How Intelligent Virtual Assistants Can Transform the Social Channel

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager

Intelligent virtual assistants have brought customer service a long way from the days of the switchboard operator in the 1960s. Back then who could have guessed that one day a virtual person could play the same role answering thousands of questions in what would equate to light years for a human being. And now, with social networks becoming a mainstay of communication, virtual agents are working their way into the fabric of social conversation.

When used in the social channel intelligent virtual agents can do wonders. They are valuable from both the customer and company perspective. Not only can they hold conversations using natural language that is similar to a live person, they can host thousands of conversations all at once. Human capital is expensive when maintaining the social channel so leveraging different levels of automation can help companies better focus their resources on higher value interactions with their fans and followers.

With the ability to use natural language instead of key word searches virtual assistants enable organisations to provide low cost access to both general and personalised information while empowering customers to service themselves on-demand. To see some virtual agents in action on Facebook and Twitter, check how these clients are doing it below:

Ask Lisa on Facebook

Ask TSB on Twitter

Ask Verizon on Facebook

How Virtual Agent ‘Ask Lisa’ Transformed National Rail Enquiries’ Customer Service Channels

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

On 7th March I was joined by Kathryn Daniels of National Rail Enquiries and Maria Ward of Virtual Zone Ltd to host a webinar showcasing National Rail Enquiries’ NRE Webinar Title SlideBvirtual agent Ask Lisa. First launched in 2007 through collaboration with our partners The Virtual Zone, Ask Lisa is now used by NRE across multiple channels to provide information on traveling by rail in the UK quickly and easily to rail customers. During the webinar Kathryn gave a live demonstration of some of the features and functionality of Ask Lisa on the NRE website and Facebook pages. She also provided insight into the benefits NRE has seen since first implementing a virtual agent and how the organisation plans to extend this positive impact through additional features and integrations.

I followed Kathryn’s demonstration with a live look at our integration with Live Chat from LivePerson for O2’s V-Person™ implementation Ask Lucy as well as Ask Verizon’s integration with their logged in area which provides customers with account-specific information. I wrapped up the presentation portion of the webinar with a brief explanation of our multi-channel knowledge management tool, V-Portal™, and the powerful reporting functionality it provides. Kathryn, Maria and I then fielded some questions submitted by webinar attendees.

The recording of this case study webinar, How National Rail Enquiries Uses Virtual Agents for Multi-Channel Customer Support, is now available for viewing. After you watch the video, I encourage you to contact us for your own live demo so a member of our team can address your organisation’s specific customer experience goals.

A huge thank you to NRE and The Virtual Zone, specifically Kathryn and Maria, for their time and assistance in making this webinar a success!

Free Webinar: How National Rail Enquiries Uses Virtual Agents for Multi-Channel Customer Support

by Mandy Reed, Global Marketing Manager

Ask Lisa v2On the day that Apple revealed Siri, there was an excited buzz in the Creative Virtual offices not only because there was a cool, new iPhone to be had, but also because of the attention that was being brought to virtual agent technology. For years before Siri became a household name (and had a relationship with Raj on The Big  Bang Theory), we’ve been developing and implementing natural language virtual agents that give users the sensation of communicating with a ‘real’ person.  Since 2007, National Rail Enquiries (NRE) has utilised Ask Lisa, a V-Person™ by Creative Virtual and our partners The Virtual Zone, to successfully provide customer support across multiple channels.

Join us on 7th March for a free webinar to learn more about how NRE, the definitive source of rail information in Great Britain, is using virtual agent technology to communicate information about traveling by rail to customers through the UK and abroad from Kathryn Daniels, Information Development Manager. Kathryn will provide live demonstrations of Ask Lisa’s functionality, including the integration with NRE’s Facebook page. Also on hand will be Maria Ward, Head of Web Services at Virtual Zone Ltd, the lead developer for Ask Lisa since its introduction in 2007.

Kathryn and Maria will be joined during the webinar by Creative Virtual’s Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel. Chris will provide a closer look at additional V-Person integrations and functionality as well V-Portal™, our multi-channel knowledge management tool. You’ll get a glimpse into the technology behind the creation of a virtual agent and hear how to implement one of your own to enhance customer experience, build brand loyalty and reduce customer support costs.

Register now and join Kathryn, Maria and Chris on 7th March for this informative webinar and interactive Q&A session! Plus get a copy of the Patricia Seybold Group analyst report on Creative Virtual just for attending.

Socialise Your Brand into Your Customer’s Lifestyle

by Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Social networking has become a lifestyle for many consumers and for companies at the forefront of customer experience it has become another opportunity to increase consumer-to-brand interaction and secure loyalty. But the truth is only about 40% of companies today have really made the commitment to bring customers together on social platforms, leaving the others to rely on the call centre as their only public face.

Our latest solution, V-Person Social Media™ is a call to action for enterprises looking to improve customer retention and a demonstration of our own commitment to evolve our suite of self-directed customer service solutions. The social media tool combines the interactive influence of social networking and virtual assistant technology to maximise customer engagement with customer-specific branding, natural language and real-time metrics.

And the success of the solution literally speaks for itself. Our customer National Rail Enquiries, through our partner Virtual Zone, has implemented their ‘Ask Lisa’ application across multiple channels, including integration with their Facebook page, where the virtual assistant has answered over 43,000 questions in less than a year. Verizon has also incorporated V-Person Social Media into its Facebook page to answer questions about its FIOS TV and has even incorporated answers from the community into its virtual assistant. And Park, a retail company, is also reaping similar results with ‘Ask Wanda’ on Facebook.

Putting cross-market companies within social media interaction points is critical for the success of today’s branding strategy. Having an intelligent virtual assistant available to answer questions on your company’s social media networks encourages people to engage with your company and use social media as an avenue for support.  The customer experience is taken to a whole different level when people can expect an immediate response from their social network of choice. It also gives more customer insight into opinions and concerns, while increasing responsiveness in a way that is good for business.

To see V-Person Social Media in action, check out LisaWanda and Verizon on their respective Facebook pages. If you’d like a demo of the platform, request one here.

 nre facebook blog

 

National Rail Enquiries Launches Virtual Agent “Ask Lisa” on Facebook

by Jessica Cody, Marketing Manager

Creative Virtual and their partner The Virtual Zone have enhanced social media Virtual Agent technology with the launch of National Rail Enquiries’ Ask Lisa on the company’s Facebook page.  Instead of simply having the website Virtual Agent accessible from Facebook, Ask Lisa has been integrated into the Facebook page as an app.  This allows the user experience to remain in one location, so there is no need to leave Facebook or open another window.

nre facebook lisa1

This advancement in Virtual Agent technology shows how the Virtual Agent can be placed in a number of locations and presented in different layouts.  Facebook Virtual Agents such as these are easy to implement, since the knowledgebase from the website Virtual Agent is re-used in a new context.

While having a conversation with the Virtual Agent, the user is able to “like” the Virtual Agent answers, which are then displayed on their Facebook wall.  This serves as an excellent method of viral marketing for companies like National Rail Enquiries, since Facebook users are able to see the interactions others had with the Virtual Agent.   If someone clicks on an answer, they are taken directly to the Virtual Agent Facebook interface.

From an analytics perspective, having a Virtual Agent within Facebook is very beneficial to the company as well.  The Virtual Agent is able to gather profile data about the users with which it has conversations, and this gives the company a more complete picture of their customer than they get from website Virtual Agent analytics, such as the user’s interests, age, job, etc.

Click here to chat with Facebook Lisa about the National Rail network in Great Britain (she is located just under the cover photo on the company’s Facebook page).  To find out more about Virtual Agent innovations, visit Creative Virtual and The Virtual Zone.

Incorporating Social CRM Into Virtual Agent Technology

by Jessica Cody, Marketing Manager

Maximizing your company’s social media presence and delivering an excellent customer experience go hand in hand. When deciding whether to go with a certain product or company, individuals are much more likely to listen to the opinion of a fellow customer than to a company advertisement. For this reason, it makes sense to combine social media with a company’s customer relationship management system.

Social media is a simple, yet cost-effective, way for customers to engage with your brand, and to listen to what people are saying about your company and/or product. Social media presence can come not only from social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, but also online product reviews and a company’s online community, which can be a very useful resource for support.

Creative Virtual and Lithium Community Software have partnered to provide an advancedask tina intuit strategy for combining Virtual Agent technology with online customer communities for clients such as Intuit and Verizon. When a customer asks a question, Intuit’s Ask Tina is able to respond with not only knowledgebase answers, but answers provided from Intuit’s online community, along with links back to the community where many customers engage. Go to Quickbooks Canada and click “Chat with Tina Now” under “Ask Intuit” along the right side; inquire about “Working with your upgraded company file in Quickbooks 2010”, and the Intuit Community page is offered as a clickable link option in the bottom right corner of the pop-up. Incorporating community discussion into the Virtual Agent experience reduces customer service costs because many problems can be easily solved peer-to-peer, saving a call to the call center.

Verizon’s online community also serves as a keen resource for the company’s Virtual Agent, Ask Verizon. Launch the Virtual Agent, select the FiOS TV tab and ask “Why won’t my Media Manager function properly?” The Virtual Agent answers with a notification that a peer-to-peer forum answer has been found for that question, with a link to the forum post. Click on the link and a screen pops up with several helpful questions and answers from other users on the topic.

Content promoted from the community drives down the cost of knowledge creation, and helps keep current information available to customers. Any product issues that multiple customers have posted about are identified by Creative Virtual’s system and used to update the knowledgebase with current information that will assist users experiencing that issue. This allows them to stay on top of any pressing support needs, and integrate community conversations into everyday customer support.

From a sales perspective, this integration is also effective because community entries can influence customers to purchase a particular product, or present new, innovative ideas to the company. Whether you realize it or not, your customers are actually advertising for you. Why not take advantage of it?

Twitter is another great tool for listening to what your customers think about your company and/or product.The Virtual Zone has created an excellent Twitter tool that allows companies to listen to customers’ particular tweets about their company or product, using sentiment analysis (an application of natural language processing). The tweets are sorted by sentiment (positive, negative, question or comment) and subject. Response tweets can be automated or done manually. For more information, visit The Virtual Zone blog.

Below is a video demonstration of Creative Virtual and Lithium’s strategy:

Bringing Web Self Service to Facebook

by Jessica Cody, Marketing Manager

More and more companies are now launching virtual agents on their websites to guide customers to the correct web pages, show them images of products they would like, help them fill out online forms and answer various other questions. Now it is time for the next step in online customer service.  With approximately 500 million users on Facebook (many of whom spend copious amounts of time throughout their day on the site), it makes sense for web self service to take advantage of this platform.

Verizon FiOS has launched their virtual assistant, Ask Verizon, on their Facebook page, so people can ask questions about their FiOS TV, Internet and digital voice directly from Facebook. Creative Virtual launched this V-Person™ integration last month. Verizon have also included their Ask the Community option below the Ask Verizon implementation, so customers can go to one page for answers directly from Verizon as well as from the peer-to-peer forums. Creative Virtual has plans to continue this social media trend with more clients and their own Facebook page.

Companies can greatly benefit from their customers’ interactions with Facebook.  If a company already has a virtual agent on their website, it is very easy to implement that system on their Facebook page. An article featured on Chatbots.org mentions NoHold’s virtual agent integration in ViewSonic’s Facebook page. When you navigate to the page, click the “Support” tab, select the product, type in the question and the answer appears right within the page. Facebook virtual agents often allow the company to gather information from Facebook users’ profiles, giving the company an insight into their customers that is not possible with only a traditional website virtual agent. Since the questions are asked through social media, friends of your customers can see the interaction that took place as well.

Since Facebook is verizon fios facebook with border1so interactive and most companies have Facebook business pages they update on a regular basis (it is free advertising, after all), it makes sense both for customers to ask questions via Facebook, and for companies to get these questions answered through the platform being used by these customers. Instead of having to search around the web for different websites and track down online support, customers that are already signed in to Facebook can conveniently access online customer service in less time and with fewer clicks. The social media aspect also gives them the chance to read other customers’ experiences right on the company page.

Nick Wilson, Managing Director at the Virtual Zone (a Creative Virtual development partner and the market leaders in social media for web self service) makes a good point: “People that interact with you on your Facebook page aren’t just people off the street, they are people you probably know and are connected to, which makes a huge difference.” The Virtual Zone has worked with Creative Virtual to implement their own virtual assistant, Paige, on their Facebook page. Paige is fully integrated, so that users can ask her questions without leaving the Facebook page, and can even “like” her answers and post them to their own wall.  Web self service combined with social media opens up many new possibilities.