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Solving Common Conversational AI Project Issues

This post was originally published on AI Time Journal.

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, Creative Virtual

Back in 2019, I wrote an article on reasons why chatbot projects were failing or being abandoned before they even reached the testing stage. At the time, the conversational AI industry had been saturated with both false promises about the capabilities of the technology and a plethora of new start-ups with misleading claims about having AI-powered customer service bots. That left the chatbot and virtual agent landscape littered with poor-performing and failed projects along with negative press about the technology.

Fast forward to 2022, and much has changed in the world of conversational AI. One important change is the widespread acceptance that pure AI is not the right answer for automated customer service and employee support. Industry experts, analysts, and vendors (including those that previously claimed otherwise) now agree that a combination of humans and AI is the best approach to these chatbot and virtual agent solutions. This is coupled with important advancements in conversational AI technology that allow for the right balance of human and machine to create positive support experiences.

Conversational AI is now widely recognised as an important technology in digital customer experience and employee support strategies. During the pandemic, chatbots and virtual agents were a crucial tool for some organisations to meet the challenges of serving customers quickly and efficiently during a time when contact centres were overwhelmed and information was changing rapidly. These success stories demonstrate just how essential conversational AI technology is for successful digital strategies.

Yet despite all those success stories, some organisations are still struggling with a chatbot that’s not performing as expected, can’t be scaled as their business grows, or doesn’t properly reflect their brand. Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard a variety of reasons from business leaders on why their company is unhappy with their conversational AI tools. Here are the six most common issues they cite:

  • I can’t expand my solution to support my growing business and customer base.
  • I have limited integration options to create a seamless and personalised experience.
  • I started my project with an inexperienced start-up that isn’t able to provide the technology updates and support I need from my vendor.
  • I am struggling to manage multiple chatbots across different business divisions or departments.
  • I am unable to staff my chatbot project with internal resources with the necessary knowledge and experience.
  • I don’t own the user interface or training data with my current chatbot provider.

In those situations, it can be easy to mistakenly dismiss the technology as ineffective. Don’t fall into that trap! Instead of abandoning your investment and writing conversational AI off as a poor fit for your strategy, you need to engage with a vendor that has the tools and experience to get your project back on track.

My first recommendation for transforming a tool with any of these issues is to find a vendor that can leverage what you already have from your existing project or projects. You want to rescue your investment, not start over from scratch. If a vendor doesn’t have technology sophisticated enough to do this, then most likely their solution isn’t going to work for you in the long run anyway.

My second recommendation is to be very clear – both internally and with the vendor – about both your short-term and long-term goals for your chatbot. This is what is going to drive your conversational AI strategy and technology requirements. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish with your chatbot, then you can’t properly identify the functionality, integrations, reporting, etc. you need from a vendor.

And my third recommendation is to ensure you’re selecting a vendor with the right experience and expertise. You want to collaborate with a provider that has solved your issue before, understands the specific needs of your industry and/or use case, and has the references to back them up. Ask to talk to their current clients so you can hear first-hand from them what it’s like to work with the vendor.

If you’re interested in learning more, Creative Virtual has put together an eBook – Conversational AI Issues & Solutions – that talks about each of the common issues I listed above in more detail.

My overarching advice is: Don’t let any of these issues signal the end of your conversational AI project. Leverage what you already have to transform that project into the successful and valuable digital support solution your organisation needs.

How to Make Your Chatbot More Conversational

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

When customers use your chatbot to self-serve, what kind of experience do you deliver? Does your chatbot need questions asked a particular way to return the correct response? Do your customers have to guess the correct keywords to enter or know specific terminology to locate the right information? Are users repeatedly told by your chatbot to try rephrasing an input that doesn’t have a direct match in the system?

All of these scenarios provide a frustrating, negative self-service experience. They often lead to an escalation to a live chat session or a call to the contact centre for resolution, meaning your support agents are left to deal with the immediate impacts of that poor experience. With digital self-service such an important piece of customer support, a chatbot with these limited capabilities is detrimental to the success of your customer experience (CX) strategy.

This is why using a high-quality conversational AI technology to build your chatbot is so important. You want your chatbot to engage with users conversationally. That isn’t possible with basic bot platforms which act more like simple FAQ tools or don’t give you options for backend integrations.

Engaging ‘conversationally’ doesn’t mean that a goal of your chatbot should be to make users think they are chatting with a real person. It’s always best to be clear that it is an automated self-service tool. Customers appreciate transparency about whether they are using a human-assisted or automated digital support option. The last thing you want to do is make them feel tricked!

Here are a few ways to create the right conversational engagement through your chatbot:

  • Create a conversational tone – Just because you aren’t trying to make users think they are talking to a real person doesn’t mean that you must make your chatbot’s responses sound stiff and bland. Craft your responses using a conversational tone that reflects your brand and has the same type of language you use on your website and in customer communications.
  • Understand free text inputs – There is more than one way to ask the same question, and in a conversation both participants understand this. Ensure your chatbot is trained to respond to the various ways users can word an input rather than requiring a specific keyword or phrase. This includes taking into account both common synonyms for your language and region as well as those for your particular industry, products, and services. And on occasions when a user’s input can’t be confidently matched to a response and the chatbot asks for the question to be rephrased, also offer some clickable suggestions or possible related FAQs to improve the experience.
  • Craft conversation flows – Adding customised conversation flows enables your chatbot to guide users through a process step-by-step in a very natural, conversational way. These flows are perfect for troubleshooting account or device issues, completing a form with the chatbot, or pinpointing a very specific piece of information to assist the customer.
  • Deliver personalised support – Integrate your chatbot with backend systems so it can provide customised responses based on that customer’s current account, subscriptions, orders, etc. Using sophisticated slot-filling functionality also enables users to authenticate within the chatbot at any time to create a seamless and more personal conversation.

The best conversational AI technology for customer support chatbots uses a blend of machine learning and natural language rules. This lets you take advantage of recent innovations in machine learning so your chatbot is constantly improving based on your users’ activities. At the same time, it gives you control over the AI so you can ensure your chatbot is using those learnings to continue providing accurate, reliable responses in a conversational way.

If you currently have a chatbot that’s failing the conversational test, check out this eBook on Conversational AI Issues & Solutions for ways to improve your solution.

If you don’t have a customer service chatbot yet and are concerned about choosing the right conversational AI technology, check out this Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor for some insider expert tips.

A chatbot can be a valuable self-service option for your customers, but it must be backed by a high-quality conversational AI technology – with an emphasis on conversational.

Resolve to Make Your Conversational AI Project Healthier this Year

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

The new year is here and that means it is time for New Year’s resolutions. The most common personal resolutions are focused on being healthier – exercising more, eating better, improving fitness, losing weight, stopping smoking. People join the gym, sign up for weight loss programmes, and download meditation apps.

But what about your conversational AI project? Does it need a New Year’s resolution to be healthier in the new year, too?

If your organisation already has a conversational AI project, then you don’t need me to wax on about the importance of digital customer support. You get it. However, if you’re concerned that your current conversational AI tool isn’t up to the task of improving your digital support experience in 2022, then it’s time to make a resolution for change.

Even the best laid plans sometimes take a wrong turn or need to be tweaked as customer expectations and your organisation change. The start of a new year is the perfect time to take a step back and re-evaluate your conversational AI project and strategy. If this review leaves you dissatisfied with what you find, you’re not alone. Here are some common reasons other organisations have given for being unhappy with their conversational AI projects:

  • I can’t expand my solution to support my growing business and customer base.
  • I have limited integration options to create a seamless and personalised experience.
  • I started my project with an inexperienced start-up that isn’t able to provide the technology updates and support I need from my conversational AI vendor.
  • I am struggling to manage multiple chatbots across different business divisions or departments.
  • I am unable to staff my chatbot project with internal resources with the necessary knowledge and experience.
  • I don’t own the user interface or training data with my current chatbot provider.

The good news is that none of these common issues are dealbreakers that mean you must scrap your current virtual agent or chatbot project and start over. Like any New Year’s resolution to be healthier, you just need a plan that starts where you are and takes you to your goal of creating a successful, valuable, and healthy solution.

Your first step should be to download the new ebook Conversational AI Issues & Solutions: Transforming Ineffective Chatbot & Virtual Agent Projects. It takes an individual look at each of the common issues listed above, explaining how they can negatively impact your conversational AI project and exploring ways they can be solved.

When you’re ready to work out the details of your plan for a healthier chatbot or virtual agent and put it into action, the Creative Virtual team is ready to be your personal trainer and coach. Contact the team here to learn more about the expert consultation and technology that’s helping brands around the world deliver reliable and valuable conversational AI solutions.

This new year, resolve to transform your conversational AI project into a healthier, more effective customer service solution. Make 2022 the year your customers, employees, and company experience the full benefits of a successful chatbot or virtual agent.

Wishing you a Season that’s Magical & Bright!

As we wrap up another year at Creative Virtual, our entire team around the world want to say a big thank you to all of our blog readers, customers, and partners!

2021 brought both challenges and celebrations for us as a company and the wider conversational AI industry, and we’re ending it looking forward to what is to come next year. In particular, we’re excited about the next big release of our V-Person™ technology, Gluon. You can find a special sneak peek here. We are also excited about the brand new ebook we recently published to help organizations solve common issues they are having with their conversational AI projects. You can get your copy of the ebook here. Be sure to subscribe to our Blog (if you aren’t already!) so you don’t miss our Gluon release announcements and new educational resources in 2022.

On behalf of all of us at Creative Virtual, wishes for a magical, festive end to 2021 and a new year full of even more bright moments!

The Success of a Chatbot is in the Details

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Last year many of us were spending much more time at home than usual as we did our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. This created a surge of another kind, though: a wave of do-it-yourself project attempts. If you’re at home anyway, why not try to tackle that project yourself?

As many DIYers quickly discovered, the devil is in the details. No matter how easy something looks in the YouTube video or how complete the step-by-step instructions may appear, some projects are better left to the professionals. Sometimes recognising the small details needed to really succeed requires an expertise that comes only from experience.

This is most certainly true when it comes to creating chatbots for customer self-service, and too often organisations fall into the DIY trap. Some companies delegate their project solely to an inexperienced internal team because they underestimate the amount of expertise needed to build and deploy a working chatbot. Some companies treat their chatbot as an unimportant DIY side project not worthy of dedicated resources and investment because they fail to recognise the importance of conversational AI in modern customer experience (CX) strategies. Whatever the reason for a DIY approach, these organisations soon discover that they should have collaborated with a chatbot professional.

A good example of an important detail for chatbot success that is often overlooked comes from Maria Ward in a conversational AI vendor selection guide. Maria, an industry expert with over 15 years of experience working with chatbots and virtual agents, shares this insider tip:

“Avoid using ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ at the beginning of virtual agent answers as it may not fit with the many ways a question may be asked. Adding the subject within an answer also gives the user confidence that they have received the correct answer. For example, when answering ‘Can I have 3 slices of cake?’ instead of ‘Yes, you can.’, use ‘You can eat as much cake as you like!’”

 Besides making me hungry for cake, this quote also illustrates an important point about the importance of the details in chatbot creation. When you read Maria’s tip, you might think that structuring the chatbot’s answers in that way should be common sense. It sounds so logical. But, if you’re not experienced with creating chatbot content, is that something you would automatically know? Probably not.

Really understanding how to structure answer content to work with the many ways users may ask the same question is just one skill that comes with experience. It’s a detail that’s crucial to delivering a quality self-service experience and building user confidence in your conversational AI tool. It’s also a detail that could very easily be overlooked by an inexperienced DIY team.

When it comes to creating a successful chatbot and delivering a positive customer service experience with conversational AI, the devil really is in the details. Unless you have a highly experience internal team, taking a DIY approach is not worth the risk. CX is a critical competitive differentiator for organisations, and a poor performing self-service tool will quickly erode customer loyalty and your brand reputation.

Is Your Inexperienced Approach to Self-Service Driving Customers Away?

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

As many people around the world reflect on more than a year of pandemic-related lockdowns, restrictions, and public health measures, it’s impossible not to marvel at how we all adapted to our current reality. This has involved a lot of trial-and-error as we learned new skills and created new routines in both our personal and professional lives.

Trial-and-error is important to our individual growth and life in general. However, when it comes to areas like customer support, using a trial-and-error approach can have a devastating effect on your customer experience. And it is no secret that poor experiences can lead directly to customer churn and lost revenue.

Perhaps in the early days of limited in-person interactions and surges in calls to contact centres, customers were more understanding about long wait times or out-of-date self-help content. The attitude of ‘we’re all in this together’ extended to giving companies a little space to try some trial-and-error to get their support experience right. If that grace period did exist, it is now long over!

During the past year, more customers have turned to digital channels and automated self-service for support. Usage of virtual agents and chatbots exploded with record-breaking levels of traffic. Customers expect these conversational AI tools to be easy-to-use, convenient, accurate, and reliable. When built and maintained properly, they are all those things.

Unfortunately, not all companies tackle the implementation of conversational AI solutions with a realistic understanding of what it takes to make them successful. Instead, they take a DIY approach with limited internal knowledge and experience. This requires a lot of trial-and-error which creates poor performing tools and frustrated, unhappy customers.

As Claudio Chico, Development & Support Technician at Creative Virtual, explained in a recent conversational AI guide:

“A proper business virtual agent has many parts and building one involves knowledge in many areas. If any part is new to you or you aren’t extremely familiar with the tools you are using, you’re stuck applying the principles of ‘hoping this works’ and ‘changing stuff and seeing what happens’. When you outsource this to an experienced provider, you get a whole team of people who not only know what they are doing but have done it thousands of times. They have a deep understanding of how to use their tools and how they work, so nothing is a mystery anymore.”

Part of the underestimation of the importance experience plays in successful conversational AI projects stems from a misconception that chatbots and virtual agents are new self-service solutions that burst onto the scene several years ago. If this is new technology, then surely everyone is inexperienced and utilising a trial-and-error methodology, right? The truth is this technology has been used in areas such as website self-service for over two decades.

Even though these self-service tools may be new to your company and team, vendors like Creative Virtual have years and years of experience with delivering successful solutions. This means that forward-thinking companies – perhaps even some of your competitors – have years and years of experience with offering successful solutions. It also means that customers have used those successful solutions when engaging with other businesses and will use your chatbot or virtual agent expecting the same level of reliable and accurate self-service.

When it comes to creating positive customer experiences and getting the most from conversational AI technology, there is no substitute for having hands-on experience with building, integrating, installing, maintaining, and expanding virtual agents and chatbots. An inexperienced, trial-and-error approach doesn’t drive success. It drives your customers away.

Download the Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor: Forget the Technology & Focus on Experience whitepaper for more tips from industry experts.

Also check out the ISG Provider Lens™ Intelligent Automation – Solutions & Services report for the analyst group’s independent evaluation of the conversational AI market and vendors.

Bottom line: Work with an experienced team to deliver your company’s self-service solutions and leave the trial-and-error for finding the most flattering lighting for your next Zoom meeting or testing the best ways to trick your kids into eating their vegetables.

Introducing the Conversational AI Industry’s Smartest Solution Yet: The Neutrino Release of V-Person™

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Today I’m proud to be sharing Creative Virtual’s introduction of the Neutrino release of V-Person™, our innovative virtual agent and chatbot technology. This release delivers the perfect combination of conversational AI, orchestration tools and industry expertise to enable organisations to create customer and employee conversations. It brings together humans and artificial intelligence (AI) with powerful integration options and easy-to-manage workflows for the industry’s smartest solution yet.

When I first founded Creative Virtual in late 2003, chatbot and virtual agent technology was still very new in the customer service space. The solutions we were building were very basic and lacked the power of AI and machine comprehension that we have today. It’s been exciting to lead a company that’s instrumental in advancing the technology and its applications for customer and employee engagement.

As the virtual agent and live chat market continues to evolve, one constant for us at Creative Virtual is our tradition of innovation. However, we don’t focus on innovation simply for the sake of being able to say we have something shiny and new. We innovate around the real needs of organisations and their customer and employee experience goals. Our Neutrino release of V-Person is a great example of this commitment.

Several years ago, there was a sudden burst of interest in chatbots and virtual agents along with ways AI could be used for customer support. This has led to a chatbot, virtual agent and live chat market saturated with inexperienced vendors and ineffective technologies that are leaving companies and their customers frustrated. Some organisations are learning the hard way that not all chatbot and virtual agent solutions are created equal.

v-person neutrino releaseNeutrino addresses and removes the frustrations caused by those poor performing vendors and technologies by combining:

  • V-Person – Our conversational virtual agent and chatbot technology brings together humans and AI for personalised, smart self-help.
  • V-Portal™ – Our powerful orchestration platform is the most functional virtual agent, chatbot and live chat management platform in the market today.
  • Consultation & guidance – Our experienced global team delivers localised support, international insights and best practice expertise.

Having the information your customers and employees need means little if they aren’t able to access it quickly and efficiently to find answers to questions and troubleshoot problems. With Neutrino, you can leverage your company’s existing knowledge to power chatbot, virtual agent and live chat solutions for improved customer and employee experiences.

We can also use your live chat and contact centre transcripts, search inputs and existing chatbot projects to jumpstart your solution. By combining your data with our Transcript Analysis Tool and sector-specific intent libraries, the Creative Virtual team can:

  • Identify what can be automated to help build your business case
  • Build and deploy your system quickly and easily
  • Train your virtual agent for continued improvement

This means you can deploy conversational self-service quickly and easily, creating conversations with customers and employees across touchpoints in a seamless, personalised way and at large scale. Providing quality support on digital channels has never been more important than it is right now as we all adjust to fewer in-person interactions and a larger remote workforce.

The reason our Neutrino release is the industry’s smartest solution yet really comes down to the experience and expertise of the global Creative Virtual team. Everything, from the updating of our company roadmap to the development of new features and functionality to the implementation and optimisation of end user solutions, hinges on our team’s deep understanding of the technology and extensive experience in the industry. There is no substitute for that expertise when it comes to delivering industry-leading products and successful solutions.

Check out the Get to know the Neutrino release of V-Person page to learn more, download the release overview, read what some of our current customers and partners say about working with us, and request your own live demo.

Happy Sweet Sixteen, Creative Virtual!

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

“Tra la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la, Happy birthday sweet sixteen,” sings Neil Sedaka in his hit song. Those lyrics popped into my head as I contemplated the sixteen years I’ve spent growing Creative Virtual since founding the company in London’s East End. I’m most proud of building a successful, world-leading company over a sustained period of time with an amazing group of people and keeping our independence along the way. Not an easy feat!

In November, I participated in an executive interview – you can read the full interview here – which happened to coincide with the 16th anniversary of the founding of Creative Virtual. One of the questions was about where I grew up and how my upbringing influenced my career. I talked about growing up on the Isle of Dogs in East London and learning at an early age that there is no substitute for hard work when you want to achieve something. Resilience, mental toughness, and showing and earning respect are all characteristics that have served me well as I’ve grown the company, helping me navigate the inevitable bumps along the way.

Likewise, the culture and values that are instilled in the fabric of a new company in the early days can have a lasting impact on the company as it grows and evolves. For Creative Virtual, it was important to me that the company maintain a culture of ownership, innovation and collaboration. Relationships are at the core of what the company is all about. I’m very proud to say that our first enterprise customer, Lloyds Banking Group, who we first worked with in 2004, are still a customer today. I’ve built Creative Virtual based on long term relationships, and we see all of our customers and resellers as partners in our journey to deliver the best possible customer experience tools.

Being recognised for our innovation and thought leadership in the extremely fast-paced chatbot, virtual agent and live chat market is also important for the company. There are new competitors – both large and small – springing up almost daily in our space. This validates the market of course, but also creates a lot of confusion and makes it more difficult to cut through all the noise. Receiving the five-year Queens Awards for Enterprise: Innovation in 2017 (and getting to meet Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace!) has helped set us apart from our competition. Last year we had further external recognition from analyst group Frost & Sullivan when they named us the AI-Enhanced Customer Self-Service Product Leader – another impressive accomplishment!

Perhaps the only thing that tops those amazing awards is the validation from our customers and partners that we are helping them meet their customer and employee engagement goals. It’s one thing to say that as a company we pride ourselves on continuous innovation, but we know that means nothing if we aren’t able to use those innovations to improve real customer and employee experiences. During 2019, a number of our customers have published verified reviews of our company and technology on the Gartner Peer Insights* website. I am very proud of the positive feedback and five-star reviews!

A common theme in these reviews is the positive experience our customer organisations have working with the Creative Virtual team, describing us as responsive, flexible, supportive, professional, adaptive, collaborative and highly skilled. The experience and expertise we are able to deliver alongside our innovative technology is one of our biggest differentiators in the marketplace. Getting to know each of our customer’s goals and challenges not only allows us to better guide them in the development, implementation and expansion of their individual solutions, but also informs our R&D roadmap so we can focus on what new developments will be the most beneficial in real scenarios and engagement strategies.

As we celebrate our Sweet Sixteen, we are continuing our mission of spreading a realistic view of artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots through our ongoing thought leadership and consulting work. Creative Virtual has been in this space for a long time – since the infancy of virtual agent and chatbot technology – so has a unique understanding of the past, present and future of these solutions. We know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to using the technology and are keenly aware that there are a variety of reasons why chatbot projects fail. Our experience and expertise mean we can guide organisations in developing and implementing their chatbot, virtual agent and live chat roadmaps. We are also assisting companies in saving investments already made in failing and poor performing chatbot projects through our Chatbot Rescue Mission.

In November’s executive interview I was asked what was next in my career, and that answer was easy: To keep innovating and growing the business globally, and make sure we continue to stay on top of our game and be recognised independently for being the best at what we do. That will take hard work and dedication, but I’m excited to see what the next 16 years will bring!

Thank you to Creative Virtual’s team, customers and partners for helping the company reach this important anniversary. Happy Sweet Sixteen!

 

*Gartner Peer Insights reviews constitute the subjective opinions of individual end users based on their own experiences, and do not represent the views of Gartner or its affiliates.

A Look Back: 2019 in Review

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

The new year is just around the corner, which means it is once again time for our annual look back over the past 12 months. 2019 was another busy and exciting year for Creative Virtual and the chatbot, virtual agent and live chat industry. It’s always difficult to condense a whole year into one blog post, so here are just a few of the highlights.

We continued our five-year-long celebration of our Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017 as we also celebrated the 15th anniversary of Creative Virtual. Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, took a look back at the changes in the company and the industry since he started Creative Virtual in London’s East End in his blog post, Fifteen Years & Counting: Navigating the chatbot, virtual agent and AI revolution. During the year Chris also participated in industry interviews, including one with the AI Time Journal as part of their Conversational AI Initiative and one for the Executive Interviews website, where he shared more insights into the myths and realities of chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI).

This year we have also been celebrating another impressive recognition for the company: Frost & Sullivan’s 2019 AI-Enhanced Customer Self-Service Product Leadership Award! In selecting us for this award, the analysts at Frost & Sullivan evaluated chatbot and virtual agent vendors across two key factors, each with five benchmarking criteria. Creative Virtual was rated as ‘Excellent’ across these categories. You can download a copy of their full independent report here. I had the honour of joining Andy Madge (Head of Technical Services) and Liam Ryan (Sales Director) at the Awards Dinner in London to accept our plaque and meet other Best Practice Award winners from all over Europe.

Special congratulations also go out to Maria Ward, Account Manager/Knowledgebase Engineer, for being shortlisted for the 2019 Women in IT Excellence Awards in the category of ‘Role Model of the Year (SME) – Tech Industry’! You can read more about Maria’s journey from Creative Virtual customer to partner to team member in her Meet the Team interview. Maria was also one of our Team Animal runners in our charity runs for the RSPCA this year, joined by Laura Ludmany, Rachel Freeman, Björn Gülsdorff and Chris Ezekiel. Instead of all meeting up to run a group race together, each runner registered for a local race instead and took part in runs in Hamburg, London, Ipswich and Dublin. This was the fifth year we fundraised for the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), a cause we feel passionately about as a company of animal lovers.

The team was also involved with our annual blog celebration of CX Day (1 October) and Customer Service Week (7-11 October), making this year the best one yet. Authors based in four different countries covered topics ranging from customer expectations to chatbot creation to managing stress for better customer relationships. If you missed any, be sure to check them out:

We were also excited to be featured in the Wharf Life Newspaper during Customer Service Week. You can read the full article here.

While 2019 saw an increase in the adoption of chatbot and virtual agent technology, we also saw more companies struggling with poor performing tools or projects that never came to fruition. Founder & CEO Chris explored some reasons for this in an article for the AI Time Journal, “Virtual Moron-Idiot!”: Why Chatbots Fail and the #ChatbotRescue Mission Saving Them. As a successful pioneer in the chatbot and virtual agent space, Creative Virtual is in a unique position to help these companies save their investments. That’s why we launched our Chatbot Rescue Mission, offering organisations a no cost consultation workshop and initial chatbot upgrade to get their projects back on track.

This year we sponsored, attended and joined our partners at a variety of industry events around the world, including ones in the United Kingdom, Germany, Singapore, India, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Thailand. Team members presented, participated in panels and gave demos at many of these events, including several keynote addresses. We also welcomed some new organisations to our growing Global Partner Network and expanded our V-Person™ Family with new deployments around the world.

Our Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel continued his monthly Virtual Viewpoint column for the Wharf Life Newspaper this year. You can find all of his past columns here. He also saw his name in print in the 6 October edition of The Sunday Times where he was quoted in an article about British entrepreneurs and their tech giant competitors. Subscribers to The Times can read the article online here – and we also have a copy available here.

As we head into 2020, Creative Virtual is preparing to celebrate the company’s Sweet Sixteen – 16 years of helping enterprises deliver better customer and employee support and of bringing new innovations to the virtual agent, chatbot and live chat market. We’re looking forward to seeing what the next year will bring!

Be sure to check out our 2019 in Review photo album on the Creative Virtual Facebook page. As we do every year, we’ve compiled photos from industry events, company celebrations, fundraising runs and group activities. There will be more photos added over the next couple of weeks, so make sure you’re following us so you don’t miss any.

Setting Realistic Expectations for AI-Enhanced CX Technologies

By Maria Ward, Account Manager/Knowledgebase Engineer

On 31 October I joined my colleague Liam Ryan at the 2019 CXtech Conference & Technology Showcase, which was co-located with the AI & Robotics Conference, in London.  Even though it was the fourth year Creative Virtual sponsored the joint events, it was my first opportunity to represent the company, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Liam and I chatted about what the day held in store while attendees started to arrive. The day was packed with presentations from experts in the artificial intelligence (AI) industry, aimed at advising participants who were looking to find out more about this ever-growing technology. Liam was due to present at 10 am on the “Evolution of Customer Experience”. I could tell how much he was looking forward to it!

I was manning the Creative Virtual stand for most of the time so didn’t get to see many of the presentations, but I did join the audience for Liam’s presentation.

He reminisced for a short time about the olden days when phones were smart if you could send a text and computers couldn’t be popped in a bag to take to work, before talking about the high expectations of customers of today. He outlined Creative Virtual’s top tips for implementing chatbot, virtual agent and live chat technology. He went on to talk about how Creative Virtual are combining the technological advances in deep learning and artificial intelligence with the human touch to create customer experience solutions that deliver on the promises made.

After Liam’s presentation came a Q&A session and I was happily sitting as an anonymous participant, when Liam kindly put me on the spot to answer a question about how the deep learning works. That moment seems like a bit of a blur now, and I hope my reply was coherent! I explained how the deep learning, (based on a rather complicated algorithm!), works alongside customer intent, which is ultimately being overseen by a human to ensure a controlled evolution.

This was quite apt as it’s apparent that many companies are being given unrealistic expectations about what AI can achieve for them. In fact, we are finding that many companies either have struggled or are currently struggling with unsuccessful, and often very expensive, chatbot projects – some which have gone live, only to disappoint and others that never got off the ground. (Did you know that Creative Virtual is offering a free workshop to help companies who find themselves in this position?)

I spent the remainder my time at the conference talking to people who had been impressed with Liam’s presentation, and who’d come to find out more about what we do at Creative Virtual. It was interesting to see the varied reasons people were exploring the world of AI and what questions they had. These discussions made it obvious that companies are approaching chatbot and virtual agent technology as a must-have for their customer experience and employee engagement strategies. However, often they are being cautious because there are so many options in the marketplace that can’t deliver positive results.

The day made me feel quite privileged to work in such a fast-moving and exciting arena. Thanks to everyone who stopped by our stand to learn more and to the event organisers for putting together an insight day for both the sponsors and attendees.

If you missed the event or Liam’s keynote session, be sure to download our Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent.

CXtech