devices is the correct strategy, the problem rapidly becomes a case of adapting the traditional web service channels to a mobile scenario.

Deemed too difficult to pursue, many companies mistakenly veer away from a mobile customer service implementation in favour of doing nothing. As a result, mobile customer service fails to become a core part of a comprehensive customer experience strategy.  Before you continue to “do nothing,” consider these facts:

  • By the end of 2012, consumers will be willing to perform all possible customer service functions themselves. (Gartner)
  • By 2014, more smartphones than computers will access the Internet. (Gartner)
  • Customer service agents must have access to the full history of a customer’s prior interactions over all the communication channels – voice, chat, email, and newer social channels like Facebook and Twitter. (Forrester)
mobile customer service 3
 Source: Navigate the Future of Customer Service, 2012

 

In this scenario, organisations which fail to include smartphones, tablets or even game consoles into their overall customer service strategy are missing big opportunities to reach and engage with customers who are not only willing to self-serve, but who are looking for it and demanding it.

With today’s technological advances, mobile execution is no longer a challenge. Tools like those offered by Creative Virtual enable mobile deployment with minimal effort and little maintenance. This allows companies to devise multi-channel strategies that can be wholly inclusive of mobile implementation – not done in spite of them.

We’re All About the Customer 24/7.

Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Our sole business premise is to help our customers deliver excellent service to their customers. Meeting this demand requires us to take on the mindset of a customer who has a question that needs answering or an issue that needs solving and helping our customers deliver such information in a timely, courteous manner. Embracing this perspective is the best way to ensure we can recommend solutions to companies that increase brand loyalty.

It sounds simple, however, even with focus on this goal, true customer service delivery for some has been weak or even overlooked. But can customer service genuinely be experienced in the evolving world of virtual technology? We think so.

v-portal dtree webTo that end, we are rolling out V-Portal™, our multi-channel knowledge management solution for enterprise businesses. Employing V-Portal is similar to adding an insurance policy to your company’s customer service strategy; a guarantee for customers to get the ‘round the clock, personal attention they deserve, from a variety of contact points. Having the ability to flawlessly deliver company and customer specific information using intelligent virtual assistant technology across the call centre, web, mobile, Twitter or Facebook with a few clicks is critical for maintaining customer loyalty in our always on, connected world.

We have helped companies from retail to communications create efficiencies and maintain high customer satisfaction with our technology. Soon a premier online financial services company, who has already gained over an 80% call deflection rate, plans to widen its competitive edge by employing V-Portal to create cross-company content transparency, and a reporting mechanism that analyses customer behaviour. And because ours is the best solution available today, the company will also realise lower costs and increased revenue.

Lessons are often hard learned, but given the competitive landscape of today’s business world, companies cannot afford to sacrifice their own customers’ experience with its brand. We must remember that the goal is to engage the customer, not send them to a competitor.

Click here for more V-Portal information.

Mobile Geo-Location: Is it Creepy or Convenient?

by Richard Simons, CEO of Creative Virtual USA

One of the great advantages the mobile channel has over web is its ability to deliver location-based services to consumers with the use of GPS smartphone features. But while marketers may see geo-location as a convenient and contextual way to understand and leverage customer habits and behavior, some customers see it as an invasion of privacy begging the question, is geo-location convenient and helpful, or creepy and invasive?

geolocation mobile phoneBusinesses are already beginning to take advantage of features like personalized offers based on the customer’s location. After all, geo-marketing is essentially the genius behind Foursquare. But consider Google’s Google Now technology, a mobile virtual assistant that one-ups Apple’s Siri by offering automatic recommendations to the user based on their location, without the need for the user to even ask. See Tim Simonite’s full review in his post, Google’s Answer to Siri Thinks Ahead, but essentially, Google Now actively curates information from your mobile activity — searches, emails and the like — and feeds you information that it *thinks* you’ll be interested in. Remember Tom Cruise in Minority Report? Based on an eye scan, retailers could present ads and options that were based on your past purchasing behavior.  But that same access had a downside for Cruise’s character when he needed a certain level of anonymity.

Admittedly, geo-location is proving to be a game changer, but when employing it as a strategy, ask yourself — in the effort to get to know as much as possible about your customer, are you adding value or are you crossing a line in trying to achieve promotional offer heaven that only benefits your bottom line?

What is the State of Your Mobile CRM Strategy?

by Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

There is little doubt that the mobile revolution has changed consumer expectations. According to a recent study by Clickfox on mobile customer service, over 78% of consumers use mobile apps for customer service purposes such as billing, account status/updates and interactive chat. And the estimated 8 billion handheld devices in use over the next few years is nothing short of a clarion call for financial services, telecommunications, and other companies to stake their mobile CRM claim. That means that to stay on top, enterprises need to provideverizonmobile 2 clear background resized personalisation, accessibility, and superior service both on and offline to create a meaningful and cohesive customer experience.

But while tablets and smartphones present innumerable opportunities, companies need to deliver the right technology without risking customer loyalty or the bottom line. To help in that endeavour, today we announced V-Person Mobile™, a new solution for enterprises who want to provide world class mobile customer service without incurring the enormous costs usually associated with its development and maintenance.

Our latest mobile virtual assistant technology extends our current natural conversation and knowledge management suite to mobile devices, enabling large enterprise customers to easily deploy on-demand mobile customer service in less than three months without being cost prohibitive. Powered by our V-Person™ technology, customers can engage with your business using virtual assistants who speak in natural language, just like Apple’s Siri, but with access to a deeper level of knowledge specific to your organisation. In creating V-Person Mobile, we’ve essentially brought small business agility to the enterprise class. We believe that technology investments should amplify great service not make up for it, and the goal of implementations should be to meet customer needs and create efficiencies.

Our clients have learned from their customers that providing stellar self-directed customer service means meeting the consumer where they are. That is why we have made it our business to enhance the consumer experiences so our customers can reduce email and call centre volume while increasing customer engagement.  When thinking about your customer service strategy, consider that extending your contact centre to mobile devices can not only boost engagement, but save you valuable time and money by yielding faster response times, and reducing customer support costs, especially through the use of virtual assistants who can augment your teams and provide sophisticated levels of support. When seeking a mobile customer service solution, look for one that compliments your mobile goals yet supports your entire CRM strategy throughout the customer lifecycle.

To see how V-Person Mobile works, request a demo.