The Contact Centre in its Current Form is Finished

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Recently I presented Creative Virtual’s fourth annual Technology Innovation Showcase with CRMXchange. As I mention every year, this is one of my favourite webinars to do because it’s mostly live demonstrations with very few slides. Seeing the technology in action is the best way to understand how your organisation can implement these solutions to improve your customer experience.

This year’s webinar, Combining the Virtual and the Real for Customer Engagement Success, focused mostly on bringing together virtual agents and live chat. I started my presentation with some recent statistics from Forrester showing the growing usage of virtual agents and live chat. They summed up this research by saying:

Customers increasingly leverage self-service and digital channels for customer service because these channels offer the least amount of interaction friction.

The bottom line is that your customers want effortless interactions with your company. There is a generational change taking place, with a new generation of customers who spend more time having text conversations with their friends and loved ones than they do actually talking to them. The last thing in the world they want to do is pick up the phone and speak to your company. Effortless also means brevity. They want to get the answers they need as quickly as possible, so the second to last thing they want to do is get into a lengthy email conversation with your company.

The call centre and contact centre as we know them today are finished. Seamless, personalised smart assistants will increasingly automate everything the current contact centre offers. Smart assistants will learn from how they are being used and adapt as the organisation learns. They won’t be maintained separately, but instead will have feedback loops that help them learn just by the organisation learning in a really seamless way.

We’re already seeing much change in this area but, of course, this won’t happen overnight. There will be a transition to more automation, and combining virtual and real support with a central knowledge management and workflow platform will give you the best way to manage that transition. Gartner is also seeing this trend, and they predict that by 2018, 30% of interactions will be via a smart machine such as virtual agent technology.

The combination of natural language virtual agents with live chat or web chat is an ideal way to give customers the effortless interactions they want. With the right integrations in place, your company can provide a seamless and personalised experience. Using a central knowledgebase and feedback loop that are linked with workflow functionality will allow you to keep information up-to-date and consistent across all self-service and human-assisted support channels.

I invite you to watch the recording of this webinar on-demand to see my demonstrations of intelligent virtual agents, the seamless integration of virtual agents with live chat and the industry-defining feedback loop that empowers live agents to consistently improve the virtual agent just by doing their normal jobs.

If you’d like to learn more, we’d love to schedule a personalised live demo to show you how this technology can help your organisation manage the transition to more automation and provide effortless interactions.

My thanks to Sheri Greenhaus and CRMXchange for organising and hosting another great Technology Innovation Showcase.

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.

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.

Knowledge Management + Virtual Assistants = Award-Winning Contact Centre Solutions

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

In 2015 Motability Operations, a long time Creative Virtual customer, was recognised with the Innovation Award for Sustainable Culture as part of the Customer Contact Innovation Awards presented by The Forum. The judges selected Motability Operations because “their approach to knowledge management builds trust and supports effective conversations, getting it ‘right first time’, optimising call length and – above all – helping advisors give customers confidence.”

This year, The Forum has generously invited Creative Virtual to their annual flagship Customer Strategy and Planning conference, which culminates with the Customer Contact Innovation Awards gala dinner. Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, will present a lunchtime showcase to demonstrate the technology behind Motability Operations’ award-winning approach to knowledge management. His session will focus on the powerful uses of combining intelligent virtual assistants with knowledge management and feature several live demonstrations of current customer implementations. He’ll cover breaking down information and departmental silos to create consistency, keeping content accurate with a feedback loop in line with industry best practices, and building confidence with customers while achieving top customer and employee satisfaction scores.

Creative Virtual’s innovative V-Person Contact Centre™ solutions bring together natural language virtual assistant technology with a powerful knowledge management, workflow management and business intelligence reporting platform (V-Portal™). Motability Operations, and their virtual assistant Ask Mo, is a great success story of how this technology can help contact centres reduce agent training times, keep content accurate and consistent, increase first contact resolution and optimise call length.

The Forum’s Customer Strategy and Planning 2016 will be held 25-26 April in Stratford upon Avon. Chris will present his Knowledge Management Showcase on Day 1 of the conference starting at 13:10. Creative Virtual will also be exhibiting and giving individual demonstrations as part of the Conference Expo on both days of the event. More information and the full agenda can be found on The Forum website.

If you aren’t able to attend the conference but would like to learn how the combination of intelligent virtual assistants and knowledge management can help your contact centre achieve success, please request an individual demo.