Excellent Customer Service: What’s the secret to achieving success now and in the future?

By Susan Ott, Customer Success Manager, USA

Often, customer service can be a challenging world. Solving problems, providing information, making sure things run smoothly…it’s not always easy.

When I take a moment and think about companies that emanate unmatched customer service, I see an atmosphere in which employees and management alike are engaged on the front lines with their customers. Pride in the company you work for should always be at the forefront of every interaction. That emotion of pride instills a sense of teamwork and customers can feel it!

Companies who employ individuals who go above and beyond will always win me over. Most often it’s those little “extra” moments that customers remember and foster a sense of loyalty to your brand. Delivering a personalized and effortless customer experience is really what it’s all about.

As we find ourselves in this age of internet-driven, 24- hour news cycles, we see a world full of ever changing landscapes. Customer touch points are rapidly expanding, and we see companies asking: How can we keep up and stay relevant?

Fortunately, new technologies are out there opening pathways for us to build a dialogue with our customers. We are already seeing that chatbots will have a major impact on the world of customer service over the next several years. Digital interactions will help employees complete tasks both great and small. Features that make our conversations seem natural and super convenient are constantly being improved upon.

The bottom line with regards to the future of customer service? Focus on creating a seamless experience BEFORE, DURING and AFTER a customer interaction. That is what customers want and if a chatbot can help with the process, we shouldn’t be opposed!

Contact us to hear more about how we can help with AI experts and solutions.

Postcard From Las Vegas: Happy Customer Service Week!

By Claudia Ramos, Senior Customer Success Manager, USA

When I got news that I’d be relocating with my family to Las Vegas, NV, I was thrilled with the possibility of finally breaking out of the Contact Center world and embarking on my new dream. I envisioned my big entrance in the Hotel Bizz. Dreams aside, I had to provide for my family. The reality of a crashing economy shattered my dream of working in a new exciting field. I knew that I had become great at something I did not like so much anymore. So, I accepted a Contact Center Manager job that paid 50% less than what I was making previously. Looking back, at least I had the view of the Las Vegas Strip and the occasional fun background check to review and decline for hire…

However, what was it that changed my love and passion for working at a Contact Center?  It was never the clients, the calls or coaching sessions, and certainly not the amazing Potlucks. First, I was fed up with the fast-pace of hiring demands. Second, was how quickly we had to teach the agents to follow quality guidelines and memorize all the products offered. At one point, I remember being the only manager on the floor with 45 New Hire agents and every other agent was asking the same question. If you do not know the feeling, it is equivalent to hiking Red Rock Canyon without shoes (it’s a long story)! I would go on to interview, hire, train, coach and motivate agents for the next few years. Each day, reminding myself that all this experience would come in handy one day. At the very least, I was able to fit into some old Levi’s from my early 20’s due to all the walking around answering questions!

I have a new spring in my step these days! In 2016, I took the challenge from my mentor to join a team of Artificial Intelligence experts. Without a doubt, my first thoughts were, “Bots are here to take our jobs”, “Bots are not conversational”, etc. Do you want to know what made things interesting? The VP told me, “These are some of the best conversations you are going to read” (insert LOL emoji). Fine, I would like to read these myself! As I started reading through conversations, they felt more like a face-to-face conversation with a person than talking to a robot. I was noticing that the chatbot was handling more concurrent chats. All the while helping resolve the customers’ questions. The chatbot was apparently alleviating issues at all levels, resulting in a reduction in phone escalations. The additional development was that the chatbot could assist agents with listening and providing accurate responses to customers. My initial reaction was jealousy. I wished this technology had been available to me during all those years of on-the-job training for New Hires and walking the sales floor!

The hustle of my Vegas Contact Center days was not in vain. I feel good being able to contribute to a fast-paced world that needs happier, more satisfied agents and customers! Chatbots are created by people who are passionate about helping others. Individuals who understand the importance of clients receiving speedy and accurate resolutions and carefully curating answers that maintain a conversational element.

Big shout out to all the New Hires out there. Y’all are too much sometimes, and that is okay because I love you. Thank you for all you do!

Reach out to learn more about our AI experts and solutions.

Time Back To Do The Important Things

By Christina Wilson, Head of Customer Success, USA

As a busy, working mom of three daughters, I am always challenged to find more time. Time for dinner, kid’s activities, bill paying, going to the gym, excelling at work, you get the picture. I am equally challenged to make certain I am focusing on the important things. It is an exhausting, emotional and rewarding journey!

I am very passionate about finding ways to steal back time in my day to keep the main thing the main thing. I think that is why I find my job so rewarding. I spend my days helping clients build Customer Service strategies that give people their time back, allowing them to go to their son’s soccer game or watch their 3rd grade daughter’s Fall play instead of spending their evening on hold for hours with a Customer Service representative.

Artificial Intelligence or AI has reached new levels in the last 5-10 years and has become easy to access, intelligent and conversational. What used to require a long, drawn out phone or chat conversation with a live agent, now can be accomplished in a 2-5-minute personalized conversation with a chatbot. Smart chatbots can allow customers to pay a bill, book a flight or file an insurance claim in just fractions of the time it took before while achieving the goal of giving each customer time back in their day to focus on the important things. I can’t wait to see how AI really grows in the next five years! How smart and efficient can AI become?

If you are interested in giving your customers a better experience and giving them time back in their day, reach out to learn more about our AI experts and solutions.

#CXDay: Listening to Voice of Employee to Drive Better Customer Experiences

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Happy CX Day! Today marks the annual global celebration of the companies and professionals that create great experiences for their customers. The impact customer experience has on building and retaining your customer base can’t be ignored, especially in today’s world of digitally-savvy, technology-empowered consumers.

Developing and implementing Voice of Customer (VoC) initiatives has helped many organisations improve their customer experience over the years by capturing valuable feedback and actionable insights. More recently though, smart companies are coming to realise that Voice of Employee (VoE) can also have a powerful impact on their customer experience strategy. In fact, Gartner predicts:

“By 2022, 35% of organisations with more than 5,000 employees will augment their annual employee engagement surveys with pulse, indirect and inferred feedback to build a more complete view of the employee experience.”

Organisations are struggling to respond to the rapid pace of both external and internal changes and the ways these changes are affecting their employees. This includes tackling constantly evolving customer experience needs. While it seems like a no-brainer to get input from customers to drive CX decisions, organisations can’t afford to overlook the importance of employee feedback as well. Employees play a key role in the overall experience consumers have with your company and brand. They can provide valuable insights into their interactions with customers as well as internal tools and processes.

While implementing a robust VoE initiative isn’t something that will happen overnight, a great place to start when it comes to customer experience is getting feedback from contact centre agents. Organisations are putting a great deal of focus and energy into digital transformation programmes in order to improve CX, and contact centres should be instrumental in driving that progress. Your agents are the ones providing support to customers – whether that be by phone, email, live chat or social channels – and the ones who deal with internal tools and processes day in and day out. They know what customers are repeatedly identifying as pain points and what their own pain points are when trying to deliver a quality support experience.

One way to empower contact centre agents to share their voice is to set up a feedback loop that allows them to provide real-time suggestions and comments on content. Agents can then easily flag information that is inaccurate or out-of-date and identify content that is incomplete or simply not helpful when they are engaging with customers. They can also submit comments that can help identify or explain issues with other parts of your customer experience. For example, if agents are repeatedly answering the same question over and over they can help pinpoint the issue based on their interactions with customers. Perhaps customers can’t find the information they need on the website or a feature in the mobile app isn’t working as intended – agents can share this valuable insight quickly so the appropriate steps can be actioned to correct and improve the customer experience. Agent feedback can also be used to enhance the employee experience for your agents, which in turn creates happier, more engaged agents providing better support for your customers.

You can learn more about implementing an industry-defining feedback loop in this recent Innovation Showcase webinar. Listening to the voices of your employees can go a long way in taking your CX from good to great.

Nobody Puts the Customer in the Corner

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Happy Customer Service Week! Each year the first full week of October brings the week-long international celebration of the importance of customer service and the people who operate by the motto ‘Nobody puts the customer in the corner’ by providing great customer service every day of the year. From those who provide face-to-face service to those working in contact centres to those responsible for supporting self-service channels, delivering quality customer service is a team effort, and we salute you all.

As we shine the spotlight on customer service professionals this week, let’s take a look back at some of the trends, tips and statistics we’ve shared on customer support and the contact centre over the past year with our annual blog post roundup:

  • The Future of the Contact Centre – Technology is altering the way customers engage with brands and increasing their demands for instant 24/7 customer service. The traditional model for call centres and contact centres is no longer providing the experience customers have begun to demand. As organisations look to meet the expectations of digitally-savvy customers, changes in the contact centre and the job descriptions of customer service agents are going to be key to digital transitions.
  • Live Chat vs. Virtual Agents: A Story of Overcoming the Divide to Work Together in Perfect Harmony – In the not too distant past it wasn’t uncommon to come across organisations struggling to decide between live chat or a virtual agent on their website for customer support. However, now the either-or debate is changing into a discussion of how to bring these two technologies together to work in perfect harmony. Organisations that continue to view them as stand-alone tools instead of complementary solutions are going to struggle to provide quality digital support experiences for their customers.
  • CX in 2017: A Tale of Empowered Customers, AI and Self-Service – According to Forrester, companies are under attack from their customers with technology-empowered customers deciding the winners and losers. The analysts at Gartner have also been following these technology-driven changes in customer preferences and predict that by 2020 the use of virtual customer assistants (also called virtual agents or chatbots) for providing better customer service will increase by 1,000%. Knowing you need to offer digital self-service and successfully implementing these tools as part of your overall customer service plan are two very different things, though. The best way to start is by educating yourself about digital engagement solutions and customer expectations.
  • Conversational Commerce for Demanding APAC Customers – The Asia Pacific region had been seeing the change to self-service happening separately from the contact centre which then created new challenges for companies. Now contact centre professionals are coming to understand that virtual agents and chatbots can work together with contact centre agents and are seeing the benefits of including these conversational systems as part of their overall customer service plans.
  • Is the Contact Centre Part of Your Digital Transformation Programme? – Every organisation is in the midst of digital transformation programmes and the contact centre needs to be a key part of that, although that’s not always the case today. In the future, the contact centre will be the centre of excellence for the knowledge used across customer support channels and organisations need to put the necessary tools in place to facilitate that change.
  • Infographic: Are Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence Threats to Your Contact Centre? – Some academics and experts are warning about the dangers of AI, predicting everything from a huge loss of jobs to the end of the human race. At the same time, industry analysts are predicting significant increases in chatbots and virtual agents in the customer service space. This infographic gives a realistic overview of the impact of AI, chatbots and virtual agents are having on the contact centre.

 

Celebrating Innovation, the Queen and the Dedication of a Global Team

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Oh what a night! Last week Creative Virtual hosted a celebration of our Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017 with an amazing group of people representing 14 different nationalities coming together in London for the festivities. It was another proud moment for the company and me personally, and an evening that will long live as one of the best in Creative Virtual’s history.

As a lifelong West Ham supporter, I knew the evening was destined to be a success when we turned up at the venue to setup and saw Trevor Sinclair and Joe Hart there filming for Football Focus! Unfortunately, they couldn’t stay for our celebration, but it was a sign of more good things to come. And it made for a great story to share at the event with so many of my fellow West Ham supporters in attendance. COYI!

West Ham      Trevor Sinclair

It was an honour to have Mr Leslie Morgan OBE DL, Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London attend to officially present our award on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. As he spoke about how difficult it is to win this award, I was reminded again of what an incredible and humbling experience this truly is for our organisation. Creative Virtual is one of only four companies in London recognised for innovation by the Queen in 2017, and this is a testament to the innovation we deliver to our customers every day. I was proud to accept the Grant of Appointment on behalf of our dedicated team around the world and know our CTO Peter felt the same as he accepted the crystal bowl.

The Queen's Awards for Enterprise     The Queen's Awards for Enterprise

We were also thrilled to have Jim Fitzpatrick, our local Member of Parliament (MP) for Poplar and Limehouse, in attendance. This was his first Queen’s Awards for Enterprise presentation in his 20 years of representing East London, and he spoke about the ‘singular success’ of Creative Virtual, recruiting local people and making our mark internationally. It made me proud once again to be an East End success story!

Jim Fitzpatrick     Jim Fitzpatrick

Of course, I also took a turn to speak – it’s no secret I love talking! – and used the opportunity to share some stories from Creative Virtual’s history and express my thanks to all those who contributed over the years to the success we are achieving today. I couldn’t be more proud to be leading this company, a brilliant mix of quirky people, and I echoed Peter’s words that this award is about the whole team. We raised our glasses to all those who weren’t present to celebrate with us that night. It was a thrill for me to look out over the crowd and see such a mix of people sharing in the excitement of the celebration – Creative Virtual team members from around the world, my family and friends, some of our customers and partners, and a variety of others who played a part in my company’s story.

The amount of goodwill we’ve received since winning this award has been amazing. There were so many wonderful messages when our win was first announced on Her Majesty’s birthday, and even more after our award ceremony and celebration last week. I’d like to share just a few of them here:

Thanks very much for inviting me, it was a great night out which I really, really enjoyed.  I was really impressed with the culture and spirit that you guys have managed to create within your company.”

“It was a real pleasure to be in attendance. What an incredible journey you have been on and have in front of you. The team is great and was nice to put faces to names I have seen over the last year.”

“Thanks for the invite Chris. Fantastic to see a partner being awarded and recognised for success. Great to meet some fellow Hammers fans as well.”

“I know you have worked very hard to create and build what Creative Virtual is today. No big effort goes unrewarded. This award is a true recognition to your effort, and the effort of everyone in the Creative Virtual team.”

“Thank you so much again for a lovely evening. I’m very grateful to have been a part of such a special occasion for Creative Virtual. I have to say that as work dos go, that was one of the nicest I’ve ever been to. Really lovely people, it’s clear from everyone I spoke to and the speeches given that you have a great company full of talented, proud people.”

My thanks to everyone who helped us celebrate our award that night, both in person and virtually. From walking the red carpet to officially receiving the award to dancing into the wee hours of the morning, it was a fantastic celebration! Special thanks to Leslie and Jim for taking the time out of their busy schedules to help make our evening so special. Thanks also to the staff at 28 West for keeping things running smoothly and to Quantum Class for the great live music.

Check out more photos from our awards ceremony and celebration on the Creative Virtual Facebook page.

28 West     Quantum Class

Cutting Through the AI Hype

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

Last year when I attended the Social Robotics & AI conference I had the pleasure of speaking with Professor Noel Sharkey which brought back memories of being a contestant on Robot Wars. This month I attended the event, now called AI & Robotics THE MAIN EVENT, for a second year and again got to hear Professor Sharkey speak. This time I started reminiscing about my appearance on Techno Games where he was also a judge. I was also very aware that the robot my team entered into that competition back in 2002 seemed like a child’s school project when compared with the robots at this event!

This year’s AI & Robotics conference was held in London and aimed to investigate emerging technologies and their real world impacts on business and work. It cut through all the hype to focus on the reality of AI and automated technology in the corporate world. The event agenda featured a variety of academic and industry speakers sharing their expertise, including our Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel.

chatbots and your customersIn his presentation, Chatbots & Your Customers: A Realistic Look at Using AI & Machine Learning, Chris drew from his extensive experience working with companies around the world to give insights into the world of enterprise chatbots. He explored the current realities of machine learning and AI and the role they should play in the customer experience space. Customer service chatbots need to use a combination of machine learning and human curation of content in order for companies to ensure a predictable, reliable and accurate customer experience.

In addition to watching the live demonstrations Chris gave during his presentation, many attendees also stopped by our stand during the ‘AI in Action’ sessions to see more examples of chatbots and virtual agents we currently have deployed for our customers. While speaking with them, it became clear that many of them were actively looking to add this technology to their customer support strategies. Some mentioned that they had been looking into these types of tools for a couple of years and were now very aware that the time is right to push the project forward or risk missing the boat. These sentiments didn’t seem to be specific to any one industry either. I heard the same thing being echoed across the board.

In my opinion, this year’s event was just as good as last year, if not better – from the list of speakers to the lunchtime spread! Our thanks to the event organisers for inviting Creative Virtual to sponsor the event again.

Please take a look at our Products page to learn more about Creative Virtual’s suite of Smart Help solutions and then request a personalised demo to see how chatbots can help you build relationships with your customers.

I’m sure you’re itching to see my appearance on Techno Games, so check out the video below starting at about the 11-minute mark.

Is the Contact Centre Part of Your Digital Transformation Programme?

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

I say this every year, but the Technology Innovation Showcase webinar Creative Virtual does with CRMXchange is one of my favourite webinars to present. This was the fifth year running that we’ve participated in the webcast series, and it was our most popular one yet with a record-breaking number of registrations. I love this webinar because it gives me a chance to share more live demonstrations than slides, and I know the best way to understand how our technology works and what it can do for customers and organisations is to see it in action.

For this year’s Showcase, I focused on the theme of ‘Chatbots, Virtual Agents and Your Contact Centre’. There’s so much buzz and hype, as well as unrealistic expectations and disappointments, around artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots that it can be difficult to know how best to deliver, implement and support these types of solutions. My goal during the webinar was to showcase best practices in deploying chatbots in conjunction with human assistance for customer support and sales. I selected my demonstrations specifically to show how the virtual and real can work in perfect harmony to meet business objectives.

A few key takeaways from my presentation:

  • Artificial intelligence on its own is not the answer for customer support. Companies like Microsoft and IBM have been responsible for setting false expectations in regards to how AI can be deployed for customer service. Chatbots and virtual agents should blend human curation of content with machine learning. This hybrid approach enables the system to continually improve while also allowing control over the reliability of responses.
  • Every organisation is in the midst of digital transformation programmes and the contact centre needs to be a key part of that, although that’s not always the case today. In the future, the contact centre will be the centre of excellence for the knowledge used across customer support channels and organisations need to put the necessary tools in place to facilitate that change. By including the contact centre as part of this transformation instead of allowing it to become a siloed and outdated entity, it benefits from lower costs, reduced staff turnover and more engaged, skilled and happier agents.
  • Customers are starting to specifically demand chatbots for digital self-service, with research showing that many would choose to interact with a chatbot before a human to get instant answers. To meet the demands of customers, organisations need more than just chatbots and virtual agents that are available 24/7 though. Over the past several years providing an effortless way to interact with your company has become more and more important. Instead of offering a wide range of support options for customers to choose from, you need to offer one place for customers to ask a question and for that system to be the intent matcher. Then, once you understand the intent, immediately provide the most appropriate method for assistance. You also need to provide a seamless experience that’s available on any device, can easily switch between languages and provides personalised responses.

I invite you to watch the recording of the webinar on-demand to understand more about these three points and to see the live demonstrations of chatbots, virtual agents and live chat solutions that are currently being used by some of our customers around the world.

My thanks to Sheri Greenhaus and CRMXchange for organising and hosting another successful Technology Innovation Showcase for us. I’m already looking forward to presenting again next year.

AI in the Corporate World Today

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has long been the stuff of science fiction, often portrayed as becoming evil and turning against its human creators – from robots rising up to destroy humanity to supercomputers trying to take over human minds. In recent years, however, AI has moved from something seen as a far-off dream of the future to an actual reality in households and workplaces around the world. AI is powering the voice assistants on our phones and in our homes, the self-driving cars appearing on our streets and the chatbots that are popping up on messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and WeChat.

AI & Robotics THE MAIN EVENT, being held on 14 September in London, will focus on the reality of AI and automated technology in the corporate world today. The conference will cut through the hype and highlight the tangible actions and results of AI and robotics in the business world, including the impact these technologies are having on performance, profitability and workforce efficiency.

Creative Virtual is a Gold Sponsor of this year’s event and will showcase their V-Person™ virtual agents and chatbots as part of the conference’s ‘AI in Action’ sessions. Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel will also speak as part of Session 1, ‘Almost Human – How Chatbots Transform Customer Experience and Corporate Life’ starting at 14:30. Drawing on his extensive experience working with organisations around the globe, Chris will explain the realities of AI and machine learning in the world of enterprise chatbots. He’ll also explore the role these technologies will have in the future of customer engagement.

“When it comes to AI, chatbots and virtual agents,” says Chris “Enterprises need to make decisions based on realistic expectations but shouldn’t shy away from incorporating this technology into their customer support strategy.”

We hope you’ll join us at the Victoria Park Plaza on 14 September for a day of interactive discussions, networking and AI in action. A full copy of the AI & Robotics conference programme, as well as ticket information, can be found on the event website.

Can’t attend but interested in learning more and seeing real enterprise chatbots in action? We’d love to schedule a personalised live demo at a time that works for you.

A Buzz About Chatbots at G-Summit Melbourne

By Patrick Gallagher, Managing Director ANZ & North Asia

There was a definite buzz at this year’s G-Summit Melbourne, hosted by Genesys earlier this month, around the event theme: Together – Together, we can deliver iconic customer experiences by powering digital business with a human touch. The event was busy this year with a very strong turnout and plenty of interest in chatbots.

I had the pleasure of being on-hand in the AppFoundry Hub to represent Creative Virtual, an event sponsor and founding member of the Genesys AppFoundry, and show our chatbot and virtual agent solutions in action. V-Person™ technology enables organisations to provide customers with smart online help and is designed to be integrated with the Genesys platform to provide a seamless experience.

G-Summit MelbourneThe theme of this year’s event really resonated with us at Creative Virtual. Our mission is to help organisations provide seamless, end-to-end customer engagement by combining the digital channels with a human touch. Based on a set of customisable rules and triggers, our self-service virtual agents can seamlessly escalate users from virtual to real agent, with a complete history of their conversation being passed to the live agent. Live agents can pick up the conversation where the virtual agent left off without the customer needing to repeat the question or issue.

We also know that ‘pure’ AI solutions being promoted in the marketplace as virtual agents are not ready to be deployed for a support and service experience for customers. Virtual agents should employ self-learning capabilities, and deliver benefits from this, but in a way that gives companies control over the reliability of the responses. Our virtual agents and chatbots use a combination self-learning and human input to provide consistent and reliable information to customers and allow organisations to be absolutely sure that their solution is responding to users in a predictable way.

My thanks to Genesys for hosting another great G-Summit event and to everyone who visited us in the AppFoundry Hub to see our solutions in action. It was a pleasure to be a part of the event buzz and catch up with many friends from Genesys and Interactive Intelligence – now all one family!

Want to learn more? Request your own personalised chatbot demo to see our solutions in action.