[Meet the Team] Eileen Stall: Looking Past the Machine Learning Buzz & Chatbot Hype

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Creative Virtual is one of only four companies in London to be recognized by The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in the category of Innovation in 2017. The company was selected for this honor not only for our innovative technology, but also because of the hard work and dedication of our global team. Creative Virtual’s experienced, expert team is what sets the organization apart from others in the industry. As part of the five-year celebration of our Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, we’re talking with some members of the Creative Virtual team about the technology, their involvement in the industry and what winning this award means to them.

Today we introduce Eileen Stall, Knowledgebase Manager with Creative Virtual USA. Having prior management and customer care experience and a degree in art history, Eileen came across a Creative Virtual job posting in 2015 while looking for a new role with a better work-life balance. Now a key member of our operations team, she is responsible for the building and upkeep of virtual agent knowledgebases for a number of large enterprise clients, including Cox, The New York Times and IHG. Eileen works closely with these organizations to enhance their content, utilize analytics to improve answer quality and coordinate new expansions of their virtual agents. She shared with me how the media buzz around machine learning has created industry challenges and why Creative Virtual’s diverse team is key to the company’s success.

What have you found to be major challenges facing the chatbot and virtual agent market today?

Chatbots have gone from being an obscure technology to one that everyone knows about and have likely had experience with. It’s nice that now chatbots have some recognition value when I explain my job! But “machine learning” becoming a buzz word has created a big challenge for the market. Companies don’t understand the huge amount of data that you actually need to implement a solution that only relies on machine learning. The idea that you can just deploy a chatbot and never have to work on it again is simply not possible. I find that a divorcing of technologies from their original contexts has created a lot of misplaced hype in the tech world.

Creative Virtual USANow the market is seeing a number of chatbot pilots which attempted to implement machine learning to inappropriately small datasets ending with some messy results. In several cases, we as Creative Virtual have had to go through a re-education process about the realities of machine learning after potential clients have heard some fantastical pitches from competitors. We’ve opted not to rely solely on machine learning in spite of the buzz. Rather, we leverage human curated content and look at user intents to determine the best responses. This may take a little longer than what’s promised with some other solutions, but that extra time is better than a Twitter bot disaster!

This is what sets us apart from those other vendors. We have a solid understanding of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, not just making technology decisions based on the buzz. Even when the market started going crazy about deploying fully self-learning virtual agents, we stood firm in our combination of machine learning and human curation of content because we knew that was the best approach to accurate and reliable solutions.

Why is it important to work with an experienced chatbot and virtual agent vendor like Creative Virtual?

Creative Virtual has what I like to call a concierge approach. We offer a packaged deal of innovative software and years of accumulated experience in the industry. Clients can leverage our experience to create a successful virtual agent. Companies don’t have a “bot division” so the more we can provide a concierge type of experience, the better the result and the less overwhelmed they feel. How can you expect someone with no experience to build out the bot, to know what content to put in, to identify when a user needs to be escalated to live chat? That doesn’t make sense. We don’t burden our customers with requests to provide huge amounts of content or put pressure on their copywriter. We have the experience to guide and assist through the entire process. We can be ghostwriters, creating content in the brand’s voice, but tailored to the chatbot platform, such that all that is needed is the client sign-off.

We customize our virtual agents on a case-by-case basis but have developed expertise in many industries. For example, I’ve worked a lot with telecommunication companies so I’m very familiar with the type of questions their customers are asking most often. The 80/20 rule has definitely applied to deployments in this sector wherein nearly 80% of the inputs are asked about the top 20% of content. Deploying a slimmer knowledgebase with the plan to build out is a great approach for that situation. You start with the most common questions being asked repeatedly – questions about a bill, how to cancel or change service, etc. – and then build the other content organically based on actual user conversations and the customer’s voice. That way the knowledgebase is being driven by what customers are really asking about. The more unnecessary content you have in a chatbot knowledgebase, the harder it is to achieve a high level of accuracy. Of course, the virtual agent won’t be able to answer 100% of questions at first, so it’s important to make sure your secondary support system, such as live chat or a help page, is robust. That way you have a back-up for users and can still provide a good customer experience. This approach is successful when you’re working with an experienced vendor like Creative Virtual because we have the expertise to build out an effective knowledgebase quickly and efficiently.

How has the explosion of new contact channels affected the deployment of virtual agents?

A lot has changed in the world of virtual agents over the past few years. Now companies are coming into new deployments with a plan for their bot. They have a space in their business where they need to provide help and know they don’t need a human to do that. They also know enough about the technology to understand the benefits of working with an experienced vendor who can help them finetune and implement their plan to achieve the best possible results. They have confidence in our expertise and take advantage of our large library of existing integrations and knowledge about rolling out chatbots to additional channels.

Creative Virtual USAIt can be like the wild west with new technologies though, with people and companies suffering from tech hype. There’s a growing confidence in bots and so you don’t need to convince people to use them. However, before rolling out a chatbot to another channel, companies need to keep in mind the context of their customer engagement rather than making a decision simply on that the fact that something is new and creating a lot of buzz.

For example, enterprises might already have some stats and live chat transcripts from a channel like Facebook Messenger that they can use when considering adding their chatbot to that type of channel. Similarly, adding a bot to their app can be informed by what customers are already doing on mobile. When faced with a completely new channel where there is no history of experience with customers there, that’s when it’s hard to determine whether that channel can provide value. Voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are getting a lot of media coverage now, and they can be a great channel for chatbot deployment for some use cases. This is where context is important to provide a positive customer experience. Does your content lend itself well to a voice conversation? Or do your customers need a visual, such as a diagram or chart, to really benefit from the virtual agent’s answer? That’s another reason to work with an experienced provider like Creative Virtual. We can help guide you through the maze of new contact channels to develop the best experience for your customers.

I love that there’s always something new in this industry, so my work never gets stale! There’s always something to learn and new ways to use these developments to help our clients provide better customer support.

What does Creative Virtual winning The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017 mean to you?

Creative Virtual USABeing American, I had never heard of the Queen’s Awards, so when Creative Virtual was announced as a winner I did a little research and was happy to discover that the award went beyond simply recognizing companies for their financial success. The award also recognized the people behind that success who bring together our variety of experiences every day to create and deliver our innovative solutions. This really resonated with me as I’ve always felt that the diversity of our team in the US is what makes us a good vendor and partner. Everyone is coming together from different backgrounds with different perspectives to become experts in the field.

This award is fitting because on top of delivering innovation to our customers, we also prioritize developing our staff. Cultivating positive interpersonal relationships in the office and across customer and partner companies is an important part of the Creative Virtual culture. Our diversity has been key to our success, particularly on difficult projects. We’re not your stereotypical bunch of old white men sitting in a boardroom; we’re a diverse group of people combining our unique outlooks and experiences to deliver the best solutions possible to our customers.

We’ll Spend 1 Billion Years Online in 2018

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

It’s certainly no secret that we’re spending more and more time online. In fact, the 2018 Global Digital suite of reports from We Are Social and Hootsuite, published earlier this year, share data showing that the average internet user spends about 6 hours online every day. When you add that up for the 4 billion internet users across the globe, the world will spend an impressive 1 billion years online this year!

Nearly a quarter of a billion new users came online for the first time last year, bringing the total internet users to 53% of the world’s population – up 7% from 2016. Much of this growth is due to more affordable smartphones and mobile data plans. Social media use is also on the rise, up 13%, with over 3 billion people using social media platforms each month. Not surprisingly, 9 in 10 of those users are accessing those platforms on mobile devices.

Digital Around the World in 2018

The Growth of Messenger Apps

During 2017 nearly 1 million people started using social media for the first time every day, which breaks down to more than 11 new users every second. Facebook’s core platform is still the leader in active users, but WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger both grew twice as fast. The number of people using each of those messenger apps was up by 30% last year, tying them at about 1.3 billion active users on each platform. However, WhatsApp wins when it comes to geographic penetration, boasting top messenger app status in 128 countries compared to Facebook Messenger’s 72 countries.

 Top Messenger Apps

The Rise in E-commerce

1.77 billion people worldwide are now buying consumer goods online, a growth of 8% during 2017, reaching a total annual spend of nearly $1.5 trillion USD last year. Adding in other categories such as travel and digital content raises the global e-commerce figure to be closer to $2 trillion USD.

Approximately 45% of all internet users are now making purchases online although there is a wide variation among countries. The United Kingdom leads the pack with 78% of the population buying consumer goods online; the United States comes in at 69% and Australia at 59%. Not surprisingly, the average revenues per user (ARPU) has also shown solid growth and is up 7%.

e-commerce consumer goods

e-commerce

Get to Know the Trends AND Your Customers

More than just providing attention grabbing statistics (like the world spending a whopping 1 billion years online in 2018!), these reports highlight some important worldwide trends for businesses. More than half of the world’s population is now online. It’s where we go to connect with each other, find answers to our questions and do our shopping. We’ve become highly connected digital customers looking for 24/7 access to information and support on a variety of devices. Organisations and brands need to keep their finger on the pulse of these trends – both global and local.

Getting know the trends is a great place to start but it isn’t enough. Companies also need to get to know their customers in order to understand how best to apply these trends and address the changing digital landscape. For example, organisations should be looking at how they can engage with customers on messenger apps and other social platforms but need to know which ones their customers are already using or those efforts will be wasted.

A good example of an organisation doing this is Transport for NSW in Australia. They saw an opportunity to connect with customers on Facebook Messenger and introduced an interactive chatbot, their Real-time Intelligent Transport Assistant (RITA), on the platform. They then built on RITA’s success in Facebook Messenger by adding the chatbot to their website and, in January of this year, integrating RITA with Amazon’s Alexa.

By combining global, local and industry trends with an understanding of their customer base, organisations can take advantage of the world’s growing dependence on the internet and preference for purchasing goods online. Companies will benefit from increased engagement and a better experience by meeting their digital customers where they are already spending their time.

What Goes Around Comes Around: A look at customer sentiment and intent

By Rachel F Freeman, Operations Director

I’m delighted that one of the main reasons why I started working in this industry 18 years ago (eegad!) has re-surfaced as a credible and viable objective to move ahead with conversational flows that also provide a profitable punch: customer sentiment.

During the first wave of all things cool and nifty on the web – when website stickiness and brand promotion online was first and foremost – a virtual assistant was often deployed to assist a marketing campaign and answer “silly” questions about random topics that might have little to do with the brand. So long as the virtual assistant (always with an avatar) was presented in a branded UI, then the key was to keep a customer on the page and enable the engagement to be about whatever the user wanted.

Of course, the problem with that approach at its most extreme was that it lost its financial credibility since, without promotion or discussion about the products/ services, there was little to no ROI on the tool. The virtual assistant was demoted as a bit of expensive frivolity that was often axed once the first tech bubble burst and focus moved from bling to bottom line.

That was when I lost my job creating such novelties as VC money was running out and there was little to no appetite to fund such projects and focus on user sentiment and fun smalltalk, like whether the virtual assistant enjoyed pizza on a Saturday night or playing chess with fellow 24/7 assistants.

Creative Virtual evolved after that burst as it saw an opportunity at that time to take this technology and move it away from sentiment and emotions and casual smalltalk to focus on the business proposition of enabling a client’s customers to find and self-serve answers to relevant FAQs.

The company was built by actively addressing the public’s requirements. These requirements have changed over the years from quick and efficient delivery of answers, limited smalltalk and some avatars to moving away from avatars and focusing on back-end integration with APIs ranging from currency trackers to train delays. Then there was a major focus on user journey and intent – what does the customer need and what is the quickest and smoothest way to get him/ her there? Organisations were keen to link their virtual assistants to live chat and use decision trees or conversation flows. We saw the removal of the avatar in many situations and flat web designs for simplicity.

Now in 2018, we’re in the age of AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning and conversations – sometimes even via voice. User intent is assumed based on channels and the context of when the customer starts a conversation. Now it is time to get back to assessing if the user is happy or frustrated and work out which channel and journey the user needs to take to feel special (personalisation) and guided (customer service) after a fulfilled mission of getting what was required (positive user experience). True conversations need to happen and no longer just a session with Q&A pairs. The “silly” questions and random topics have a place if it helps hand hold the user to an endpoint – and the circle the virtual assistant industry (myself included!) started to draw in 2000 can now be closed!

The whole aspect of AI and NLP (natural language processing) combined with human curation requires more blog posts – but suffice to say that for the purposes of this post –  the “science of conversation” is truly back on the map for self-service tools. And we at Creative Virtual will be leading the pack as we were (a number of us working at other companies first) at the beginning when sentiment was more important than intent. Now we know how to join them both up in the same conversation – and the future of the industry is looking bright!

Want to learn more? The best way to understand The science of conversation™ is to see our technology in action with a personalised demo.

Supporting Customers and Employees in the Digital Age

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

Every organisation is going through a digital transformation, particularly in regard to their customer and employee experiences. Virtual agents and chatbots are ideal for supporting both digital customers and employees with a reliable and consistent self-service option that also helps reduce support costs and improve efficiency.

At Creative Virtual self-service solutions are our specialty, and we’re honoured to be named ‘Best Self-Service Solutions Provider 2017’ by Corporate Vision Magazine’s UK Corporate Excellence Awards 2017. For over 14 years we’ve delivered bespoke virtual agents and chatbots designed to provide a quick, easy way for users to get information and troubleshoot issues.

Once viewed as a novelty or ‘cool’ thing to have, virtual agents are now a key component of many customer engagement strategies. Smartphones, social media and a variety of other technological advancements have changed how we communicate with each other and how we want to communicate with brands. The traditional ways of providing customer service are no longer meeting the expectations of digital customers. As a society, we’re more inclined to seek out self-help options and are becoming increasingly more comfortable with using chatbots and virtual agents.

Despite most organisations being focused on improving their customer experience for a while now, an emphasis on improving the employee experience is relatively new for many. Yet organisations are starting to feel more pressure to make internal changes to better engage a digital workforce and lower costs. Virtual agents are proving to be a great fit for internal service desk and HR departments, giving employees an easy way to self-serve in a variety of situations. By giving employees the tools to troubleshoot and solve common problems anytime, anywhere on their preferred device, organisations can reduce costs and improve productivity.

Check out this recent webinar AI, Chatbots & Live Chat: Separating Truth from Myth, now available to watch on-demand, for a look at how organisations are already using virtual agents and chatbots to improve engagement with digital customers and employees.

Our thanks to Corporate Vision Magazine and the UK Corporate Excellence Awards for this honour!

Navigating the Chatbot Confusion in 2018

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

The new year is here, and with it has come much of the confusion from last year about chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) and how it all fits with your organisation’s business goals. It’s easy to get swept up in the media hype. For some that means approaching chatbot and virtual agent projects with inflated expectations, and for others that leads to a scepticism about it all being a passing fad.

At Creative Virtual, we’ve always taken pride in the relationships we’ve built with our customers, guiding them through best practices for implementing this technology and keeping their solutions successful year after year. Recently we’ve seen our ability to act as expert consultants become more important than ever.

I’m proud to share that our industry expertise has won us two awards as part of Corporate Vision Magazine’s 2017 Consultancy & Advisory Awards: Best Self-Service Solutions Advisory Firm 2017 and Digital Marketing Consultant of the Year 2017 – UK. Congratulations to the whole Creative Virtual team!

There are several different aspects to our consultancy role in the industry. One part is general education about the technology to help dispel the confusion created from the media hype and overpromising of some industry vendors. This involves speaking at industry events around the world, presenting on webinars and publishing educational materials. A few resources I recommend you check out:

  • AI, Chatbots & Live Chat: Separating Truth from Myth – In this webinar, which is now available to watch on-demand, I dive into the confusion, false claims and inflated expectations to separate the truth from the myth. I share a realistic look at machine learning, chatbots and live chat in the customer experience space and present a series of live demonstrations of the technology.
  • Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – confusing or what! – This educational whitepaper walks readers through the various names and terminology being used in the industry, tips for selecting a system to meet your objectives and current use cases for conversational self-service.
  • AI, Chatbots and Virtual Agents: The Threat to Mankind and the Contact Centre – In this whitepaper, readers will get a realistic view of AI and chatbots in the customer experience space and how this technology is impacting the contact centre. It also covers ways you can leverage chatbots and virtual agents to prepare your contact centre for the future.

Our team also provides one-on-one advice and guidance for organisations. We’re passionate about helping businesses select the right solutions, guiding them step-by-step through the implementation process and then ensuring their deployments continue to meet the changing needs of users. We also continuously look for new and innovative ways our technology can be used to meet business needs. For example, we were helping organisations deploy virtual agents for employee self-service long before industry analysts were talking about that as a potential use case.

I firmly believe that just as important as choosing the right technology is working with a team of people who are highly experienced in deploying these solutions. Contact us to learn more about how the expert Creative Virtual team can help you navigate the chatbot confusion as you look to implement your 2018 support strategies.

A Tale as Old as Time: Striving for the Best Customer Service

By Rachel F Freeman, Operations Director

Every year across sectors, buzz words crop up, trends start and people look to see what is or isnt the next best thing on the market – whether it be an innovative piece of machinery, the next best app, an idea to revolutionise the way we operate in a work space or indeed what we eat in order to be more efficient and focused (does a group huddle or corporate run before indulging on beetroot and chia seed smoothies sound familiar?).

Ideas keep coming, which is wonderful, and in the world of technology it is imperative to keep things fresh and dynamic in order to be responsive to the ways of the marketplace.

What drives the marketplace? The customer. Ironically (the way I see it), the one thing that doesnt change but is at the heart of what most of us in all industries need to consider is customer service.

Customer service is a hallowed objective and yet I cant think of any new-fangled ways to describe it another way or market the concept any differently. Customer service is at the heart of what we in the workplace all do and the only thing that changes through time is how we deliver it based on the tools and the circumstances of our era.

There was a time in living memory when consumer (retail) banking, for example, was conducted entirely via bricks and mortar branches and/or the phone. This meant that banking times were dictated by branch opening hours and phones being available and the likelihood of needing to wait or stand on a queue for an average of 15 to 20 minutes was considered acceptable. The customer service was focused on the friendly demeanour of the teller or bank manager and what type of advice or loan the bank could provide to make the customer feel properly guided. A lot of faith needed to be placed in the people in the bank to manage the retail accounts of the customers.

Nowadays it doesnt take much to see how things have changed drastically on so many levels. Banks are selling or renting many of their former beautiful Neo-Classical buildings so they are converted to restaurants/cafes/clothing stores; they are closing various high street branches and instead there is a bigger focus on their digital strategy and modernised approach to customer service. The customers who used to be wowed by the grandeur of their bank branch now need to be kept in awe by the digital experience they can get in return.

The modern digital benefits mean that banking can now be done 24/7 – you can access your accounts directly and manage your transfer seamlessly online at any time you want and now – with mobile devices – you can perform the transactions from wherever you need to without worrying about the constraints of a fixed location.

Customer service has gained levels of autonomy the customer never knew before – the customer has been empowered to take control of his/her accounts and with access to online information a customer can quickly assess and compare deals for loans or products and services with a few quick internet searches.

Has this new world of customer service left anything behind? This is for the customer to decide and for vendors to be in close contact with their clients to understand their needs and requirements.

Creative Virtual is providing banks with self-help tools to enable their customers to be empowered and we need to listen to our clients to understand what their customers want so we can adjust the tool we provide to help them give the best user experience. We are quick to respond to client needs and have allowed our clients to access online reporting directly so they can be empowered themselves to see how the tools they apply on their digital spaces are performing. We spend time adding elements of personalisation into our tools so that our clients can ensure that their customers are remembered when they return online and they can access their specific account information without needing to repeat themselves.

Similarly, our seamless live chat capabilities will give a customer an opportunity to speak to a live agent when required and the agent will have all of the customers information along with the previous conversation leading to the live chat so there is no need for the customer to have to repeat his or her issue.Greater London Enterprise Awards

Creative Virtual are proud to have been awarded the latest accolade of Best Customer Service Solutions Provider 2017 in the Greater London Enterprise Awards. This is not too much of a surprise as Creative Virtual aims to listen to our clients, who in turn are working with their customers, so we can be on the frontline for amending our tools to provide the customer experience that works the most efficiently for the current circumstances of our digital world.

The tools will change throughout the years but the objective of keeping the customer happy is a constant through time. For as long as we have our eyes and ears open to the needs of the customer we are ready to respond and relish the challenge. It is what keeps us fresh and motivated.

Our thanks to the Greater London Enterprise Awards for naming Creative Virtual the Best Customer Service Solutions Provider! You can read our official announcement here. And you can see our customer service solutions in action for yourself by requesting a live demo.

Don’t Worry, the Customer Only Wants You to Be Perfect

By Scott Tompkins, Enterprise Account Executive, USA

So…. I have this diploma and now have no idea what to do! Anyone else been there after graduation? Being from Delaware, I thought I would try my hand at one of the many financial service companies that call the First State home. My interview seemed to go well and as it was concluding the hiring manager asked me to sit with one of her agents for 30 minutes so that I would have a better understanding of what I would be doing in this role. I sat down and listened to “Steve” take his first call. The caller was a very polite woman who I assume had lived a long, enjoyable life. She was calling to cancel her credit card. I can’t recall all of the dialogue but when she hung up the phone not only was the card not cancelled but she now was the proud owner of the “World Traveler Card.” How did that happen? At that moment, I realized this was not the job for me! What an incredibly difficult position for an agent. How do you show empathy for your customers while at the same time complying with the push to meet goals the company has outlined?

Fast forward a dozen or so years and now I am a seasoned member of the working class that at times requires support from brands I purchase from. My expectations when speaking with an agent are that they will handle every situation the way I would handle it if I was on the other end. Imagine asking an agent to meet each caller’s personal expectations. I really dislike the word “fair”, and don’t allow my children to use it, but my goodness, that is an unfair expectation.

So, what is the answer? For me, it’s automation. When I take inventory of all the reasons I pick up the phone or live chat with a brand, most of those things could be answered in some type of automated fashion or by a chatbot. Whether I need information about my account or steps to troubleshoot a process, I shouldn’t need another person to take the time to help me. Chatbots have evolved in 2017 to be intelligent, easy to access and conversational. They should be used in everyday transactions and leave the “high-touch” scenarios for the agents. Companies should strive to create an environment where customers are able to get immediate support for everyday issues, while at the same time having agents available for consultative help. Companies will not only create a superior customer experience but also help bring sanity back to their agents. Allow the agent to spend their day consulting with customers on new products and offering advice where necessary. Let the chatbot handle the password reset, account balance, and “I need to reset my router” questions.

Contact us to learn more about our chatbot experts and solutions.

Evolving Customer Expectations and the Contact Centre

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the contact centre in its current form is finished. The traditional model for call centres and contact centres is no longer providing the service experience that customers want. This was one of the key themes of CRMXchange’s recent Tech Tank Roundtable, Customer Delight: Live Demonstrations of Breakthrough Innovations. I had the pleasure of joining other industry experts from Aspect and inContact to share new customer experience solutions that are impacting the contact centre.

So, what do today’s customers want? First, they want organisations to offer support on digital channels. The survey results shared in Microsoft’s 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report show that 55% of global respondents say their customer service interactions typically begin online rather than on the phone or in person. That survey also found that 72% of the consumers surveyed expect agents to know their contact information, product information and service history. That highlights the fact that customers also are coming to expect personalised and seamless engagement from brands.

While customer expectations have been evolving, so has the customer service marketplace. During the webinar, I talked about the live chat vs. virtual agents debate that polarised the marketplace for many years. That view is now changing as it becomes clear that a combination of these solutions can help organisations meet customer service expectations. Even though customers are increasingly starting their support journeys online and leveraging self-service options like virtual agents and chatbots, the need for live agents won’t disappear. The key to providing personalised and seamless support for customers lies in the right combination of virtual and real support.

At Creative Virtual, we are delivering a combination of virtual agents and live chat that is defining industry best practice through a single knowledgebase for both virtual and real agents and a unique feedback loop. Our newest video explains how this works:

My thanks to Sheri Greenhaus and CRMXchange for hosting another great Tech Tank webcast – my third one! – and to all of you who joined us for the live event. If you missed it, you can request a copy of the recording here. You can also view my presentation slides here and then request your own live demo to learn more.

Providing Both CX Expertise and Technological Innovation

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

The customer experience landscape is constantly changing, and perhaps never more so than it is as we enter 2017. In my extensive travels I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of customer experience discussions with professionals from many industries in regions around the world, and they universally are faced with the issue of how to meet increasing customer demands. New advances and innovations in technology will certainly be a key factor in helping organisations rise to these challenges, but is that enough?

There’s no doubt in my mind that the answer to that question is a resounding ‘No’. That might seem strange coming from the Founder & CEO of a technology company, but I feel strongly that the way to navigate the ever evolving customer experience landscape is through a combination of people and technology. I’m extremely proud of Creative Virtual’s experienced, expert team and the guidance we are able to provide to our customers and other organisations looking to learn more about digital customer engagement. We collaborate closely with large enterprises around the world to help them revolutionise their customer experiences while also reducing support costs and increasing revenue.

That’s why it is an honour for us at Creative Virtual to be named ‘Best Self-Service CX Management Solutions Consultancy – UK’ by Corporate Vision Magazine’s 2016 Consultancy Awards. This award is a testament to the thought leadership our team provides not only to our customer organisations, but also within the wider customer experience space. We closely monitor trends and the evolution of potential new customer engagement touchpoints in order to provide organisations with the information and cutting-edge technology to grow their customer experience strategy in line with customer expectations.

My thanks to the Consultancy Awards for this recognition! You can read our official announcement here.

I also encourage you to check out some of our latest customer experience resources, including the whitepaper Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – confusing or what! and our new guide The Future of the Contact Centre.

5 Questions to Ask About Digital Customer Service Improvement Plans

By Scott Tompkins, Enterprise Account Executive, Creative Virtual USA

Of the many opportunities provided to the business world with so many digitally connected consumers, some of the most exciting are in the realm of customer service. Digital tools allow us to serve customers better than ever before – as long as you choose the right solution and engage the right experts to help deliver on its promise.

If you’re considering implementing a new digital customer service improvement plan, ask a provider the following questions to gain a clearer sense of how they can help you take better care of your customers:

  1. What’s the expected cost per resolution?

It’s important to understand the fully-loaded cost of helping a customer resolve a problem in each of your customer service channels. To quickly estimate cost per resolution, take the cost per contact for the channel and divide it by the expected success rate of resolving issues. You can expect a fairly large variance in costs across your channels, so be sure to take a broad look across digital and offline channels to determine which method is the most effective for your business and your customers.

  1. How long does it take to see ROI?

A transformative digital customer service improvement plan often requires significant upfront investment. While you are planning for this cost, it’s important to have proper expectations for when you’ll see a return. Providers who are confident enough in the effectiveness and fit of their solutions to offer outcome-based pricing are an encouraging sign – Outcome-based pricing allows you to lock in return on elements of your investment, which begin as soon as your solution goes live, improving your bottom line.

  1. Does the solution have a sales component?

While effective customer service is critical for keeping customers, every organization needs sales to grow. The best customer service programs understand that service and sales are hand-in-hand.  Improvement plans should incorporate service elements, new customer sales, cross-selling and upselling components.

  1. What ways can my customers find help using this solution?

This is a critical question for ensuring that you maximize the efficacy of your customer service solution. If your customers are highly active on social media or mobile platforms but the customer service improvement plan you are considering can’t be deployed there, it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere.

Also request job descriptions of the internal resources required to deploy and manage the solution. Will there be significant IT projects required to make it work? Can the customer service solution you are considering be set up to work with your data warehousing or analytics solutions? These are all questions that could affect the time to deploy, cost and value of your solution.

  1. Does the customer service solution self-learn?

In today’s world where artificial intelligence can write poetry and drive your car, it’s important that your customer service solutions are evolving with your business over time. A great customer service solution learns from previous interactions to gain a better understanding of what your customers ask about, what solutions work best, and incorporates that learning to offer better service.

 

As the leader in virtual customer service, Creative Virtual specializes in the science of conversation.