Tag Archive for: Customer Service Week

Will Your Customer Service Project Sink or Swim?

By Rachel F Freeman, Operations Director

Creating a plan and an overall inspiring vision for which you imagine receiving accolades and awards sounds like a great place to be. However, the key to deciding whether the vision is going to sink or swim is based on the details, the objectives, and the team responsible for delivery.

Quick example: a 90-year-old woman decides that she’d like to make some fitness gains. Whilst she is an avid horseback rider, her thoughts move to jumping out of an airplane. She tells a local newspaper, and you can picture the publicity and the thrill of the activity. The small print is less than ideal: the woman, although fighting fit at first glance, has a recurring problem with blood pressure and dizziness. Altitude could wreak havoc on both of those issues, but she forgets to mention this. The news reporter is so caught up on the potential of the story, that he never asks for more details. The story never goes to print because the woman never jumps and pursues hiking instead on the advice of her doctor. Perhaps not quite as exciting on the surface, hiking is actually the best outcome for her situation and still an impressive achievement. This example ends well but not with the anticipated fanfare.

When applied to business solutions, this scenario can take on much heavier implications. Imagine a chief stakeholder has a vision for a customer service project full of whistles and bells but does not quite understand how to reach that point and leaves the details to the team. The team is so enthralled by the vision and the prospect of a new shiny development, as well as being caught up in the enthusiasm the chief has for the project, that certain basic and very important questions are not asked.

Questions such as: The idea is great, but what is the use case? What are the customer pain points to solve?  What are the measurable objectives? Can we achieve the objectives by doing something less time consuming and complicated if we try another option? And my particular favourite, have you considered the end-to-end journey for the project across all channels?

Failing to take the time to ask and answer these questions doesn’t necessarily mean the project will sink. It can, however, mean lots of wasted time and unnecessary confusion or frustration. The end result may be effective, but it probably won’t be as shiny as the initial vision.

Here is the controversial question: Do shiny things tarnish more quickly than a solid solution that is effective? I work for a software solution company where innovation and shiny, cool things are what we do.  I strongly believe based on my experience that you can have shiny and solid simultaneously when it comes to customer service solutions.

What I do not advocate is applying “shiny” without considering the questions above. For example, a smooth end-to-end digital user journey is a holy grail for online customer service. Yet just because you can help a customer smoothly journey through multiple channels for support doesn’t mean you should always do that. Don’t get caught up in the excitement of showing off all the whistles and bells of different channels. Instead, always ask if there is a real use case or a point beyond it seeming to look impressive.

Customers don’t care if your tools and channels are innovative and shiny if they aren’t getting their questions answered. They don’t care about your inspirational vision if their time is being wasted because you haven’t planned your customer journeys based on the real way your solutions are going to be used.

Likewise, why waste your team’s time by trying to solve all customer problems across multiple channels when, for instance, certain use cases will truly only be used via a mobile device and not on a desktop? If the team is caught up in the hype and overlooking the details, you risk delivering a mediocre project that just floats along instead of maximising on the potential of the initial vision.

Digital customer service awards are given to those projects that showcase shiny developments, but only when they take the customer down the right path at the right time and serve the right information as required.

This Customer Service Week let’s celebrate the people on our teams that pay attention to the details and make sure we answer the important questions. They are the ones that enable even the most ambitious and shiniest visions to become a reality through solid, successful solutions.

I’d much rather swim with the confidence that my project has buoyancy based on the right questions being answered than risk sinking in a sea of bright and unchallenged options – and I’m guessing you would, too! If you’re interested in learning more about how the Creative Virtual team can help you with customer service solutions that are both shiny and solid, contact us here.

Are All Members of Your Conversational AI Team Equal?

By Laura Ludmany, Knowledgebase Engineer

There is a question I came across recently which made me think and raises a good discussion for Customer Service Week: Who is the most important participant in the workflow of the development and maintenance of any AI-powered customer service tool?

Let’s imagine we build a virtual assistant from scratch for a large enterprise client where the solution must be scalable, available across multiple channels, and delivering measurable results. There are many out-of-the-box, seemingly quick solutions on the market which catch attention with claims of being up and running with little time and effort. However, these deployments are not often expandable or manageable as the real-life interaction traffic increases. These chatbots often cannot mature at the same pace as the usage, leaving a bitter taste in the users’ mouths and doing more harm than good for the organisation.

To deploy a chatbot just for the sake of having a chatbot, to tick one cool gadget off the list, to appear to be keeping up with the technology trends – none of these are good goals for a conversational AI project. The goal should be a long term one: to leverage the virtual assistant to its full capabilities; to discover new integrations, features, channels and start using it in a proactive way; to listen to your customers’ needs and feedback gathered in conversations; to broadcast news and promote products, offers, and sales to users in a centralised, accessible way.

Building and managing a virtual assistant with the goals described above, requires more people than a reader from outside the industry would probably imagine:

  • We need a salesperson to introduce the technology to the client and translate their business requirements into virtual assistant project specs.
  • We need a project manager who keeps the momentum going between the client and the team, organises the resources, streamlines the workflows, oversees the processes, and really just holds everything together.
  • We need a knowledgebase/AI engineer who designs the user journeys, builds and updates the database of the chatbot, and manages the algorithm that matches the submitted questions with the intent.
  • We need ‘hard techies’, the software engineers and developers who build the user interface, work on the different integrations, design the templates, and ultimately deploy the virtual assistant.
  • We need an analyst to look after the reporting side of the tool, understand the client’s KPIs, implement those indicators to the reporting platforms, and then deliver the required insights and statistics to the desired reporting suites.

Depending on the size and nature of the project, there can be multiple people sharing the same sets of tasks and many times there can be even more experts involved in a launch of a single chatbot.

So, then the question is: Who is the most important part in this workflow? The sales lead as he ‘brings’ the business in and has to pitch the future client? The project manager who deals with both sides and oversees everything? The AI engineers who build and maintain the ‘brain’ of the virtual assistant? The software developers who bring the chatbot to reality by building the user interface? The analytics experts who provide the reports which show the performance and measurable results of the tool?

Hint: there is no right or wrong answer. Everyone has different views and valid arguments about it. We might say very diplomatically that each and every person has equal importance in the process.

I think, based on my experience, the most important participant in a chatbot project is the client. As the conversational AI vendor, we might have the latest integrations, the coolest features on the template and the best performing chatbots ever, but our client needs to be heavily involved in the continuous journey of a conversational AI tool for real success.

There is no sadder thing for us as chatbot professionals, than to build a majestic AI tool which is then no longer looked after as it is supposed to be. There will always be new user trends evolving, new unrecognised user questions to be addressed, and new technology updates becoming available.

Hence each point of contact has a crucial role to play to win the ‘heart’ of the client, to prove and promote the value of the chatbot, to raise interest, show enthusiasm and engage with the stakeholders. Everyone in the team needs to be proactive and showcase the capabilities of the virtual assistant, whether that be through post-sales add-on integrations and launches, regular touch base meetings, analysing and improving user journeys, flagging content gaps, showing the latest technology solutions, or sharing new reporting features. We have to pass on the passion we share within our team to the client who is just starting to discover the endless possibilities and advantages conversational AI has to offer.

So, from my point of view, making the client interested, invested and an advocate for their chatbot will ultimately make them the most important participant in the chatbot workflow. As we celebrate Customer Service Week, we should recognise their crucial role. At Creative Virtual, we celebrate all our clients who are so devoted to keeping their virtual assistants successful and with whom we work hand-in-hand, day-to-day with over years and even decades.

Register Now: Expert Insights on Conversational AI and Customer Service

By Scott Tompkins, Vice President of Sales

Just like a puppy isn’t only for the pandemic, customer service insights aren’t only for Customer Service Week. This week of celebrating customer service professionals and successful customer service experiences should just be the beginning of a renewed focus on your own customer service and CX strategies.

To help you keep that Customer Service Week momentum going, destinationCRM is hosting a roundtable webinar next week: Conversational AI: The Future of Customer Service? I’m looking forward to hearing the panel of experts, including Creative Virtual’s Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, discuss the current trends and future possibilities of conversational AI technology.

Drawing from his own experiences and those of Creative Virtual’s global team, Chris will share expert recommendations for how your organization can maximize the benefits of conversational AI technology. He will also be delving into ways you can use back-end integrations to take your digital self-service from basic FAQ tool to a personalized, conversational interaction.

Conversational AI solutions, like chatbots and virtual agents, can have a powerful impact on customer loyalty and retention. When designed, implemented, and maintained correctly, these solutions have been proven to reduce support costs, increase sales revenue, and even reduce employee turnover. The next generation of conversational AI advancements are poised to improve customer service even more.

Register now to join us on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 at 11:00 am PT/ 2:00 pm ET for the live webinar, Conversational AI: The Future of Customer Service? This destinationCRM roundtable will be recorded, so be sure to sign up even if you can’t join the live event.

Once you’ve registered, I recommend checking out (or re-reading!) all of the posts from the Creative Virtual team that make up this year’s Customer Service Week Blog Celebration. There are lots of great insights on conversational AI use cases, customer expectations, and customer service trends.

Dialogues are Between People

By Björn Gülsdorff, Chief Business Development Officer

Have you ever heard about the H-H-Interface, aka the H2I? Likely not, because I just made it up. But I did so with a reason and here’s why.

When it comes to transactional tools, there is a lot of talk about the Human Machine Interface (or HMI), the look and feel, and other technicalities. That is all fine and important of course, but customer communication, however, is about people talking to people. Even if this communication is automated and asynchronous, it is still Human to Human.

Customers use conversational AI on the web, in apps and other channels. They interact with virtual agents and chatbots in a technical sense, but they certainly do not converse with them. The replies they get are perceived as coming from a person or a group of people (usually called a company 😊).  Having this in mind makes an important shift of focus in the virtual agent design. The focus goes from designing transactions to creating the dialogues you’d like to have with your customers.

Just think about voice mail: When you are greeted nicely and the message makes you smile, will you think “What a friendly machine!”? Or will it be: “What a nice person!”? See? When creating a virtual agent, the same thinking applies.

You need to create a dialogue between yourself and your customers. You need to ask yourself, who are you talking to and what do you want to tell them.  As a result, it is about personal contact and the tools you use are not the deciding factor. Or let me phrase this differently: You need tools that do not get in the way between you and your customers. You need a platform rather than a readymade, which allows you to create conversations with your customers – or with your customer groups, for that matter.

As this year’s Customer Service Week celebrations come to an end, be sure to keep the H2I focus in your digital strategy. And if your conversational AI solution doesn’t provide you with the platform options to create the dialogue you want with customers, then it’s time to make a change.

Reducing Stress, Drama and Frustration When Things Go Wrong – A Troubleshooting Outline

By Rachael Needham, VP of Strategy & Operations

For most people and companies, business-as-usual dramatically shifted in the last year and a half, which can add stress and anxiety to already busy lives and work environments. Our ability to communicate and problem solve has become more important than ever. Good communication can help reduce stress and frustration while improving efficiency and productivity.

Whether in the workplace or our personal lives, making a conscious effort to improve our communication and problem-solving skills will only benefit us. Being negatively stressed or stressed out adds a level of difficultly none of us need, so finding ways to deal with stress that work for you is important. I shared some simple solutions for handling stress in a previous post – check those out here.

In this post, I’m sharing a model to assist you and your team when things go wrong, pressure is high, and solutions are needed ASAP. When we are equipped with the skills to communicate well with each other, and put those skills into action, we can reap the benefits of lower stress.

In the spirit of Customer Service Week, let’s take a closer look at some troubleshooting steps for customer-related issues in the B2B space. Some of this may seem pretty obvious, but when things go wrong, and it’s not immediately clear what needs to happen, following some basic practices can greatly reduce the stress and frustration levels for team members.

Step 1: Identify the issue – It’s key to identify the problem or impact of a situation. Not accurately identifying, understanding, or explaining an issue leads to unnecessary stress and frustration. Clearly understanding the issue equips the team to provide relevant input or feedback.

  • Ask: Is the issue critical, impacting production or customers in real time?
    • If yes, getting all necessary team members on a call to discuss can be the fastest way to be sure everyone is aligned and aware of what’s happening. When facing issues with production impact, gather your tech, content, client relationship, and any other relevant teams on a group call as fast as possible. Move to Step 2.
    • If no, the normal troubleshooting and bug fixing process can be followed.

Step 2: Troubleshoot with the right people – As you troubleshoot a high priority, production impacting issue, be sure to have the relevant team members present to share and collaborate. In addition to the Technical team members, having the Customer Success and Delivery Management account leads are key as they will be relaying the information to the client and will most likely be the ones who have assessed the client’s anxiety or concern level, which should be considered along with any tech risk.

Client concern should be weighed alongside the tech risk because those relationships are important and can tip the importance level on an issue in one direction or another. For instance, if there is an issue, but the client has some other key deliverables with a higher importance level to them, the issue may be considered less severe. Likewise, it could go in the other direction, where something the Technical team views as low risk is seen as high risk by the client. This is often related to the client’s individual business rules and objectives.

  • Ask: Is the issue already clearly identified?
    • If yes, move to the root cause.
    • If no, work together to define and clarify the issue as precisely as possible. This may mean getting on the phone with the client or whomever identified the issue.
  • Ask: Is the root cause for the issue known?
    • If yes, do we know how to fix it?
    • If no, how much time can we take to identify it? What has been communicated to the client thus far about timing?

Step 3: Avoid common pitfalls – Getting to a real and viable solution can be extremely difficult when the issue isn’t understood. Not accurately identifying or understanding the problem can easily create more stress and frustration on top of an already frustrating situation and take more of the teams’ time.

When there isn’t clear communication about a situation, lots of time can be wasted trying to get to the bottom of the issue. Productivity and efficiency are greatly reduced, and the added pressure can cause unnecessary and unhelpful tension.

For high priority/ production impacting issues, I highly recommend having a team phone call, as it’s one of the easiest ways to ensure everyone is on the same page and fully aware of the status. While group texting channels (Slack, Teams, etc.) are great for day to day, it can be too easy for people to miss things as the channel is flooded with comments.

If you aren’t already, start paying attention to how you are communicating and engaging with those around you. Improving those skills is an ongoing process and worthwhile endeavor; acknowledge mistakes you’ve made and use them to make positive changes in future communications.

 

Developing the skills to communicate well is a key part of emotional intelligence. Good communication and problem solving takes practice and can be particularly challenging in times of high stress and anxiety. However, the benefits of clear and open communication in high stress situations pay off as you and your team bring solutions to the table with speed and efficiency.

When it comes to B2B customer service and handling critical support issues, speed and efficiency are essential. With a conscious effort to improve your communication skills, use the help of this outline to reduce stress, drama, and frustration when things go wrong. Happy troubleshooting, solution finding, and communicating!

AI Growth in the Insurance Industry

By Susan Ott, Senior Customer Success Manager

At the outset of the global pandemic in 2020, there was already a great emphasis on the consumer’s desire for artificial intelligence (AI) in day-to-day life.  As we find ourselves making our way, 18 months and counting, in this new normal it is a safe bet that the world of AI-powered self-service isn’t going anywhere.

One industry that has experienced an influx in the need for self-service is Insurance. With technology advancing every day, the need for instant service and issue resolution is becoming more and more expected. The preference of customers to be able to self-serve isn’t waning, but their patience with companies that don’t provide that option certainly is.

AI remains a major trend in the technology sector that will continue to alter how we work and live. Within the customer service space in particular, conversational AI is enabling companies to successfully meet the growing need for instant service.

These new technologies are being used in the multi-faceted Insurance field to automate Claim Processing, get Pricing/Quotes, and improve the overall Customer Service experience for Auto, Home and Life policyholders. Here are some examples:

  • Claim Processing: Companies spend a lot of money on Claims personnel, often times increasing rates to account for the large number of calls coming into their contact centers. Using AI, these companies can reduce their hiring budget by automating many of the routine questions that representatives field on any given day.
  • Pricing/Quotes: This is a huge area in which AI can be beneficial. Using AI, companies can be more competitive in their pricing and allow for personalization tailored to individual policyholders. Knowing some key criteria about a person, such as geographical location, marital status, and likelihood of filing a claim, helps to set premiums.
  • Customer Service: Companies need to look at AI in terms of it acting as a personal Concierge for users coming into the company’s website. It gets them where they need to be to best resolve their questions, allowing for a seamless and smooth experience, while decreasing phone or other live contacts via this digital channel.

Insurance companies should approach AI projects with the goal of creating better experiences for their policyholders, agents, and contact center teams. When used correctly, these technologies provide instant service that is personalized, convenient, and meets the expectations of today’s consumers. Automating processes and top customer service queries with AI also improves efficiency, increases productivity, and helps build customer trust and loyalty. All of this is more important than ever as we continue to make our way through this new normal.

Satisfied Customers and Happy Employees Require a Long-term Mindset

By Rachel F Freeman, Operations Director

Whilst we celebrate customer service with a special week, we should always acknowledge that customer service is not something we can only think about 7 days out of the year! Equally, with the imminent COP26 taking place soon in Glasgow, we shouldn’t only spend a few weeks thinking about sustainability and climate change as a flavour of the month for it to then be tucked away until the next global summit.

We should use these special and timely events to do a deeper dive into what we can do to improve for the rest of the year and ways we can treat these topics with a focus year-round. In fact, I think that Customer Service Week and COP26 have a few overlaps in their objectives.

Part of the many aspects of ESG (environmental, sustainability, governance) objectives includes ensuring diversity and inclusion in the workplace as well as providing a safe working environment. Having happy and safe workers, who feel valued, increases both productivity and retention levels.

The parallel for how we should approach our customers is strikingly similar: well-treated customers, who feel safe in the care and attention given to them, are likely to be retained as customers. So long as the value we have for them continues and develops with their requirements, we will have happy, long-term customers.

Valued employees are more receptive to learning, listening, and wanting to support the company, which in turn means supporting our important customers – and they are ALL important! – in the best possible way. It is a team effort to create value in a company’s products, services, and support.

This creates a cyclical process which rewards everyone yet is crucial to maintain and takes ongoing attention and nurturing.

A linear customer experience can be defined as: customer asks for product; company gives product, end of story. This works well if you are buying a hot dog, for example.

However, a cyclical customer experience includes having the “lifecycle” of the exchange extended through communication and understanding of requirements and working to see how the customer can be supported. The experience covers everything from design to implementation and after-care. It aims to draw from core company values and expertise to offer best-of-breed advice.

This sounds so simple, but the key is to continue to monitor the cycle and check in on both employees and customers regularly to evaluate motivation, satisfaction, and success. Those are the prime elements for keeping satisfied customers and happy employees and for working towards sustainable ecosystems.

October and November will offer specific opportunities to consider all of the above. We should take advantage of these events with the mindset of carrying their importance with us for a lot more than just the next 12 months. Creative Virtual’s Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, often ends his internal company communications with “Onwards”, and I feel this is a perfect moment for me to do the same.

Onwards and upwards towards never quenching the thirst for keeping both employees and customers happy and for operating within a sustainable working model that maintains the long-term investment ethos.

Conversational AI and the Contact Centre: The perfect customer service pair

By Khushal Hirani, Customer Success Manager

You can’t celebrate Customer Service Week without talking about the contact centre. Onboarding agents in a contact centre can be very time consuming and expensive. From the recruitment process, to training, up until they are on the floor taking calls, it takes a very long time until new agents are self-sufficient.

The job of a fully trained contact centre agent can also be extremely stressful. They must remember how to use several tools and different areas to access certain knowledge. They often must memorise certain scripts and be able to explain detailed processes. This puts a lot of pressure on agents and can result in a poor customer experience, unnecessarily long call times, and low customer satisfaction scores.

For example, contact centre agents tend to keep notepads or workbooks with their own notes at their desks to ensure they remember the processes. This means communication of processes from one agent could be completely different when speaking to clients than from another agent.

Too often contact centre agents are also dealing with many tools and applications to do their job. This means that before they can even start working with customers, they face extensive training to learn them all. Then after completing their training, this makes it hard for contact centre agents to switch between screens while answering customer questions. This increases the time on the call for customers and creates a very disjointed experience.

Fortunately for contact centre agents and customers, conversational AI tools can help eliminate some of these issues and stresses. Here are some benefits of using conversational AI in your contact centre:

  • Training time is reduced – When contact centre agents are onboarded, the training time is reduced as the agents don’t need to learn complicated tools or multiple applications. This means less time to get agents to the floor and more of a focus on training agents on the human side of providing empathetic customer service.
  • Single source of truth – Knowledge and processes are in a single location where everything is accessible to all contact centre agents, giving everyone the same level of knowledge regardless of their experience level. Conversational AI tools like virtual agents can also be set up to provide support through public-facing solutions from the same knowledgebase with answers customised for both agents and self-serving customers.
  • New knowledge identified with agent feedback – Every contact centre agent can identify any knowledge gaps as well as contribute towards creating new processes or updating content with a built-in feedback loop. This keeps the customer experience accurate and consistent by ensuring the most up-to-date information is going out to all the end-users through multiple channels.
  • Integration with back-end systems – Integrations into different applications make it easier for the agents to use conversational AI because they have one tool that lets them find what they need. A customised agent dashboard can bring everything together in one place, including real-time alerts and step-by-step process flows.
  • Reports and metrics tracking – Reporting that is accurate and easy to understand gives important insights into what conversations the agents are having with customers and what knowledge gaps have been identified. This helps you track important metrics and see opportunities to further improve your support experience.

Contact centres are a big investment for companies and important for customer support. When used in the contact centre, conversational AI gives agents easy access to all the knowledge and processes they need to provide a better customer service experience. It makes their jobs easier and lets them focus on the human side of serving customers. Conversational AI and contact centre agents become the perfect customer service pair.

A Stamp of Approval for Customer Service Week

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Happy Customer Service Week! It’s the first full week of October, and that means it is time once again for the annual week-long global celebration of the importance of customer service, the people who deliver that service, and the impact it has on business success. Since last year’s celebration, businesses have been forced to continue to find ways to overcome challenges the pandemic has raised around the world. Getting that coveted stamp of approval from customers and employees that comes from a successful customer service strategy has been harder than ever.

This is my sixth year creating a blog post roundup to kick off Creative Virtual’s celebration of Customer Service Week. It’s a post I look forward to writing every year even though it’s always difficult to narrow down a year’s worth of informative blog posts into just a couple handfuls to include. As a member of the Creative Virtual team for over 13 years now, I find compiling this roundup makes me contemplate how much has changed in the world of customer service over that time – evolving customer expectations, new contact channels, technological advancements.

But it also reminds me that some things haven’t changed. At the end of the day, customer service is all about people helping people – whether that’s designing self-service tools or answering calls in the contact centre.

And so, without further ado, here are some of the key blog posts on customer service we’ve shared on the Creative Virtual Blog over the past year:

  • Selecting the Right Conversational AI Vendor Makes All the Difference – Chatbots and virtual agents are at the forefront of many digital customer service strategies and selecting the vendor that’s a good fit for you is important for success. To help with that selection process, analyst group ISG evaluated 19 conversational AI vendors based on the depth of their service offerings and market presence.
  • Is Your Inexperienced Approach to Self-Service Driving Customers Away? – Trial-and-error is important in life but taking that approach to customer support can have a devastating effect on your business. When it comes to creating positive service experiences with chatbots, there is no substitute for having hands-on experience with building, integrating, installing, maintaining, and expanding these self-service tools.
  • Conversational AI and the Future of APAC Contact Centres – 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, which helps with creating and implementing a channel agnostic conversational AI strategy.
  • Combining Chatbots and Voice for Omnichannel Experiences – The tight integration of chatbots and voice creates a seamless journey as customers switch between channels, helping you deliver a connected experience. This post outlines three important tips for companies looking to get started with their own voicebot project.
  • On the Hunt for Better Customer Service – Companies are always on the hunt for ways to meet customer expectations, build brand loyalty, and deliver a better customer experience. Smart companies know the present and future of better customer service lie in the combination of humans and machines, people and technology, live agents and virtual agents.
  • It’s Time to Pull Back the Curtain on Enterprise Conversational AI Pricing – Enterprise software pricing is often shrouded in mystery and the subject of intense negotiations between the supplier and customer. Creative Virtual is removing that shroud of mystery with a guide to conversational AI pricing designed to help organisations properly budget and evaluate costs of these customer service solutions.
  • Past the Point of No Return: Customer and Employee Experience Post-Pandemic – While each of us has had an individual experience and been impacted in our own unique way by the pandemic, it has also been a global event that is leaving lasting effects on communities and companies everywhere. We have experienced too much uncertainty, overcome too many unexpected challenges, developed too many new digital skills, and created too many new expectations to be the same customers and employees as we were prior to the pandemic.
  • Successful Conversational AI: Blending Machine Learning & Human Intelligence – Part 1Part 2Part 3 – Mrinal Rai, Principal Analyst at ISG, and Jan Erik Aase, Partner and Global Head – ISG Provider Lens, joined Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, for a three-part discussion on conversational AI. Watch the recording to hear their conversation about current industry trends, the impact of the pandemic, and setting conversational AI project goals.
  • A Seamless Support Experience is Music to Your Customers’ Ears – Creating your overall customer service strategy is similar to writing a musical score – you have to pay attention not only to the performance of each individual component but also how they interact with each other over the course of the journey. You must ensure each element is utilised to emphasis its strengths but do so in a way that creates a joined-up, seamless experience.
  • Conversational AI Doesn’t Have to Be a Risky Investment – Step 1Step 2Step 3 – It’s a common misconception that conversational AI is always a high-risk investment for organisations, but one that shouldn’t keep you from implementing your own chatbot or virtual agent to improve customer service. This three-part blog series takes you through important steps for minimising risk and maximising benefits when embarking on a conversational AI project.

As we have for the past several years, the Creative Virtual team is joining the festivities this week with our Customer Service Week Blog Celebration – a series of posts written by expert members of our team on the present and future of customer service. Subscribe to our Blog to get them all delivered right in your Inbox and find them listed here as each is published.

On the Hunt for Better Customer Service

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

The world always seems to be on the hunt for the next thing that will be bigger and better – the newest tech gadget, the latest fashion trend, the hottest social media challenge, the next break-out Netflix show. As customers, we want the best deal, the most innovative products and the greatest experience possible. This means that companies are always on the hunt for ways to meet those expectations, build brand loyalty and deliver a better customer experience.

Last week we celebrated Customer Service Week and CX Day, two annual events that place a spotlight on the importance of customer service and your overall customer experience as well as the people involved in supporting your customers. At Creative Virtual, we recognised these global celebrations with a special series of blog posts written by members of our expert team and published throughout the week. Each contributor selected their own topic independently, and the result was a well-rounded look at how humans and machines can help companies on that hunt for better customer service.

On Tuesday, we published a post by Rachel Freeman in which she explores the struggles contact centres have been facing during the pandemic. Long wait times have been fuelled by a sharp rise in calls combined with the unpredictability of available agents due to office closures and quarantines. She advocates for letting self-help tools, such as virtual agents and chatbots, share the burden being felt by contact centres.

“Let’s give the machines space to help, freedom to work” Rachel writes. This combination of humans and machines can create a seamless experience and more efficient customer service interactions. At the same time, using this approach helps companies prioritise the health and well-being of both their customers and employees.

This provided the perfect set-up for Laura Ludmany’s Customer Service Week Musings on how a machine knows if it’s wrong which we published on Wednesday. In her post, she takes a closer look at the different approaches that can be used to ‘teach’ chatbots and virtual agents. Her conclusion? When it comes to using these AI tools to provide customer service, they can only be trained appropriately with real-life user inputs.

Laura uses her experience working with self-service virtual agents to describe this hybrid approach and the different ways data can be collected from users and applied by the tool to learn about what is right and wrong. “As long as AI tools serve customer queries,” she explains, “they will always face unknown questions, hence they will never stop learning and rewriting their existing set of rules.”

She ends her post by recognising the important role humans, both customers and the virtual agent experts, have in helping these self-service tools deliver a continuously improving experience. This theme of the importance of the human touch was then picked up in Thursday’s post by Björn Gülsdorff.

Björn starts by recalling the presentation he gave in March at the CCW 2020 conference in Berlin which was all about the human touch in AI. The human touch was a hot topic at the event, being seen as the latest trend in Bot Building, and one that Creative Virtual has been doing for years. In his session, Björn talked about putting your customer in the centre of the project, keeping the human experts involved and giving the virtual agent’s responses a personal touch to improve the customer experience.

Now, seven months on from that conference, Björn acknowledges, “The human touch has a different meaning in a world where hugs are considered a danger.” He advocates for the use of technology to bridge the gaps created by the physical distancing needed to control the spread of COVID-19 but stresses the importance of remembering that these are just tools being used to connect people. Keeping the human touch in customer service by keeping humans in the loop is more important than ever.

So, what does this all mean for companies on the hunt for a better customer service experience? Having the right technology in place to enable customers to self-serve is imperative. The pandemic has accelerated the need for digital customer service. Customers who may have turned to digital channels and self-service options out of necessity this year, are now familiar with their convenience and are more likely to make them a part of their new customer service expectations. Contact centres also benefit from this technology with a better agent experience and improved customer interactions.

However, having the technology does not automatically ensure success. It needs to be combined with the right human expertise and support in order to be developed, implemented and maintained correctly for your organisation, customers and agents. That type of knowledge doesn’t happen overnight or come from reading a few blog posts (even great ones like these!). It takes a deep understanding of the technology, how the tools work and the ways users interact with implementations. That expertise only comes from years of actual experience in developing, implementing and maintaining self-service solutions.

Customer Service Week may be over for this year, but the never-ending hunt for better customer service – by companies and customers – goes on. 2020 has forced changes on all of us and accelerated the push for digital transformation. Smart companies know the present and future of better customer service lies in the combination of humans and machines, people and technology, live agents and virtual agents.