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The Platform at the Heart of a Seamless and Efficient Customer Experience

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

There’s such a buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots today, and it’s certainly a space that has changed a lot since I founded Creative Virtual 15 years ago. The learnings we have gained over the years are an important differentiator for our company and positively influence how we develop and implement our technology. During a recent webinar with Engage Customer, I shared some of those learnings and took attendees through current industry trends and best practices as well as sharing some new innovations. My goal was to show how organisations can orchestrate a seamless and efficient customer experience (CX) across contact channels with chatbots, virtual agents and AI to improve the experience whilst also saving costs.

The virtual agent, chatbot and live chat market is very crowded today with new vendors popping up all the time, and it’s confusing with all the buzz and mixed messages about AI. One of my key tips for any organisation looking at these solutions is that, whether you’re talking about the technology itself or the way chatbots and live chat are implemented and maintained, it’s the people element that’s absolutely crucial. It’s just as much about working with a vendor that can provide consulting expertise as the actual technology. The two need to come together hand-in-hand for a successful project, and that’s something we are very proud to offer at Creative Virtual.

I’m sure it’s not surprising to anyone reading this that over the past several years, customers consistently identify the same factors as being most important when it comes to customer experience and service: efficient, reliable, effortless, flexible. The good news for organisations is that machines, combined with humans, can help them deliver on all these expectations. Another of my key tips is to implement an orchestration platform that can bring together all of your content sources, manage the intents and keep the conversations flowing across all customer touchpoints completely seamlessly in a personalised way and at large scale. The V-Portal™ platform that powers our chatbots, virtual agents and live chat does this while also allowing you to learn from all those conversations going on in real time in such a way that a human, the content owner, works alongside the machine learning component to provide the best possible CX. It’s the machine learning and human curation parts coming together in a hybrid model that makes all of this possible. The orchestration platform is at the heart of creating a seamless and efficient experience.

The best way to understand this is to see real examples, so be sure to watch the webinar recording to see the live demonstrations I shared. You’ll also want to check out the eight recommendations I gave for organisations who are looking to implement chatbots, virtual agents and live chat or want to improve any of those tools they already have in place.

My thanks to Steve Hurst and Engage Customer for hosting this webinar and to all the attendees for their great questions and feedback. You can watch the full recording of Orchestrating a Seamless and Efficient Customer Experience on-demand here.

Orchestrating a Seamless and Efficient Customer Experience

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

We live in an always-on world with instant access to information and news and trending hashtags always at our fingertips. There have been numerous studies done about the effects of digital devices and the growing need to always feel connected. As I’m writing this, I have no electricity or internet access thanks to the power of mother nature which, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit, is giving me a good bit of anxiety about the percentage of battery left on my smartphone – my one connection to knowing what’s going on in the world without actually having to leave my house!

It’s certainly no secret that this new normal of constant digital connection and instant access to information in our personal lives has also changed our expectations for our engagement with businesses and brands. Organisations are facing the challenge of delivering a quality support experience over a growing number of contact channels. Messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger and WeChat, and smart speakers, like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, have been added to existing touchpoints, like the phone, website and social media, instead of replacing them. On top of that, many organisations are struggling with lots of disconnected information sources making it difficult to keep content updated and deliver the right information to customers on all channels. So how can organisations bring this all together to create a consistent, convenient and efficient customer experience?

Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO of Creative Virtual, will join Engage Customer on Tuesday, 27 November for a webinar to address this question, Orchestrating a Seamless and Efficient Customer Experience. Through a series of live demonstrations and practical tips, attendees will learn:

  • The benefits of centralising knowledge management control and using a single orchestration platform to deliver consistent support across contact channels
  • Best practices for implementing chatbots, virtual agents and live chat to provide accurate and seamless omnichannel engagement
  • Ways to leverage a hybrid of artificial intelligence and human input to reduce support costs whilst improving conversational engagement

Register now for the webinar Orchestrating a Seamless and Efficient Customer Experience. Can’t attend the live event? Don’t worry, a recording will be sent to all registrants after the webinar.

You can also request a personalised demo to see how our technology can help you deliver seamless, consistent support and increase customer satisfaction scores.

Jumping on the Bandwagon isn’t the Same as Following Best Practice

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Every industry has best practices – guidelines, methods or techniques accepted as the most efficient and effective way to accomplish a desired result. Sometimes when something new comes along or starts to get industry attention, the hype can make it easy to confuse jumping on the bandwagon with following proven best practice. This is particularly true when it comes to technologies that are thrust in the spotlight through mainstream media buzz.

The explosion of media hype around artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots over the past few years – and the subsequent confusion in the customer experience (CX) space – is one of topics Creative Virtual discusses in our article for The Parliamentary Review. The Parliamentary Review is a series of independent British publications which aims to share best practice among policy makers and business leaders. They combine commentaries from award-winning journalists with innovative thinking from industry experts. Creative Virtual was invited to contribute this year as a Best Practice Representative for the technology sector.

Partially spurred by Facebook’s introduction of bots for their Messenger Platform, the media buzz around AI and chatbots has created a renewed interest in the technology over the past couple of years. While this had a positive effect in garnering more attention for using chatbots and virtual agents to deliver automated self-service, it also played a role in creating industry confusion. Some vendors tried to jump on the AI bandwagon, but ended up overpromising and creating unrealistic expectations for AI chatbots.

Based on our experience, we at Creative Virtual knew that pure AI was not the right option for automated customer service, and so we continued to present our hybrid approach of self-learning and human curation of content as industry best practice. This involved us working to educate the marketplace about the realities of the technology and using chatbots to provide a predictable and reliable self-service option, instead of jumping on the AI bandwagon.

Now the initial hype has died down and those unrealistic promises have turned into chatbot pilots that are failing or never got off the ground at all. The decision to stand firm in our hybrid approach to implementing our chatbots and virtual agents in spite of the buzz has strengthened our position as thought leaders and trusted consultants in the industry. It has also allowed the organisations we work with to take advantage of recent AI advancements while also continuing to provide quality self-service experiences for their customers and employees in line with industry best practice.

Be sure to check out our full three-page article in the 2018 Technology Review to learn more about Creative Virtual’s story, how we created a company culture of innovation, teamwork and ownership, and why our future looks bright.

Integrating the Right Customer Experience Technologies

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

It’s impossible to talk about customer experience without also talking about technology. Companies and brands are looking to provide a complete omnichannel experience for those at a desk and on the move, deliver quality service and support to digitally-savvy customers and remain competitive as a growing number of contact channels gain popularity among consumers. All of those goals involve not only implementing, but also integrating the right customer experience (CX) technologies.

Earlier this month I attended CXtech, a new technology conference and showcase focused on what’s new, what’s working and what’s coming next in CX technologies. One major theme that came up repeatedly during presentations and my discussions with other attendees was that the truth about artificial intelligence (AI) is now been revealed after all the hype, myths and unrealistic claims. The CX industry is coming together in agreement that a hybrid approach is best – using a combination of AI and humans to deliver the best experience for customers. This is the approach we’ve always taken at Creative Virtual, and one that we’ve seen industry analysts and experts talking about more and more recently.

CXtech Chris EzekielChris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, joined me at the event and presented as part of the ‘Digital Automation, Chatbots and Virtual Assistants’ stream. His session, Digital CX & the contact centre: AI, chatbots, live chat & knowledge management, was well-received by attendees. He talked about the essential components of AI-driven digital transformation in the contact centre and then showed them how organisations are already using our CX technologies through a series of live demonstrations, including one of our customer chatbots working on Amazon Alexa. It’s one thing to listen to someone talking about the possibilities of the technology; it’s another to actually see and experience the solutions working and delivering on those promises.

We had a mix of people from different areas of organisations – the contact centre, digital CX, marketing, etc. – stop by the Creative Virtual stand throughout the day, some expressing that Chris’ presentation showcased ‘exactly what we are looking for’. There was lots of interest in discussing how to support customers on social media and messenger apps like Facebook Messenger. I also spoke with attendees from organisations that aren’t part of the industries we typically see at these types of events, such as public and emergency services. This reflects the change we’re seeing in the CX market as a wider range of industries are feeling the pressures of cultural and digital changes.

Our thanks to the CXtech organisers for putting together a successful event. It was a day of great presentations and insightful discussions, and I especially enjoyed the salmon at lunch!

If you’re interested in learning more about AI-driven transformation in the contact centre, download our latest whitepaper A Chatbot for Your Contact Centre.

And if you’d like to see our chatbot, virtual agent and live chat solutions in action, be sure to request a live demo to arrange a personalised demonstration.

CXtech: Exploring Technologies that are Transforming Customer Experience

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

CXtech, a new technology conference and showcase, is coming to London on 12 October. Co-located with AI & Robotics: The Main Event, CXtech will explore what’s new, what’s working and what’s coming next in customer experience (CX) technologies as companies are connecting with customers like never before. Previously a sponsor of the AI & Robotics event, Creative Virtual is pleased to be a partner for CXtech this year.

The event brings together thought leadership, innovation and current case studies covering a wide range of CX technologies. In addition to presentations from expert speakers, attendees will also have opportunities to take part in networking sessions and visit the Solutions Showcase to see demonstrations of CX solutions.

Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO of Creative Virtual, is one of the expert speaker at the event, presenting as part of the ‘Digital Automation, Chatbots and Virtual Assistants’ stream. His session, Digital CX & the contact centre: AI, chatbots, live chat & knowledge management, will address the essential components of AI-driven digital transformation in the contact centre. Chris will share live demonstrations of chatbot and live chat implementations and discuss industry best practices for implementing successful digital CX initiatives.

The Creative Virtual team will also take part in the Solutions Showcase, providing live demonstrations of our award-winning chatbot, virtual agent, live chat and knowledge management solutions. Be sure to stop by to see some of our current implementations in action and learn how we are helping brands implement these solutions to create seamless omnichannel engagement. We’ll also be sharing tips to help you build a business case for these CX technologies in your organisation.

You can find more information about CXtech and the full conference programme on the CXtech website. If you haven’t registered yet, be sure to use our promotional code CV295 to receive a £300 discount off the price of a single ticket.

If you aren’t able to attend the event in London but want to learn more, we’d love to arrange a personalised demo at a time that works for you.

Automation Shouldn’t Force Customers to do the Work Themselves

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Customer Service Week was celebrated this week along with Customer Experience Day (CX Day) on 2nd October. These annual events got me contemplating on the future of customer service. Whilst I’m all for automation – as you would expect from someone leading a company that develops chatbot technology to automate customer service! – I wonder about removing the human element completely, especially when it involves the customer doing the work themselves.

This is why I’m not keen on supermarket self-checkouts. After a busy day, I want to switch off and walk around the supermarket with my head in the clouds – not have to scan, weigh, search for butternut squash on the supermarket’s database! And then it often goes wrong, and you have to ask for assistance anyway. It’s just such a bad experience for so many customers. The same with self-check-in at airports. Peeling off luggage labels and making sure they’re attached correctly isn’t my idea of fun.

Getting instant answers to questions instead of having to call or email a company is a great example of where technology does make for a better customer experience, as long as the system can quickly and seamlessly escalate to a human when it doesn’t have an answer. Deploying technology to automate tasks needs to be a win-win for the organisation and the customer: reducing customer service costs whilst improving the customer experience at the same time.

I also wonder about what effect removing the human element altogether could have on our society – who will us Brits have to moan to about the weather?! Luckily customer service chatbots can have a personality and engage in small talk – anything from talking about the weather to politely declining a date.

Yet, it’s not uncommon – or unreasonable – for organisations to worry about losing the opportunity to build human connections with customers as more and more of the experience becomes automated. They need to understand their customer journey and be smart about how they implement automation. In some situations, there is no substitute for engaging with a real human.

As Customer Service Week comes to a close, the challenges of delivering positive customer service experiences will stay top of mind for organisations. There’s no doubt that automation has an essential role in meeting those challenges in our digital, always-on society, but it should be in conjunction with the human element.

If you want to learn more, be sure to check out our newest whitepaper, A Chatbot for Your Contact Centre, and my most recent webinar presentation, Humans & AI: The Perfect CX Power Couple.

A Chatbot for Your Contact Center

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Contact centers around the world are celebrating Customer Service Week this week, recognizing their agents who deliver service and support to customers all year long. But many of those contact centers are missing an important team member. A team member who never needs a day off, who doesn’t get annoyed answering the same questions over and over, and who makes the rest of the team better at their jobs. They are missing a chatbot.

Chatbots and virtual agents have become essential tools for providing 24/7 self-service to digital customers. Yet many organizations are missing out on the added benefits of using these solutions in the contact center. Contact centers require a great deal of investment – from recruiting and training staff to putting the necessary tools in place for agents. A chatbot can help you maximize on those investments while creating a positive omnichannel experience for customers. They instantly provide agents with information to assist customers, reduce average call handling times, and increase first contact resolution. Training time for live agents is drastically reduced, and you build confidence with customers by assuring consistent communication from all agents.

A chatbot in your contact center works essentially the same way as a chatbot on your website, except the users are your agents instead of your customers. The tool understands questions asked in natural langue, as well as common abbreviations used by your contact center, and can guide agents through processes and forms step-by-step as they assist customers. By giving all staff easy access to the same level of knowledge regardless of experience, anyone from support teams to trainers and coaches can step in to answer customer questions with confidence at peak or busy times.

Contact centers looking to implement a chatbot need to be aware that not all chatbot and virtual agent technology is created equal, and not all solutions on the market have been designed for the contact center. The new whitepaper A Chatbot for Your Contact Center explores tips for selecting and implementing a conversational platform to support agents and provide an omnichannel customer experience. Designed to act as a buyer’s guide, it provides questions to ask when selecting chatbot technology for your contact center, guidelines for how to align your contact center with digital channels for seamless customer support, and best practices for successfully implementing and maintaining a conversational platform.

Outlining and executing successful digital customer experience (CX) initiatives continues to grow in importance as consumers become more digitally-savvy and digital natives gain more buying power. A successful digital CX strategy goes beyond what your customers are experiencing online to include what’s happening in your contact center. It’s crucial to select contact center tools that will not only improve performance now but set your contact center up for continued integration with the digital channels of the future. With chatbots, you can maximize on contact center investments, provide seamless omnichannel customer support, and incorporate your contact center into your digital CX strategy.

Download your copy of A Chatbot for Your Contact Center for important tips and questions to ask when selecting and implementing a conversational platform for your contact center agents.

Happy Customer Service Week!

Leverage Your Chatbot to Its Full Capacity

By Laura Ludmany, Knowledgebase Engineer

Chatbot technologies are becoming more and more common in the business world, but I think most companies have not realized yet how interdisciplinary these artificial intelligence (AI) tools can be. When talking about the obvious benefits of implementing a virtual assistant, organisations look on the short-term and middle-term goals, but long-term objectives can often be overlooked. Some of the quick advantages are taking the pressure of customer call centres and live chat agents, thus reducing operational costs; FAQs and other guidance content are instantly accessible for the customers, in an engaging, interactive way.

But what about the long-term pros of having a chatbot? As your chatbot matures, so does its “knowledge” and content, and the ability to recognize and analyse user inputs will be paired by a higher rate of accuracy, making it possible to keep your customers in the loop of the conversation. Once a virtual assistant reaches this level (the more work both provider and client put on it- the sooner it happens), it can be used as a strong marketing and even sales tool reaching customers within minutes. Plus, it will be providing up-to-date data, collected straight away from users.

Promotional offers, new products and services can be added to chatbots in a centralised place such as a related FAQ section, where they are automatically shown to customers in their very personal environment – while they are in front of their PC or even on their mobile phone.

A couple of weeks ago I had to book an appointment in my local bank branch. When I got to talk to the advisor, she looked into my data and explained to me that based on my balance and banking activity, I qualified to an account upgrade. Wow! – good to know I thought. My original query was something totally different. That made me think – for how long would I have been able to upgrade my account?

What if I could have just logged onto my personal banking online and while having a basic conversation with the chatbot, it would have suggested to me the same upgrade right at the time when I got qualified? No hassle of booking an appointment, travelling to my local branch, waiting for the queue and spending a good amount of time during my busy day? I guess this could have been an outstanding customer experience. When using logged in versions of chatbots, this can be reality, besides making transactions, balance queries and a bunch of other banking features.

Long-term benefits go beyond that. Interacting with users through a virtual assistant is a 2-directional flow – as organisations provide latest information to their customers, their customers provide feedback to the company. Customer surveys, trends, and analysis are important in today’s competitive world – but why totally outsource these tasks to an outside provider, when you can listen to the voice of your customers in real time?

Imagine having 50,000 conversations monthly available at any time, coming straight from your customers; imagine you can learn what they asked the most times and even see what they asked word by word; imagine knowing what your customers are after at this very moment. Sure, call centres and live chat agents keep records, but it’s time and cost consuming analysing conversations, and it’s hard to systemize raw data. Therefore, it can take a long time to answer to the demand of your customers, and it might take you even longer than your competitors.

Not long ago, a digital marketing manager from a financial organisation that is a Creative Virtual client, got in touch with me asking about all the questions asked to their chatbot having “abroad” or “holiday” in and the answers delivered to those questions. It took me approximately 4 hours to create a standardized, systematized report containing all of the user entries with those above 2 words and the corresponding answers. The report had about 3,000 word-by-word customer queries – providing a real insight to customer intentions, in a form of instantly accessible, completely free of charge, organized, systematic data.

To sum it up – AI technologies cannot only be used in reactive ways, but they can and should be used in a proactive way as well: to inform, advertise, and promote and to analyse customer trends and demands. Many organisations are still in a phase where they are deciding to deploy a chatbot as a response to common market practices and as a solution to take the pressure off live chat agents and call centres. But you can get so much more out of your AI solution, if you realize how powerful of a tool you have in your hands, you are able to detect issues and, most importantly, prevent them before they would even occur – what’s a better customer experience than this in the long-term?

I’ll leave that with you to ponder as we celebrate Customer Service Week. I also recommend watching our Humans & AI: The Perfect CX Power Couple webinar on-demand to see how organisations are already leveraging their chatbots for long-term success.

[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.

[Meet the Team] Tracey Biela: Crazy About Virtual Agent Technology Since 1999

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Creative Virtual is one of only four companies in London to be recognised by The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in the category of Innovation in 2017. The company was selected for this honour 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 organisation 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 Tracey Biela, Senior Knowledgebase Engineer with Creative Virtual’s UK team. Tracey started in the virtual agent field in 1999 with a company in Hamburg, Germany and fell in love with the technology. After leaving that role in 2005 and then moving away from Hamburg, she feared she would never get to work in the industry again. Thankfully for Creative Virtual, that was not to be the end of Tracey’s virtual agent journey! In 2011 she joined the Creative Virtual team and is now involved with defect management, testing, training and supporting partner implementations. She shared with me why she is crazy about chatbots and virtual agents and how she still looks for a way to slip the company’s Queen’s Awards win into conversations.

How has your early work with virtual agent technology influenced your current role with Creative Virtual?

That was when I first started to love virtual agents. I’m crazy about the technology! I started working with virtual agents when I lived in Hamburg. It was at that company where I first met and worked with Chris [Ezekiel] before he founded Creative Virtual, and also worked with several others who would eventually be a part of the Creative Virtual team. I was interviewed for that first job by Olaf Voβ [Lead Application Designer] and trained by Björn Gülsdorff [Chief Business Development Officer]. I also worked with Rachel Freeman [Operations Director] and Katrin Zieren [Business Development Consultant].

Tracey Biela Creative VirtualAfter having my kids and relocating again, I thought to myself, “What have I done?!” I thought I would never get to work in the business again. It was only after I reconnected with Chris and Rachel that I realised there might be a possibility of joining Creative Virtual. I’m so happy to be back again and working for Chris. We share a similar philosophy on things, so I knew it would be good to work for him.

The very first VA [virtual agent] I worked on was named Mark and was built to sell virtual reality glasses and talk about science fiction in German and English. I worked on the English version and Björn did the German. At that time I never thought that eighteen years later I’d find myself working on virtual agents that are helping large organisations deal successfully with a very high amount of traffic.

During my time at my first virtual agent job, I was involved with developing the basic knowledgebase and still see some of that early work reflected the VAs I work on today.  I also had the opportunity to be involved with the servers, UI [user interface] and backend aspects of the technology which has been an advantage when supporting partners in my current role.

What makes Creative Virtual stand out in the virtual agent industry?

V-Portal™ is the fifth system I’ve used during my career for building virtual agents, and it is by far the best. V-Portal is amazing! Our clients really appreciate that we provide a suite of products. In particular, that V-Portal works hand-in-hand with our Live Chat and virtual agents. No one else does that.

I have a background in linguistics, with a Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics, so the language aspect of VAs is something else I love. Creative Virtual has built our technology to work with any language which is incredibly important. V-Portal’s multi-lingual capabilities allow our VAs to maintain accuracy across all languages.

Creative Virtual’s hybrid approach of human input and self-learning also makes our solution the best out there. The world has seen what happens when you let users completely train your chatbot, and that doesn’t work.

What do you enjoy most about your role and being a part of the Creative Virtual team?

I always feel like I am part of such an excellent team! The company is really flexible and understanding of family obligations, which also takes up a lot my day. In between juggling family life and work, I love it when I get to train clients or colleagues, especially when I’m working with a really engaged group. I enjoy meeting different people and learning as much from our customers and partners as they are learning from me.

Tracey Biela Creative VirtualMy current role really brings together my skills and interests. My linguistics background and interest in languages has been really helpful when working with VAs in Turkish, Swedish, Danish and other languages. This is a fascinating way to play with languages and be able to help our clients to help their customers. I sometimes see myself in a communicator role, helping to translate from technical terms and jargon into ‘normal’ language to explain things to clients and partners in a way they can easily understand. I also find myself really enjoying the part of my job that involves testing and replicating defects. I love being able to bite into a defect until I figure it out.

This work can be really stressful and busy at times, and it’s not for everyone. I tend to be a workaholic, so I need to make sure I’m taking some time off. As a company we seem to have a reputation of being hard workers but really knowing how to celebrate when we get together! I’m not sure how that started, but it came up again after one of the clients I work with was at our Queen’s Awards celebration and commented on how fun it was to celebrate with us.

RSPCA Creative VirtualIn addition to celebrating, the team also gets together to do good for the community. This will be my fourth time doing the 10k for the RSPCA, and I’m really looking forward to it this year. The first time I didn’t think I could do it. This year I started training earlier and am hoping to get a new personal best.

Having a career in the virtual agent industry does have a downside, though. My kids have an Amazon Alexa and are always asking her things. At first, they sounded a lot like the inputs we often get on a brand-new VA – cuss words and childish questions like “can you fart?” – when people are testing it out, which made me laugh. Now when Alexa misses a question or doesn’t have the answer, I find myself saying to my kids that she “hit the safety net” or “must not have those keywords”, and then suggesting another way they can ask. I can’t just enjoy Alexa like everyone else – I’m always analysing her knowledgebase! Although, I guess that’s a small price to pay for having my dream job.

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

Winning the Queen’s Awards is absolutely fantastic! I’m still excited! It’s such a prestigious award and not one that many companies can say that they won. I think I told everyone I know about Creative Virtual’s win, and I still look for a reason to slip it into conversation any time I can. I’ve told all of my family in the USA and all of my friends know. Some clients’ names are not always recognisable, but when you mention the Queen they always know the award is a big deal!

A friend once told me many years ago that when you find a job you get co-workers that you like or work that you like or you will like the pay. Working for Creative Virtual has been my dream job – I got all three! I mention this in every year in my annual review, and I feel grateful to work with such a great team and a great company.