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Conversational AI and the Future of APAC Contact Centres

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Like many industry events this year, the annual HKCCA (Hong Kong Customer Contact Association) Symposium went virtual on 5 November. Our partner Continuous Technologies (CTINT) was once again an event sponsor and graciously invited me to present on the Symposium theme of Future Fit.

This was my sixth time speaking at the HKCCA Symposium, but the first time doing it from the UK. This event is always one of the highlights of the year for me, and I missed being in Hong Kong in person to take part in the great discussions and awards gala fun. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic changed how we participated in the Symposium, it has also greatly affected how businesses engage with their customers. The theme of Future Fit perfectly reflected the pressure contact centres around the world are experiencing as they tackle these current challenges and prepare for the unknown challenges of the future.

The event speakers covered a variety of topics with a strong emphasis on digital innovation and transformation within the contact centre industry. My session, Conversational AI & the Future of Your Contact Centre, also delved into how the digital CX impacts contact centres and agents. The fact is that even though APAC CX practitioners identify digital CX as a top trend, a majority of organisations are only in the early stages of their digital transformation journey and far from having an integrated, omnichannel experience.

While this may offer a rather gloomy view of the state of CX in the APAC region, I think it also provides an exciting opportunity for organisations to jump ahead of the customer experience curve and really stand out from competitors. Conversational AI is an important technology to help join up the contact centre with digital channels and prepare your contact centre and agents for the future.

Conversational AI is showing itself to be more important this year than ever before as the world comes to grips with the impacts of the pandemic. In 2020 there is an increased focus on automated technologies, such as chatbots and virtual agents, as companies face new customer service and experience challenges and customers alter the ways they engage with businesses. One advantage of this technology is that it can handle massive volumes of conversations at the same time, 24/7. Another advantage is that changes to content can be deployed very quickly, a must-have during a time when keeping information dynamic, up-to-date and accurate is key.

The companies that have the most success with their CX strategies take an approach that combines digital channels and the contact centre. They build a team that brings them together instead of keeping them separate as was done traditionally. This helps with creating and implementing an omnichannel, or channel agnostic, conversational AI strategy.

Conversational AI can become the friend, buddy and colleague of the contact centre agent when delivered in the form of an Agent Assist tool. This tool can be used as a research wizard to help agents answer questions. It can also be set up to ‘listen’ to calls or ‘watch’ live chat sessions to make suggestions to the agents with the relevant information. When agents override the tool’s suggestion, those changes are used to help train the chatbot or virtual agent. The future of the contact centre then becomes the training and best practice centre for bots – the Robot Academy, if you will.

In order to maximise the benefits of your contact centre agents’ expertise, be sure to partner with an experienced conversational AI vendor. You want to work with a team that has the experience to guide you through the creation of a business case and realistic project plan and then put that plan into action. Select a vendor that also offers consultation services to assist you with creating a positive experience for both customers and your agents. Having the right technology is important, but without a doubt the most important factor is the human part of building, deploying and maintaining conversational AI solutions.

If you want to learn more about conversational AI in the contact centre, you can request a personalised demo. A member of our team will be happy to set up a virtual session to show you live demonstrations of our implementations and explain more about the technology.

Thank you so much to CTINT for inviting me to speak again at this event, and a special thanks to Mabel Tsim for assisting me with my virtual presentation. Congratulations to the HKCCA team for putting together another great event despite all the extra challenges this year. I hope to see you all in person again next year!

A New Ebook and a Conversational AI Success Story During Times of Pandemic

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

We have all been facing new personal, professional and community challenges this year as we continue to deal with the harsh impacts of a global pandemic. At Creative Virtual, the team has been working hard to help our customers with their challenges related to delivering quality customer and employee self-service as information and needs change quickly. So, when AI Time Journal approached us to contribute to their ebook featuring ‘Conversational AI Success Stories During Times of Pandemic,’ it was a no-brainer for us to take part.

The new ebook, Conversational AI Trends 2020, takes a look at the rapid advances in conversational AI technologies and the new applications and use cases emerging across industries. Through a series of interviews with industry experts and innovators, the AI Time Journal Editors dive into current conversational AI trends and predictions for the future. Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO of Creative Virtual, was one of the experts interviewed and made this important observation:

“Organisations have realised the need to have and/or work with people skilled specifically in this technology to implement successful projects – a trend that’s being magnified by the current global pandemic. The increased focus on digital experiences and sudden spike in usage of conversational AI tools have highlighted how important this expertise is to development, maintenance and expansion of projects.”

That need for skill and expertise is reflected in the conversational AI success stories featured in the final section of the ebook. The first success story tells how an international financial services group’s V-Person™ virtual agent is rising to the challenges of customer support during the pandemic.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world in early 2020 and restrictions were put in place, this international financial services group faced the same challenges as many other businesses: the closing of physical locations, new guidelines to keep contact centre agents safe and rapidly changing information. While the organisation’s V-Person virtual agent had been a key part of their customer support strategy for many years, it came to the forefront during this time, becoming their go-to method of communicating with customers.

The quickest way to update information

Accessing the most recent information was important to customers to help them make sound financial decisions during an uncertain time. Providing that information was paramount for this financial services group but meant they had to have a way to keep content up-to-date as the government issued new programmes and schemes, regulations and processes changed, and pandemic restrictions evolved.

The organisation discovered that their virtual agent was the best way to keep up with rapid changes and deliver accurate information to customers. The process to update content within the virtual agent was quicker and easier than updating content on their website, allowing them to make as many changes as needed while minimising the amount of time the team spent actioning those changes.

The support needed for a transitioning call centre

Restrictions and guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19 meant it could no longer be business-as-usual for the organisation’s call centre. As the call centre dealt with rotating shifts and transitioning to a new way of working, they faced a period of having fewer agents available to deal with a rising volume of customer queries. To help relieve pressure from live agents, they began to proactively direct customers to self-serve through their virtual agent.

Since the virtual agent could provide the most updated information available, this approach was a win-win for customers and the call centre. Customers appreciated being able to quickly find answers to their questions without the hassle of making a call and dealing with long hold times. Call centre agents benefited from fewer calls which gave them more time to help customers with complex issues or who preferred to discuss their question with a live agent.

The right collaboration for a better CX

In the past, the team responsible for keeping the virtual agent’s content updated would need to reach out to the call centre for input. Now call centre teams are actively providing feedback and new content to add based on incoming calls from customers. This collaboration is enabling the organisation to keep their virtual agent performing well and delivering accurate answers to customers’ most pressing questions.

During the 3-4-month period of widespread shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, the financial services group saw their virtual agent traffic double and then nearly triple. Even after those large peaks, usage of the virtual agent continues to be greater than usual with high customer satisfaction scores.

While others struggled with their CX, this financial services organisation recognised the potential of their virtual agent and successfully pushed it to the forefront of their strategy.

Download a full copy of the Conversational AI Trends 2020 ebook for a complete look at highlighted industry trends, insights and success stories. You can also request a live demo with a member of the Creative Virtual team to learn more about our V-Person virtual agent, chatbot and live chat solutions and see them in action.

A big thank you to Martin Russo and the team at AI Time Journal for inviting us to take part in this ebook!

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.

It’s Time to be Smart About Your AI Strategy

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

I first started working in the world of virtual agents in 2000 and, even though the technology was very much in its infancy at the time, saw huge potential for innovation and growth in the industry. Having now led my own company in this space for over 15 years, I have a unique perspective on the advancements of conversational AI technology and the ways it can be used. I was pleased to share some of my insights with the AI Time Journal recently in an interview for their Conversational AI Initiative.

Whether you use chatbots, virtual agents, conversational AI or one of the other numerous terms in the market today to describe this technology, one of the biggest challenges the industry faces (besides the inconsistent terminology!) is the lack of understanding within organisations about deploying these solutions. Just a few years ago this was due to them not really knowing much about virtual agents or how these tools can be used to improve the customer and employee experience. Now there is typically a general understanding of what virtual agents are, and the lack of understanding stems more from the media hype around AI and the confusion created by other vendors making false promises about the capabilities of the technology.

As I discuss in the interview, I truly believe that the key to a successful conversational AI strategy is to work with an experienced team of people. Enterprises need to be smart about the choices they make and not get swept up in the AI hype and empty promises if they want to have a strategy that will not only work today, but also set them up for future innovation and expansion.

This is why the Creative Virtual team is the company’s biggest asset. We’re able to provide organisations with the consultation services they need to really understand the possibilities – and limitations – of the technology and develop a customised implementation plan rooted in industry best practices. It is our combination of an experienced, expert team and our award-winning technology that sets us apart from other vendors in the space. In fact, this was one of the reasons that Frost & Sullivan selected Creative Virtual as the AI-Enhanced Customer Self-Service Product Leader this year. You can read more in their independent report.

In a world where customer experience is THE differentiator, one of the biggest opportunities for organisations implementing conversational AI is the ability to provide a superior and personalised experience to their customers. They can deliver on customer expectations for an experience that is effortless and embedded within their normal day-to-day activities. The interaction with your company becomes like that of friends interacting with each other.

Enterprises also shouldn’t overlook the big opportunity to leverage this technology to provide that same type of effortless, personalised experience for their employees. That can be onboarding new team members, training and supporting contact centre agents, delivering internal service desk support, offering easy self-service for HR questions – just to name a few! We’ve seen a huge increase over the past few years in these types of internal implementations with impressive results.

My interview also delves into my thoughts on voice-enabled conversational interfaces, challenges of channel-specific chatbots, and future technology trends that will impact the industry. My thanks to the AI Time Journal Editorial Staff for including me in their Conversational AI Initiative! You can read my full interview here.

Conversational AI for Financial Services

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

Traditional banks and financial institutions can no longer count on lifelong loyalty from their customers. Gone are the days of people selecting and staying with a bank simply because their family has been banking with that institution for generations. Fintechs and digital start-ups are disrupting the space, and customers are increasingly willing to take their business to a financial brand that offers them a personalised, easy experience that fits with their lifestyle.

Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and analytics can help financial brands keep pace with customer expectations, but these types of digital transformation projects aren’t always easy to get off the ground. At the AI & CX Transforming Financial Services Directors’ Forum at the end of June, the expert speakers and panellists addressed some of the customer experience (CX) challenges the industry is facing.

Our Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel’s opening keynote – Taking Your CX into the Future with Conversational AI – got the day started with a look at AI-enhanced chatbots, virtual agents and live chat. Chris gave insights into what is possible with conversational AI technology and then backed that up with real examples through a series of live demos. He emphasised the need for the contact centre to be a part of digital transformation initiatives, which had many in attendance nodding their heads in agreement.

One theme that ran through the various presentations and panel debates was the great opportunity the financial services industry has to make life easier for customers and employees with new AI solutions. Whether it be giving customers easy, 24/7 access to smart self-service or helping compliance teams stay on top of changing regulations, AI technologies should be approached as positive additions to transformation strategies. However, internal education about the real benefits and limitations of the technologies and getting executive buy-in continue to be major challenges in many organisations.

During the networking breaks, there continued to be insightful discussions about AI and machine learning, including lessons learned through both successful and unsuccessful projects and ideas on how to overcome anti-AI sentiment based on misunderstandings of the technologies. We had a number of attendees stop by the Creative Virtual table to see more live examples of chatbots and virtual agents. They were excited to see how financial brands are using the technology today to provide customer self-service, assist agents in the contact centre and provide internal HR and service desk support. We even had one attendee say she had specifically come to the event to hear Chris’ presentation because his live demos always provide her with great use cases to share in her consulting work.

If you’re thinking about adding a chatbot to your digital strategy, or have a failing chatbot project you’re ready to abandon, download our Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019. Our team would also love to show you our AI-enhanced self-service solutions in action, so I encourage you to request a live demo.

Our thanks to the Informed.AI team for putting together an insightful forum agenda and a delicious lunchtime spread. We’re looking forward to joining you again for the CXtech Conference & Showcase in October.

AI & CX in Financial Services

Employee Engagement and the Digital Workplace

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Organisations are dealing with the rapid pace of digital change, both internally and externally, and the ways those changes are affecting their employees. From HR to internal IT support desks, companies are increasingly placing a focus on improving the employee experience through new digital initiatives. If you’re working to improve the employee experience in your organisation, then be sure to join us at the Digital Workplace Directors Forum on 30 January in London.

The one-day conference will feature case studies, innovative digital workplace solutions and tips for improving employee communication. Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, will draw on his experience in the industry to present on Conversational AI for Employee Engagement. He’ll outline the essential components for using conversational AI solutions to improve the employee experience, from best practices for implementing chatbots, virtual agents and live chat to using an orchestration platform for centralised, consistent information and delivery. His session will include live demonstrations of current implementations so attendees can experience first-hand how this technology can have a positive impact on the digital workplace.

The Creative Virtual team will be on hand during the Networking Breaks to provide more information on our employee-focused chatbot, virtual agent and live chat solutions and to share tips to help you build a business case for implementing these technologies in your organisation.

Visit the Digital Workplace Directors Forum website for the full agenda and ticket information. Hope to see you there!

Not able to attend the event in London but interested in learning how we can help you increase employee productivity, reduce internal support costs and improve engagement? We’d be happy to arrange a personalised demo at a time that works for you – request your demo here.