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Setting Realistic Expectations for AI-Enhanced CX Technologies

By Maria Ward, Account Manager/Knowledgebase Engineer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CXtech

Delivering the Right Information on the Right Channel at the Right Time for APAC Customers

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics are two components of customer experience (CX) plans that have the potential to either create noteworthy improvements to customer engagement or undermine efforts to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. It’s essential that companies take advantage of the recent developments in these areas but do so in a thoughtful and strategic way.

The upcoming Hong Kong Contact Centre Association (HKCCA) Symposium is exploring that topic through this year’s event theme of ‘Customer Autonomy’. Creative Virtual will be joining our partner Continuous Technologies at the symposium, which will be held at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort on 31 October 2019. I’m excited to be invited back to speak at the event for a fifth year.

My session, titled Smart Self-Help for a Seamless, Omnichannel Customer Experience, will take a look at the top trends impacting APAC CX practitioners and the challenge of delivering the right information on the right channel at the right time for customers. I’ll discuss ways companies can leverage recent developments in AI to improve their customer support and show live demonstrations of how companies are doing this today. I’ll also share my top tips for incorporating these technologies into CX strategies for long-term success.

It’s always a pleasure to exhibit at the symposium with Continuous Technologies, and members from both our teams will be there showcasing how our chatbot, virtual agent and live chat solutions can help companies deliver the right information on the right channel at the right time to customers in their native language. Symposium delegates will be able to see demos of self-service tools in multiple languages, including Cantonese, Simplified Chinese and English, as well as talk to us about building a business case for this type of technology within their own organisations. I also encourage anyone struggling with a failing or poor performing chatbot project to stop by the stand and ask about our free consultation workshop.

The HKCCA always hosts insightful events, and this year’s symposium promises to be no different. I’m looking forward to participating for a fifth year and meeting everyone attending. Hope to see you there!

If you won’t be at the event, our team would love to arrange an individual demo to show you this technology in action. You can also check out our Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent for recommendations on taking the next step on your journey to implementing a successful chatbot or virtual agent.

CXtech: Showcasing the Technology Transforming Customer Experience

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Technology is changing many aspects of our lives, and customer experience is no exception. The CXtech Conference and Showcase, returning to London for a second year, will explore the technologies changing today’s customer experience (CX) landscape, from design to delivery to analysis. Creative Virtual is pleased to again be a sponsor of the event, co-located with the AI & Robotics Conference, on 31st October.

Together the two conferences will offer six streams of sessions and three keynote presentations. One of the keynote speakers is Liam Ryan, Sales Director at Creative Virtual. His session, From FAQ Systems to Conversational Chatbots: The Evolution of Customer Experience, will delve into the ways in which changing technologies have created a shift in customer expectations and how companies approach customer engagement. In particular, Liam will discuss how chatbot and virtual agent technology is now being used in a much more sophisticated way to create conversations with customers and deliver personalised service experiences. His session will include live demonstrations and actionable tips for selecting and implementing conversational self-service.

The Creative Virtual team will also be on hand throughout the day to provide demonstrations of our award-winning chatbot, virtual agent and live chat solutions as part of the Technology Showcase. Be sure to stop by for a behind the scenes look at how our solutions bring together artificial intelligence (AI) and humans and offer organisations control over how their chatbots and virtual agents self-learn. Conference attendees can also arrange an individual workshop with our team to build a business case for this technology within their own organisation or to consult on an existing chatbot project that is performing poorly.

For more information and to register, visit the CXtech Conference website.

If you’re unable to attend but want to learn more, you can request a personalised demo and sign up for a consultation workshop with the Creative Virtual team.

For a Better CX, Get Out of Your Customer’s Way

By Björn Gülsdorff, Chief Business Development Officer

It is Customer Service Week, time to give customer service and customer experience (CX) some thought. Wait a minute – even more thought? Isn’t it all about CX these days?

It is, albeit lip service most of it. Also, we know we have gone too far when you are being asked about your “shopping experience” in a supermarket. Or, as happened to me the other day, how to improve my airport experience. Seriously? Well, get the “airport experience” out of the way. Whatever you plan, the money is better spent on quicker security and boarding, minimizing my time at the airport.

I admit I am ranting a bit based on some recent unpleasant travel “experiences”, but there is a relation with CX. It was all well when it meant to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and be less product or project centric. But we lost it at some point when we still said ‘experience’ but started thinking ‘sensation’.

Instead, if you want to deliver good CX, get out of the way! Do not get between the customers and their goals. Integrate your various tools seamlessly. Don’t just be multi-channel (or omnichannel), go beyond channels and blend the different touchpoints as you blend different information sources.

Provide a one-stop shop for information and self-service, powered by natural language conversations. Make it as easy as possible for the customer – great CX is when they don’t notice.

My current travels have taken me to GITEX Technology Week with our partner ixtel. GITEX is the biggest tech show in the Middle East and has all the global players plus a lot of “local” ones which just happen to serve millions of people. They all have some cool stuff in the pipeline. All of which need NLP (natural language processing) power, of course. 😉

Scanning Twitter for some inspiration on where to look next I came across https://t.co/8zmViTW5r9, which I liked a lot and which is definitely far on the sensational side. So, I considered deleting my half-finished blog post. But then I did not, because all of this is certainly cool, but it will only be a great experience if it helps me do what I want. When it helps me to get my shopping done, not when it interferes with it. So, while I cherish all the nice visuals, I cling to my claim: A great experience is when it it easy, seamless and smooth.

Check out our annual Customer Service Week blog post roundup for some trends, tips and statistics to help you deliver an easy, seamless experience for your customers.

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!

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

AI, Customer Experience and the Financial Services Industry

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

When I founded Creative Virtual over 15 years ago, our very first customer was a financial organisation. Not only are they still a customer today, but they also became the first on a long list of brands our team would work with in the financial services industry. Over the years, we’ve developed an expertise in creating, implementing and maintaining chatbot, virtual agent and live chat solutions for major financial organisations. I’m looking forward to sharing some of those insights with you in my opening keynote at the AI & CX Transforming Financial Services Directors’ Forum.

This one-day interactive event will be held on Thursday, 27 June at The Shard in London. The agenda features a combination of presentations, case studies and panel debates designed for attendees to gather insights and advice from leading experts and practitioners in the financial services space.

In my keynote, Taking Your CX into the Future with Conversational AI, I’ll explore the growing role customer experience (CX) is playing in customer acquisition and retention and address the specific challenges financial brands are facing as they look to incorporate new CX technologies with legacy systems while still maintaining compliance with strict industry regulations. Through a series of live demonstrations, I’ll show best practices for implementing chatbots, virtual agents and live chat. I’ll also explain why a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and human input is necessary for successful and reliable CX solutions.

In today’s highly connected digital world, customers expect the same level of personalised, easy-to-access service and support from their financial institutions as they receive from companies across all other industries. It’s important for financial brands to work with an experienced team that provides best practice expertise – both specifically in the financial services industry and more generally in current and developing customer service trends – alongside innovative technology to deliver conversational AI solutions that are reliable, compliant and futureproof.

I’m also looking forward to being on a panel debate hosted by Martin Hill-Wilson, an expert in customer engagement strategy and implementation. Creative Virtual is the official sponsor of the Directors’ Forum, and we’ll have members of our team on hand to share more live demos and tips to help attendees build their business case for conversational AI.

There are a limited number of tickets still available for the AI & CX Transforming Financial Services Directors’ Forum, so reserve your spot today!

You can also learn more by downloading our Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019 and see our conversational AI platform in action by requesting a personalised demo.

Is Your Customer Experience Ready for 2020?

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Every one of us has a story we can share about a bad customer experience – and we love to tell those stories. In fact, a survey conducted in 2018 across six countries found that 60% of customers said they had shared their bad experiences with others, either in-person or online. And for many of us, we also love to hear or read about those experiences before we make our own purchasing decisions, meaning that a single poor experience can have a negative knock-on effect on countless other potential new customers.

It’s certainly no secret that your customer experience (CX) has a direct impact on your company’s bottom line. The results of that same survey also showed that 56% of customers had stopped doing business with a brand or switched to a competitor after a single bad customer service experience. According to Frost & Sullivan, US companies are currently losing more than $83 billion annually because of poor customer experiences. Despite being armed with this understanding, many organisations are still struggling to meet the expectations of today’s highly connected, digitally-savvy customers.

In their The Future of IT report, Forrester drives home the point that soon nearly all companies will operate as digital entities with their ability to maximise on the potential of new technologies determining their success. One force behind this change are customers:

“Digitally insatiable customers have a marginal and fickle loyalty to traditional brands, are willing to experiment, and are conditioned to switch affinity and spend based on a single poor experience. Customers have an affection for novelty brands and, notably, brands that ‘get’ and tap into their day-to-day lives.”

When it comes to service and support, tapping into a customer’s day-to-day life means providing the options to find information and resolve issues on a growing number of channels. More traditional channels like the phone are still important, but customers now also want to engage with brands on newer channels like messenger apps and smart speakers – channels that are becoming more integrated into other aspects of our daily lives.

Yet just being present on these channels isn’t enough to create a positive customer experience. As Gartner points out:

“It’s not just what channels customers use to resolve issues, but why they use them that leaders need to understand.”

Service leaders must understand the entire customer journey and the realities of what it takes to solve a particular issue in order to optimise each channel appropriately and then guide customers to the correct channel as needed. While all channels should aim to make customer resolution easier, every channel can’t be viewed with a one-size-fits-all mindset.

To be able to guide customers to the right channels and create an easy, seamless experience, organisations need to approach their digital CX initiatives with an omnichannel view. For example, adding a chatbot on a messenger app is a great way to provide customers with quick self-service, but it can’t be a standalone tool. It must also be integrated with other channels so users can be properly guided or handed over to a different channel if needed, such as live chat or the contact centre, to have their issue resolved.

There have been lots of predictions over the past several years about how important CX will become for brands. A recent report identifies the year 2020 as the point when customer experience will overtake product and price as the number one way companies will differentiate themselves from the competition. As we quickly approach the middle of 2019, organisations need to take the time to really evaluate their experience and identify the technologies that will prepare their customer service for the future.

C+UX: Innovations and Tips for Your Customer Experience Strategy

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

According to Frost & Sullivan, customer experience will overtake product and price as the number one means of differentiation for organisations by 2020. Companies that get their customer experience (CX) right are rewarded, with 74% of consumers spending more with a business due to a history of good service. While most companies understand the importance of delivering a positive CX, creating and deploying the right tools to create happy customers remains a challenge.

If you’re looking for CX inspiration and help in developing a successful strategy, don’t miss the C+UX Expo taking place in London on 27 & 28 March. Tickets for the UK’s biggest customer and user experience event are free and will give you access to several other co-located events, including the Call & Contact Centre Expo and the Marketing Technology Expo.

Creative Virtual Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel will be presenting a seminar on Thursday at 14:00 in Theatre 16, ‘Top Tips for Implementing Chatbots and Virtual Agents in 2019’. Be sure to join Chris as he cuts through the artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbot hype to share best practices for selecting, deploying and maintaining a successful self-service solution. Drawing on demos of live implementations, he’ll cover everything from building your business case to setting your solution up for long-term success.

The Creative Virtual team will also be on Stand 920 both days of the event sharing insights and live demos of our award-winning virtual agent, chatbot and live chat solutions. Our multi-lingual technology can be deployed across touchpoints – web, mobile, social, messaging apps, SMS, contact centre, service desk, IVR and smart speakers – to deliver information quickly and efficiently to customers and employees. Stop by to see some of our current implementations in action and learn how we are helping businesses implement these solutions to create seamless omnichannel engagement.

Tickets for C+UX are free, but you must register in advance through the event website. If you aren’t able to attend the expo but are interested in learning more about how you can optimise digital conversations with your customers and employees, request a personalised demo with an expert member of our team.

Employee Engagement Remains a Top Priority Alongside Customer Engagement for 2019

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

Welcoming a new year often goes along with an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ mindset, but two things that are staying hot on companies’ 2019 agendas are customer engagement and employee engagement. This was glaringly obvious at the recent AI & Robotics Directors’ Forum: AI Enhancing Customer & Employee Engagement. From the delicious smoked salmon and cheese bagels served for breakfast to the final moments of the drinks reception at the end of the day, the event highlighted companies’ increased focus on improving engagement across the board.

Customer experience and engagement has been a top priority for most organisations for years, but improving employee engagement is a more recent addition to agendas. Organisations are coming to understand the benefits of providing better and easier support for employees. They are also coming to understand that many of the same digital tools, such as chatbots and virtual agents, that they are utilising to improve their customer experience can also be leveraged to improve their employee experience.

The event agenda featured presentations and panel discussions focused around practical uses of artificial intelligence (AI) in the customer and employee engagement spaces. I was joined at the event by Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, who presented a morning session titled ‘Taking Engagement to the Next Level: Conversational AI for customers & employees’. He shared some insights into the expectations of customers and employees and then took an in-depth look at how organisations can bring everything together to centrally control a consistent, convenient and efficient experience for both customers and employees.

Using a single orchestration platform enables you to deliver consistent information and support across touchpoints and allows you to more easily engage users on the devices, channels and apps they are already using in their everyday lives through chatbots, virtual agents and live chat. For conversational AI to be effective, it must use a hybrid approach of machine learning and human input. The orchestration platform you put in place must allow you to manage that combination of humans and AI so you can deliver the best experience to users and maximise on your investments.

During his session, Chris shared a few live demonstrations to illustrate industry best practices. The best way to really understand how this all comes together is to see it in action, so if you weren’t at the event I encourage you to request a demo. Our team is always happy to arrange a time that works with your schedule so you can experience the ways conversational AI can help you improve your customer and employee engagement.

Our thanks to the AI & Robotics Directors’ Forum organisers for inviting Creative Virtual to take part in your last event of the year!