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The Cycle of a Successful and Harmonious Customer Service Experience

By Rachel Freeman, Operations Director

It’s 2019 and time again to celebrate Customer Service Week. It’s Autumn and leaves are falling in the Northern Hemisphere – a testament to the changing seasons of a cyclical and (hopefully) never-ending cycle. The cyclical concept seems apt this week as we mark this week-long celebration again this year (although we should be thinking about customer service every week of course!) and seasons are changing.

So many aspects found in our lives are cyclical. On a personal level we have the cycle of life. One of my personal favourites is the circle of fifths which, on the most basic of levels, can be defined loosely as a musical concept involving the relationship of various tones found in major and minor keys which can explain why certain things might sound sharp or flat or in perfect harmony. Stay tuned for more on this later.

Moving into business we can look at software development, with stages including planning through to maintenance with the objective to move back to planning for more improvements based on feedback. Similarly, we can look at the product cycle where there is a season for production after research and development, and then an ultimate season of decline which feeds right back into R&D to work out what can be improved for the next version.

Closer to home, I consider how Creative Virtual’s suite of customer and employee engagement tools fulfil a tidy cycle which feeds upon itself to deliver a successful and harmonious customer experience. Like the circle of fifths, there is no end point. The relationships of tones and questions and points of contact exist in a wheel and the feedback loop – whether musical or user generated – provides enough information to confirm either perfect harmony or an experience needing more tuning.

customer serviceTo explain further – picture a user needing information about an upgrade to a banking service that may affect his/her account. The user asks a question via the self-help portal and gets a response that delivers an accurate explanation, but it is not specific enough for his/her unique situation. So, the user decides to escalate to live chat. The virtual agent passes the user over to the live chat advisor along with the transcript of the conversation so the agent can respond to the latest query and not start over at the beginning. The live agent “speaks” to the user who then asks another question about the bank policy on “xyz”. The agent, not knowing all of the policies, seeks advice on the internal advisor-facing self-help portal (serviced by Creative Virtual from same knowledgebase), finds the reference on policy number and feeds back the info to the user quickly.

The “journey” went full circle: user finding information on the self-help tool – self-help tool escalating the user to a live agent – live agent finding information on the internal self-help tool – a combination of humans and technology delivering exactly what the user needed to know. Possibly not a symphony but I’d call that a most successful and enjoyable customer prelude.

Happy Customer Service Week!

The Ever-Changing World of Customer Service Chatbot Creation

By Jeff Clifford, Project/Account Manager

I started building virtual agents and chatbots for customer service more than 12 years ago. A lot has certainly changed in that time. I talked about some of the changes in my Meet the Team interview a couple of years ago, but the industry has continued to evolve since then.

In my experience, there has been a major shift in customer expectations since 2015/2016 in the customer service chatbot industry. Pre-2014, most companies were looking to deploy chatbots that were pretty straight forward and consisted largely of FAQs, scripted conversation flows, keywords and a flat or standard UI. Some forward-thinking organisations were exceptions to that, and Creative Virtual worked with companies that took their solutions to the next level with innovative functionality like account integration to give personalised answers to logged in users.

Now, as we approach the end of 2019, chatbots and virtual agents are increasingly becoming the face of company help centres. Simple chatbot implementations are no longer enough to meet customer expectations. Customers also now expect self-service on new channels, such as Facebook Messenger and Amazon Alexa, that weren’t popular for customer service even a few years ago. The look of chatbots has also changed, with many companies now embedding their virtual agent into their own UI to give a cleaner, streamlined look and experience.

While previously personalised self-service was a major differentiator, now customers expect an experience tailored for them. Chatbots designed for enterprises have the features, functionality and integration options to deliver that. For example, chatbots are able to detect a customer’s language and country via integration with their user profile. This means the chatbot can display the user’s preferred language and can also return location-specific responses, such as a correct payment cut-off time that varies by country or time zone. Chatbots can also provide customised responses depending on where it was launched from, such as a section of your website about a particular product or service.

The goal of a seamless, omnichannel experience is becoming standard practice in organisations. Chatbots that can be deployed across channels are helping companies move away from a siloed approach to their customer service. When backed by the right orchestration platform, a single knowledgebase can be used across all channels while still delivering a specific answer based on the user’s device (such as a shorter answer on a mobile). A tight integration with live chat allows the virtual agent to pass a user over to a live agent seamlessly in the same panel while in the background passing over a full history of the conversation.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes in the chatbot industry is the use of more artificial intelligence (AI), and companies now want a chatbot that has AI capabilities. A good chatbot technology brings together different methods including semantic algorithms, deep learning, neural networks and machine learning in a way that still gives companies control. Chatbots are able to learn customer behaviours based on how users interact it with it and what suggested questions they are selecting in order to continuously improve. However, this shouldn’t be a black box. To be successful in a customer service role, the chatbot needs to have some level of human intervention and sign-off on content to keep information accurate and compliant.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of simple chatbots out there today that leave customers annoyed and with a bad impression of the technology. The team at Creative Virtual are on a mission to help save as many of these chatbots as we can by transforming them into tools that meet customer expectations and are worthy of being the face of the company’s help centre.

The chatbot and virtual agent industry is an exciting space to be in, and I love being able to help my clients implement the newest developments in their virtual agent projects. At Creative Virtual, we’re always pushing the boundaries of what the industry thinks is possible and consistently striving to bring new innovations to the table. It gives me a real feeling of pride to see long-standing chatbot implementations evolve along with these changes and continue to deliver the service that customers expect.

Three Cheers for Customer Service Week

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Happy Customer Service Week! Every year during the first full week of October we celebrate the importance of customer service and the people who serve and support customers around the globe. The customer service landscape is more challenging than ever with a growing number of customer contact channels and increasing expectations for always-available support.

Even though the customer service industry is constantly evolving, the goal is always the same: to create happy, repeat customers through quality service and support. Here’s our annual blog post roundup of trends, tips and stats to help you consistently deliver a five-star customer service experience:

  • Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019 – These eight tips address the most important items organisations should consider when evaluating and deploying chatbot or virtual agent technology. Get recommendations on how to build your business case, implement the right combination of humans and AI, and achieve long-term success with conversational self-service.
  • Are We Chatting or are We Serving? – The balance of chat and getting the solution quickly – In our digitised world with expectations for immediate access to information, is it right to assume that we are so busy that we’d rather just get an answer than exchange any pleasantries? This post explores creating the right chat/service balance when supporting digital customers.
  • Leverage Your Chatbot to Its Full Capacity – The long-term pros of having a chatbot go beyond providing basic self-service to customers. They can also be personalised marketing and sales tools and powerful sources of customer insights and feedback for companies that leverage them to their full capacity.
  • Creating a Better Experience for Indian Customers – There’s no denying the importance of providing a positive customer experience for digital customers. This post shares insights from this year’s Customer Experience Management (CXM) event held in Mumbai and a video of Creative Virtual’s presentation, including live demonstrations of our CX technologies.
  • The Digital Workplace in 2019 – Organisations are coming to understand the benefits of providing better and easier support for employees and are placing an increased focus on improving employee engagement. Chatbots and virtual agents are proven tools in the digital workplace for everything from onboarding new employees to helping troubleshoot common IT issues to training contact centre agents.
  • “Virtual Moron-Idiot!”: Why Chatbots Fail and the #ChatbotRescue Mission Saving Them – The chatbot and virtual agent landscape is littered with poor-performing implementations and failed projects, but it’s not all doom and gloom for the industry. Not only are there highly successful implementations that have been in place for years, but there are also options for getting failing projects back on track.
  • #CXDay: Serving Your Customers a Custom Support Experience – Frost & Sullivan predict that the year 2020 will be the point when customer experience will overtake product and price as the number one way companies will differentiate themselves from the competition. Here are four tips to help you deliver a custom support experience for your customers.

Automation Shouldn’t Force Customers to do the Work Themselves

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Chatbot for Your Contact Center

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Customer Service Week!

Leverage Your Chatbot to Its Full Capacity

By Laura Ludmany, Knowledgebase Engineer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are We Chatting or are We Serving? – The balance of chat and getting the solution quickly

By Rachel Freeman, Operations Director

In our digitised world, with expectations for immediate access to a variety of informational touch points, is it right to assume that we are losing our ability to have a one-to-one discussion that doesn’t involve a social forum? Are we so “busy” that we’d rather just get an answer than exchange any pleasantries?

I’m not convinced, but I bring it up to make us think about how we interact with our phones, desktops, social media apps and any home assistant device – an important consideration as we celebrate CX Day. On many occasions we use social media to advertise in some way –  it can be a product, photo, achievement or opinion. These channels call out for banter and hoped-for positive communication. Our home devices (Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home) often exist to provide “fluffy” help (turning on lights/heat/oven) but also can act as a personal advisor offering bedtime stories, the weather, a joke or football stats.

Currently I think it is safe to say that our desktops, tablets and phones are often the devices used the most to seek out a deeper level of information and help – whether it be to research a subject, reach out to individuals for a longer email or finally to get help on an account, including learning about the levels of service or complaining about a problem.

People use Twitter and Forums often to advise others of a poor customer service or a really good one, but email or help areas with FAQs and chat services are where most of us go to find out how we can be served more in-depth with our specific issue. Consequently, when things get more specific, a “pre-chat” of some sort usually occurs.

In the pre-internet days, people either picked up the stationary telephone or had to go into a shop or bank during office hours to clarify any concerns or support issues. There was a level of formality to the process, but now the protocol is more about ensuring voices are not raised on a live chat handover or indeed that profanity and insults are avoided at the risk of being cut-off from the session. All of these scenarios involve a chat of some kind in order to ease off the customer’s anger and for the agent to familiarise him/herself with the issue.

Personalisation (virtual or in-person) is an expectation and if a user logs on to a smart system, the system can be programmed to already know that Joe has a birthday on Sept 22nd and that his mobile phone package includes unlimited WIFI. Smalltalk can be easily factored into a smart agent or a chatbot, but the main objective is to get an answer and/or a resolution to the problem so that the customer has received (and the company has succeeded in providing) a smooth, positive and effective service transaction. A synthesis of a bit of familiarity with a positive result is the aim of great customer service – and this is when chat and help are done without the customer really caring if it is via a human or a machine.

With fewer face-to-face encounters, do we want a chat or do we just want an answer with no smalltalk included? Does it matter if the system you are logged into doesn’t appreciate the nuance of the fact that you are celebrating your 35th birthday on the day your broadband is due to be upgraded thus resulting in a massive downtime of service?

At Creative Virtual our systems are designed to offer personalised, effective and smart tools to create the chat/service balance, yet also “know” what the right triggers are for handing over to a real person when it’s time. An integrated handover allows the human agent to see the customer issue, based on the transcript, and then can add that extra element – the human touch – which may be a perfect ending to finding the solution. The chat and the serving of the solution with both a smart agent and a human all completed in one session – genius and still with time to exchange a “Happy Birthday” to the customer.

Learn more by watching our recent webinar, Humans & AI: The Perfect CX Power Couple, on-demand or request your own live demo to see our smart tools in action. Happy Customer Experience (CX) Day!

Five Stars for Customer Service Week

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Happy Customer Service Week! Today marks the first day of the annual week-long international celebration of the importance of customer service and the people who serve and support customers on a daily basis 365 days a year. Delivering five-star customer service experiences doesn’t happen by accident. It takes careful planning, execution and cooperation across the organisation.

Whether delivered face-to-face or over digital channels, your customer service is a key part of your overall customer experience and a big factor in customer loyalty. Let’s take a look back at some of the customer service tips, trends and statistics we’ve shared over the past year in our annual blog post roundup:

  • It’s Time to be Realistic about AI, Chatbots and Live Chat – Right now we’re in a digital and artificial intelligence revolution, and it’s directly affecting organisations’ customer service strategies. Companies need to be realistic in their expectations about chatbots and virtual agents and how these solutions integrate with the changing role of the contact centre.
  • CX in 2018: Digital Transformation Means Combining Humans and Chatbots – When it comes to customer service and engagement, digital transformation means combining humans and machines. Organisations that ignore the importance of the human element or try to rely on pure AI are going to see their initiatives crash and burn.
  • What Goes Around Comes Around: A look at customer sentiment and intent – When it comes to building relationships with customers through self-service, true conversations need to happen – not just a session with Q&A pairs. It’s important to bring together customer sentiment and intent to deliver the best service experience.
  • Overcome Language and Culture Barriers with Chatbots – A major challenge for many organisations is engaging a customer base spread out across multiple languages with varying cultural expectations. This is especially true in the dynamic Asian markets. Deploying a chatbot in different languages breaks through the barrier of initial customer engagement in doing business in these countries.
  • Using Artificial Intelligence to Build Better Relationships with Customers – Customer service can be a key differentiator for companies in the marketplace, and recent research shows that the customer experience is still growing in importance when it comes to making purchasing decisions. It’s important that organisations go beyond the buzz and really understand how AI can help them build better relationships with their customers.
  • A Complete Omnichannel Experience for Those at a Desk and on the Move – Chatbots and virtual agents can now provide a complete omnichannel experience for customers at a desk or on the move. By being able to linkup channels – web, mobile, Facebook, messenger apps, voice assistants, etc. – companies are benefiting from delivering a consistent, accurate and seamless support experience that’s available to customers 24/7.
  • Meet the Team interviews – Members of the Creative Virtual team share insights, tips and expert advice from their many years of experience working with organisations around the globe to deliver quality customer service, engage digital customers and improve the overall customer experience.

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

By Scott Tompkins, Enterprise Account Executive, USA

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

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

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

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

Excellent Customer Service: What’s the secret to achieving success now and in the future?

By Susan Ott, Customer Success Manager, USA

Often, customer service can be a challenging world. Solving problems, providing information, making sure things run smoothly…it’s not always easy.

When I take a moment and think about companies that emanate unmatched customer service, I see an atmosphere in which employees and management alike are engaged on the front lines with their customers. Pride in the company you work for should always be at the forefront of every interaction. That emotion of pride instills a sense of teamwork and customers can feel it!

Companies who employ individuals who go above and beyond will always win me over. Most often it’s those little “extra” moments that customers remember and foster a sense of loyalty to your brand. Delivering a personalized and effortless customer experience is really what it’s all about.

As we find ourselves in this age of internet-driven, 24- hour news cycles, we see a world full of ever changing landscapes. Customer touch points are rapidly expanding, and we see companies asking: How can we keep up and stay relevant?

Fortunately, new technologies are out there opening pathways for us to build a dialogue with our customers. We are already seeing that chatbots will have a major impact on the world of customer service over the next several years. Digital interactions will help employees complete tasks both great and small. Features that make our conversations seem natural and super convenient are constantly being improved upon.

The bottom line with regards to the future of customer service? Focus on creating a seamless experience BEFORE, DURING and AFTER a customer interaction. That is what customers want and if a chatbot can help with the process, we shouldn’t be opposed!

Contact us to hear more about how we can help with AI experts and solutions.