A Blog Post Roundup in Celebration of Customer Service Week

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Today marks the beginning of Customer Service Week 2015, a week-long celebration aimed at raising awareness of customer service and the vital role it plays in successful business practice and the growth of the economy. We’ve written many times on this blog about the importance of getting your customer service right as part of your overall customer experience strategy. In honour of Customer Service Week, let’s take a look back at some of the tips, trends and statistics we’ve shared in our previous posts. In no particular order, here’s our roundup:

  • 2015 Customer Service Trend: Effortless Self-Service – A survey by Forrester identified web self-service as the most widely used communication channel for customer service. But with the growing number of mobile internet users around the world, effortless self-service across all devices and channels is a top trend to watch this year.
  • Offering Mobile and Social Support for Increased Customer Engagement – As our lifestyles change as consumers, so do our preferred channels for communicating with companies. Here are three steps for organisations looking to offer mobile and social service that’s in line with the lifestyles of today’s busy, on-the-go customers.
  • Growth Through Customer Service – There’s no substitute for providing high quality customer service, and this post explores how delivering consistent, accurate and positive service experiences has a direct impact on the growth of your company. (As a side note, based on this tweet, it sounds like the truck with the great company strapline quoted in this post belongs to Fastenal.)
  • Motability Operations’ Approach to Knowledge Management Recognised with Innovation Award – Building customers’ trust and confidence in your customer service agents is key for the success of your contact centre. This case study shares how Motability Operations is achieving top-ranking customer and employee satisfaction scores.
  • This Way for Self-Service – Many organisations are striving to increase customer self-service, and virtual agents are a great way to enable customers to find the answers and information they seek. This post outlines four tips to help increase self-service engagement with an online virtual agent.

Our hats go off to everyone involved with providing great customer service and inspiring happy customers, including those involved with developing and maintaining self-service solutions! This week we celebrate the hard work you do all year long. Providing outstanding customer service is full of challenges (as confirmed by the results of our 2015 Global Customer Support Outlook Survey), but without it no organisation can survive in today’s competitive marketplace. Happy Customer Service Week!

Creative Virtual Designated a “Cool Vendor” in Gartner’s 2015 Smart Machines Report

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

On 10 April 2015 Gartner released their Cool Vendors in Smart Machines, 2015 report from analysts Tom Austin, Kenneth F. Brant, Magnus Revang, Earl Perkins and Brian Manusama. In the report, Gartner takes a look at the present and future of smart machine technologies and explores five Cool Vendors in the space, including Creative Virtual.

The vendors selected for the ‘Cool Vendor’ report are described by Gartner as “innovative, impactful and intriguing”, and it is an honour for us at Creative Virtual to be included. We feel this is an important milestone for our company and our technology, as well as a tribute to our dedicated team, customers and partners around the globe.

One of the key findings of the report positions:

“Smart-machine technologies will significantly impact virtually every industry sector over the next five years as systems acquire the ability to observe their environment, train themselves and learn from their mistakes, converse with people and each other, pervade the human environment, deliver novel services 24/7, enhance human cognitive capabilities, replace workers involved in routine tasks, and define the envelope for new digital business processes.”

Based on my experience and professional insight into this area, I agree with this finding and am excited for the future of smart-machine technologies. Creative Virtual has been active as a company in the virtual customer assistant (VCA) space for over eleven years, and during that time we’ve experience tremendous innovation and evolution in regards to both our own customer experience solutions and the industry in general. It’s an honour to be designated as a ‘Cool Vendor’ in a space that is poised to make such an important impact on new digital business processes, including customer support and engagement, over the next few years.

Gartner’s Cool Vendors in Smart Machines, 2015 includes several other key findings, recommendations and predictions as well as an analysis of each of the five ‘Cool Vendors’.



Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in our research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Virtual Agents: Looking at the Development of Self-Service Support

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Over the years the way in which customers and businesses communicate has dramatically changed, bringing new dynamics and expectations to those relationships. Along with the increasing number of engagement channels, has also come a change in organisations’ requirements for customer support software. In Developments in Customer Service Software, 1990s to 2015, Software Advice, takes a look at the developments in market trends and shares five key findings applicable to small and midsize businesses (SMBs) when looking for customer service software.

One key trend in the evolution of customer support is the development of customer self-service from basic FAQ pages in the 1990s to sophisticated solutions, such as virtual agents, being used today. According to a key finding of the report, “Self-service support channels have grown in popularity: they are now preferred by many customers, and help businesses save money by replacing more costly channels, such as phone support.”

Craig Borowski, a market researcher for Software Advice and author of the report, provided some additional thoughts on self-service:

“Self-service is a customer service channel that both companies and their customers appreciate. Companies save on the cost of providing live human support and, at the same time, customers actually prefer self-service to other channels. While customers prefer it, and will be more loyal to companies that offer it, this is only true if they can find the information they need quickly and easily. That last part is the challenge. Given the massive amounts of information that self-service channels make available, the biggest challenge is getting the correct article, FAQ or troubleshooting guide to the right customer right when he or she needs it.

Virtual agents play a unique and valuable role in helping self-service customers find exactly what they need. In many cases they’ve already demonstrated great value in improving self-service customer interactions, and, overall they’re due some credit for the success and growth of self-service. It’s very likely that virtual agents will play an increasingly important role in the future. According to a Gartner study, in 2014, “nearly 60 percent of customer service interactions required the intervention of a human support agent.” And they expect that figure to be cut in half over the next two years. Self-service, with the help of virtual agents, will make this change possible, saving companies on the cost of providing support and saving their customers’ time and patience finding it.”

As a self-service solution, virtual agents have become much more sophisticated over the years and now enable organisations to extend the self-service their customers have come to know and expect on their website to other channels, including social media, mobile and kiosks. This technology is also being successfully utilised within contact centres to support live agents, increase first contact resolution and decrease average handling times. When backed by the correct knowledge management platform,content for all channels can be easily managed, updated and approved in one place to keep the knowledgebase accurate, complete and up-to-date.

My thanks to Craig and the Software Advice team for providing the additional commentary on virtual agents. If you’d like to learn more about virtual agent technology and how these solutions can help your organisation provide 24/7 self-service support to customers, please request a live demo.

Image courtesy of hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Effortless Experience Paradigm: How is it Relevant to Virtual Agents?

By Courtney Schreier, Marketing Manager, Americas

Making customer experience effortless has become a mantra since the 2013 publishing of the The Effortless Experience. And it seems that this concept is not one likely to go away soon – nor should it. The idea of first interaction resolution and easy self-service versus over-and-above personal interactions with super-friendly reps can be seen as a plus by many. With most consumers being pressed for time, a fast solution that delivers results will win every time.

Creative Virtual has created an infographic on four ways that you can make the customer experience effortless for your clients. Click here to view the infographic. Virtual agents are a great way to enhance the self-service aspect of effortless interactions and can be deployed in any channel where your customers are interacting with your brand. They can provide personalized, contextual help based on the products and services your customers are already using, or have expressed an interest in. Virtual agents can also provide an easy escalation to a live service representative if the query is too complex to be answered quickly. All of these features help to increase rates of first interaction resolution, a key cornerstone to making an experience effortless. Finally, Voice-of-the-Customer reporting delivered in real-time can have a great impact in ultimate customer satisfaction rates. Our reporting tools allow organizations to see and respond to issues as customer concerns come in via the virtual agent.

Download the full infographic here to learn more.

Would You Text with a Virtual Agent?

By Courtney Schreier, Marketing Manager, Americas

Last week I was riding the subway. To avoid making eye contact with my fellow passengers, my gaze wandered to the various ads papering the car. To my surprise, I saw an ad offering patients a service that would allow them to text a therapist at any time. My mind turned this over. Is this type of service really that radical a notion? I don’t think it is. When I think of my preferences in communication, paired with my busy schedule, I find an increasing number of my interactions with people are via text. I would definitely like to see more businesses engaging with customers through SMS and I’m certainly not alone in that sentiment.

In a recent research study, Harris Poll (on behalf of OneReach) reported that amongst consumers that text, 64 percent preferred to contact customer services via SMS, as opposed to a phone call. This loops back to what we already know about customers craving an effortless experience. People don’t have the time to wait around for a response from customer services. They want a fast response and to experience first contact resolution, in real time.

Creative Virtual’s V-Person™ solution can respond to customers via text, providing helpful advice to a variety of sales, service and operation queries. Offering the SMS platform as a way customers can engage with your business allows your brand to really be everywhere your customers are at any time.

Customers want all communications from your company to be similar in nature. With so many various touch points for customer engagement, this is becoming increasingly critical. Allowing customers to text with a virtual agent in real time can allow for consistent, contextual and correct information to be given right at the moment the customer needs it. It also allows for an easy jump to an escalation with a live chat agent should the matter in question be more complex in nature.

The addition of a virtual agent that can text with customers is something any progressive company should consider adding to complement their omnichannel experience. Please click here to read the full press release on the SMS platform.

It’s a Digital World Out There

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

It’s a digital world, my friends. No matter how you look at it (or try to escape it!), every day more and more people around the globe are becoming better connected to the internet, each other and organisations. According to We Are Social’s Digital, Social and Mobile in 2015 report, 2014 was a landmark year for growth across the digital space and 2015 is shaping up to give us even more impressive statistics.

Thanks to a boost from the growing availability of affordable mobile devices and data connections, nearly 42% of the world’s population now has access to the internet. The report shows that mobile web traffic has increased 39% since this time last year, and one-third of all web pages are currently served to mobile phones.

It’s interesting to note that the division of web traffic among devices varies widely between countries. For example, web traffic in India is undeniably dominated by the mobile – 72% of web traffic comes from mobile phones while laptops and desktops only account for 27%. In contrast, the figures for Australia show laptops and desktops accounting for 61% of web page views and mobile phones coming in at 26%. The UK shows similar numbers as Australia, with laptop and desktop traffic reported at 58% and mobile phones accounting for 27% of page views. Even though the percentage of mobile web traffic is significantly lower in Australia and the UK than India, that figure is on the rise across all three countries.

Mobile Web Traffic Jan 2015

So what does this mean for organisations? As your customers become digital, they expect you to be as well. Referred to as The Digital Imperative, today’s marketplace requires organisations to engage with customers across a variety of channels and devices. Organisations must get to know their customers in order to provide a positive experience across the entire customer journey, and understanding their access to the internet and devices such as mobile phones is a big part of that. Consistent and accurate access to information across channels – web, mobile, social – is essential for customers in today’s digital world.

Hotel Chain Virtual Assistant will have Unlimited Potential!

By Courtney Schreier, Marketing Manager, Americas

During these deep depths of winter, I’m sure most of us living in colder climes wish we could escape for a brief respite in a warmer locale. But booking travel has never seemed effortless to me. There’s always a new travel site clamoring for my attention to try it. And the logistics they set forth are not always ideal. Yes, I may save a bunch, but it’ll involve taking a red-eye flight and making five stopovers. Or maybe I’m booking a room and I won’t even know where I’m staying until I enter in my credit card. In a landscape where travel sites seem to be a dime a dozen, what makes the difference?

In terms of travel, whether I’m traveling for business or for pleasure, I want the best customer experience. And to get this, I look for the best and most reputable brands. With top hotels, you really know what you are getting, no matter where in the world you might be staying. I often find that the most simple and practical solution is for me to go directly to the source and book a room from a hotel’s website, taking a big part of the guesswork out of the equation.

That’s why Creative Virtual USA’s newest go-live has got me so excited. We are extremely pleased to announce that our virtual agent has been deployed across 11 brands under a major hotel chain’s umbrella and is now live – a feat completed in under 60 days. Our now-client had approached Creative Virtual looking for a way to enhance their customer journey and I think that the addition of a virtual agent is a strategy that will work extremely well for the travel space. This implementation in particular demonstrates our rapid deployment capabilities (the stakes are even higher when your solution is replacing the existing Customer Care page), creating a foundation for expansion (across multiple channels) and demonstrating continuous improvement in supporting the customer experience (by administering voice-of-the-customer reporting). A great way to forge an emotional bond with the customer is to add a personalized element to their interactions with you, be it online, in-person or from their mobile device. Customers can now look forward to an effortless experience, allowing for questions to be quickly and easily resolved –making planning a vacation seem more like, well – a vacation!

With omnichannel smart journey solutions from Creative Virtual, hotel and travel brands like our latest customer enable the following types of frictionless experiences…

1.)    Want a hotel room near the Liberty Bell with a piano on Christmas Eve? Simply tell the virtual agent your preferences in natural language, and the tool will give you the rooms that best fit that criteria at the moment of truth – whenever and wherever you ask.

2.)    Want to turn a casual Facebook interaction into a reservation? With V-Person™, you can ask about room features and then, based on your selections, the virtual agent can guide you seamlessly through the booking process.

3.)    Want quick answers on rewards program information? Grab our V-Person for each of the separate brands and just ask. Find out brand specific information, as well as personalized rewards content just for you.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact us.

Knowledge, Knowledge Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink

By Rachael Green, Project Manager

We have so much information available at our fingertips, so why is it still so difficult to find the information we’re looking for?

Two recent experiences caused me to wonder why my service providers don’t offer more advanced self-serve options (for things I’m sure they could). I wanted to change my T-Mobile cell phone plan, and on my Amazon Mom account I wanted to find out why I received a 15% discount instead of 20%. In both cases, I did a quick search on their sites hoping to instantly find the answer to my question. I went through five or six steps only to end up talking to a live agent, when I didn’t really need to. The live agents were helpful and quickly answered my questions, but I still had to spend more time getting an answer.

These scenarios seem to be an online pattern – encourage customers to self-serve, yet only offer limited information. Half of the time, my questions aren’t that complicated – they just aren’t covered by the standard FAQs. I’ll find loads of info close to what I want, but it’s not clear what the actual answer is to my question. Maybe it’s a combination of FAQs, but I still want to know for sure. I want to be positive I understand, and it’s 100% the correct answer.

There are many sites where I would self-serve if I had the option to go beyond basic FAQs. And it wouldn’t be hard for those sites to put the more advanced content out there. They could put the content in a virtual assistant (VA) where I can ask my own question, in my own way. If it’s a more complicated question or if the answer requires more details from me, the VA can ask me questions before returning an answer, or even gather info about my account before providing an answer.

So how do you let customers, like me, easily self-serve with advanced support? Combine all the expert knowledge from your website and your content experts, and drop it into the intelligent, user-friendly VA format – your customers will thank you, and you’ll free up resources for non-self-serve issues.

Download the V-Portal™ overview to see how Creative Virtual and their expert team can help you do just that!

Will Retailers Focused on a Great Customer Experience Capitalize Best on the Holiday Season?

By Courtney Schreier, Marketing Manager, Americas

With Black Friday behind us and just a few short weeks until the holidays start in earnest, retailers are clamoring for consumer attention. This should surprise no one; it happens every year and is so predictable one could almost call it a fact of life. I started to look into this phenomenon more closely to find out what factors determine the winners in this retail realm of holiday merriment.

I found some answers in a video series in which the CEO of HSNi, Mindy Grossman, was interviewed for Bloomberg TV. According to Grossman, those who focus on the customer experience this year will be declared the winners.

Grossman recommends betting big on mobile this year. This is not terribly shocking. However, retailers need to ensure that their site is mobile friendly. Even retailers using responsive design need to check and make sure that it has been implemented properly to ensure a seamless omnichannel experience. A great way to do this is to design a mobile template first and then move on to create designs for other devices.

Keeping in mind that there are certain questions that are at the forefront of customers’ minds this time of year, retailers should ensure that the answers to these questions are super easy to find. A virtual agent can greatly benefit a website here. If there is an issue, make it very fast and easy to escalate a problem to a live person. However, many holiday shoppers aren’t just shopping for themselves, they are shopping for family and friends – they are looking for information on things like size charts, shipping and return policies, and coupon code redemption. A virtual agent can easily navigate a consumer to the proper pages for this type of information, saving valuable live resources for more complex concerns.

Finally, ensure that content isn’t falling through the cracks by reviewing content that has received low ratings from customers. Retailers may see sales drastically improving just through a simple action such as fixing certain answers (e.g. fixing the functionality of a store locator). V-Portal™, Creative Virtual’s knowledge management and business intelligence reporting platform can report on customer satisfaction rates in real-time.

Remember, the holidays can be stressful – ensure customers are able to have a great omnichannel experience from any device.

Does Your Smart Customer Journey Entail the 3 Cs of Customer Satisfaction?

By Courtney Schreier, Marketing Manager, Americas

“It may not seem sexy, but consistency is the secret ingredient to making customers happy,” an Insights and Publications article by McKinsey & Company opens.

The article goes on to describe the 3 Cs that make up the consistency element of customer satisfaction: customer journey consistency, emotional consistency and consistency of communication.

1.      Customer Journey Consistency

Omnichannel consistency is important. In the digital age customers are likely to interact with your company from several different devices and interactions should be consistent across channels. If your company has a brick and mortar store, customers might stop by for a visit. And what they expect to have is a consistent customer service. People are comfortable with what they know – so don’t keep them guessing. Interactions across all channels should be similar. Remember, customers should perceive their effort score as being very low when choosing to interact with your brand. This is a key metric in improving customer satisfaction.

2.      Emotional Consistency

According to McKinsey & Company, “for bank customers, ‘a brand I feel close to’ and ‘a brand that I can trust’” were the top drivers for bank differentiation on customer experience. It also appears that having a positive customer experience is one of the top drivers for increasing customer loyalty. Customers are stressed out by unpredictable situations. Companies need to keep things positive and consistent so customers feel like they have a real connection with the brand. Just one bad experience or interaction with your company can dismantle the feelings of trust and loyalty that has taken years of hard work to create. A great way to forge an emotional bond with the customer is to add a personalized element to their interactions with you, be it online, in-person or from their mobile device. This way customers are made to feel like they are not just a number to you – they matter, and that’s important.

3.    Communication Consistency

Customers want all communications from your company to be similar in nature. Mixed messages is something that is a definite deterrent. The method of delivery is almost as critical as what you deliver and promise your customers. With so many various touchpoints for customer engagement, this is becoming increasingly critical. It’s easy for your brand’s voice and company vision to get lost with all the chatter across channels. Don’t let it. Customers don’t have patience for variability. Nor should they. It’s your company’s job to ensure that all communications coming from you are delivered in a manner that creates a consistent representation of your company’s mission and engenders customer’s loyalty and trust.

Creative Virtual specializes in improving customer satisfaction and decreasing the perceived customer effort score. We keep things easy and consistent with the deployment of our omnichannel intelligent virtual agents. Our virtual agents are a tool that companies can use that will go a great way towards creating this consistency across all channels. If you haven’t checked out our solutions yet, contact us for a demonstration today.