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Helping Financial Organisations Deliver 24/7 Customer Support: Part 2

By Laura Ludmany, Knowledgebase Engineer

As described in my previous post, financial organisations find themselves under immense pressure due to the unfolding coronavirus crisis; they have to respond quickly to rapid changes. Delivering excellent customer service is more important than ever, as it can be a real ‘make it or break it’ experience for customers looking for quick answers in these uncertain times. I’m going to describe a retail bank’s response to this demand.

In this project, we have built a successful collaboration with the product owners: the client is involved in the content curation process, adding new and amending existing questions and answers, while Creative Virtual deals with the AI related and more complicated tasks, such as NLP (natural language processing), semantics and approvals. However, this workflow can be easily altered at any time, and we can step in to manage and take care of the content completely if this is required.

The product owner of the virtual agent also works closely with their live chat department, enabling the bank to fully optimise their virtual agent content based on their live chat agents’ feedback. This is an extremely beneficial symbiosis – by this continuous cooperation, the virtual agent takes the pressure off the live chat centre and the live chat agents can improve the performance of the chatbot. In early March, after having sent the initial quick review of coronavirus user inputs, there was a very speedy and effective response from the bank. Based on the analysis provided by Creative Virtual, plus their call centre and live chat feedback, they were able to identify the most frequent (and pressing) queries and produce new FAQs for the virtual agent to cover these. This content was placed under a dedicated new FAQ category and also displayed as start content, to make it fully visible and accessible for users.

In this way, the retail bank was really successful in promoting their active ownership of the situation at an early stage. These times can be a dividing line for the marketplace, as reactivity and speed of solution delivery can really win customers’ trust; and a vague general information or a Contact us page won’t help, as each user is looking for a precise answer matching their individual needs. In these unprecedented times, I have found myself reaching out for specific information, often at odd times of the day, and even well-established companies are failing to fulfil the demand to provide effective customer self-service tools. With everything being up in the air, customers are simply not in a mindset to browse through the Help pages, which seem like a maze when searching for that tiny bit of crucial information they need.

As events unfolded, our product owner at this bank was extremely strained due to the high number of customer queries coming through their call centre and live chat departments, thus asked us to take over. This is one of the benefits of our orchestration platform and AI solutions – our clients can look after their own virtual agent, but it doesn’t have to be forgotten and left alone if they suddenly need to put their internal focus elsewhere. The Creative Virtual team can always step in and provide full-service support in these situations to keep the virtual agent regularly updated at especially critical times.

One of the other benefits of our flexible workflows, strong collaborations and close relations with our clients is that we can reduce our turn-around times significantly. As Knowledgebase Engineers work on different projects, we can bring over discoveries to other projects and work on targeted content updates very effectively. I love looking after several projects, as I always get fresh ideas and it’s never a dull day. During this pandemic period, we have created special coronavirus related knowledge packs which are quite easy to implement in multiple projects, so our completion time of required updates became very low. By being involved in and managing these different datasets, we see a more holistic view of user behaviour patterns and can suggest ways to improve customer experience accordingly.

This is a fast-paced period – as things develop, more and more content needs to be amended so the virtual agent is being optimised continuously. However, this client uses a smart approach to deal with rapid changes to sustain the high level of quality answers. In cases when certain FAQs might need to be updated weekly (or even daily), there has been a switch to use reassuring and supportive language, describing the nature of uncertainty of the topic and inserting a link to the appropriate websites (both bank and government sides), where customers can keep an eye on regular updates. Our stats show a high customer satisfaction on these virtual agent answers. Being able to understand the question and deliver an appropriate link to the right section of the website is already enough to give users peace of mind.

Based on this observation, another way this retail bank is maximising their virtual agent has been using it to promote other self-service options on their website to customers. Whenever they have options such as online application platforms, downloadable dispute and refund forms and so forth, the virtual agent will deliver an answer that proactively guides customers to these sections. By updating and adding FAQs to handle these queries too, they have been able to take more pressure off their overly busy contact centres.

With these steps and high level of responsiveness, this retail bank continues to provide immediate support to their customers through their Creative Virtual powered chatbot. Available 24/7 and able to handle thousands of real time user queries simultaneously, the AI-enhanced tool is giving some comfort and peace of mind to customers in these uncertain times.

If your organisation could benefit from offering your own virtual agent, check out this Best Practices Whitepaper from destinationCRM on selecting a virtual agent for your self-service project. You can also request a personalised demo to see how Creative Virtual’s solutions can fit with your internal workflows to improve the self-service you offer.

Helping Financial Organisations Deliver 24/7 Customer Support: Part 1

By Laura Ludmany, Knowledgebase Engineer

We are experiencing unprecedented times and the world is rapidly transforming with loads of uncertainty arising day by day. Our normal routine has changed, and we need to get used to dealing with coronavirus related situations and disruptions. Naturally, we are all seeking reassurance, guidance, help and support.

At Creative Virtual, we monitor our deployments continuously, and our tools are very sensitive to quick changes. We can always clearly see social patterns and trends being reflected in the usage of our virtual agents. During crisis times, no matter how big or small, the usage stats always jump up and the vast majority of the increase can often be attributed to those recent events or announcements.

In the last 4 weeks, on average, the traffic of our banking virtual agents has doubled. We could see a huge increase in usage during other crisis periods in the last 6 months (such as the Thomas Cook bankruptcy in September and Brexit related queries). However, this huge spike is unrivalled. As we kept a close eye on incoming stats, I sent a quick review to my clients of user inputs mentioning coronavirus and synonyms at a very early stage.

As the situation developed, organisations had to react quickly to changes and provide instant support and help to their customers. A quick and initial solution was to add a general FAQ for coronavirus, with high priority, meaning that single keyword would pick up any virtual agent inputs containing the word ‘coronavirus’ (even if the question contained other recognisable words, such as ‘loans’). In these times, a proactive approach by financial organisations can really make a difference to customers, as everyone wants to feel reassured instantly and see how their bank copes with the crisis. With this quick coronavirus keyword solution, customers who reached out to their bank through Creative Virtual powered chatbots, could see the responsiveness of their bank and could be guided to the general ‘Coronavirus Hub’ FAQs.

The next question organisations had to figure out was what customers were really asking for, in regard to the pandemic, to be able to provide self-service options (both through their virtual agent and other website updates). Within a few days, one of the banking virtual agents I look after had more than 3,000 recorded user queries around the crisis. All of these user queries were recognised by our high prioritised keyword and allowed me to start our analysis and content tuning. In these times, when call centres and live chat agents are under immense pressure, having thousands of customer questions being handled by an automated 24/7 service is invaluable.

I find it fascinating to work on these queries and look for patterns. After cleaning the data and removing very general inputs about ‘Coronavirus’, we could identify 9 main topics users are after. Some of these topics were expected, such as credit card and mortgage payment holidays. However, we also identified topics which we initially haven’t thought about, such as travel, holiday and flight cancellations and premium club cinema ticket expiry dates. This analysis and suggested list of FAQs/topics were sent to the client. This insight was extremely helpful and enabled them to act quickly, reaching out to all internal departments of the company in order to update both website and virtual agent content accordingly. Within 48 hours, the company’s virtual agents (deployed across multiple branded websites) were able to provide instant and appropriate guidance and support to all these coronavirus related questions and hopefully give a bit of comfort to users who are looking for answers to their questions in these uncertain times.

The increases in virtual agent traffic our customers are seeing isn’t only coming from coronavirus questions, though. Due to lockdowns, stay-at-home measurements and customer care centres’ increased waiting times, people are more likely to reach out to virtual agents generally – and here comes a personal story!

As I was chatting with my brother last weekend, he was complaining that he couldn’t get to speak with a live chat agent either on the banking app nor the website, and he needed his IBAN urgently (I would say, typical user behaviour – an IBAN is badly needed, 9pm on Saturday!). He happens to be a customer of the very same financial organisation this blog post is about, so this is an insight into a real-life customer. I explained to him, with great care, that live chat agents are very likely to be not working at this time of day, and then I proudly guided him to the virtual agent I’ve been working on for years now. After asking ‘What’s my IBAN’, he was overly impressed as he managed to find it immediately. I have encouraged him to use the virtual agent frequently, without sparing good feedback. Also, this was the first time I could demonstrate my actual work as a Knowledgebase Engineer to my brother!

The recently added Coronavirus FAQs are triggered thousands of times weekly (sometimes daily), but there is also a general trend of people increasingly interacting with our virtual agents for help with a variety of topics, which continues to prove their value. We keep monitoring performance to discover more and more topics, so we are able to better help people as we are all in this together.

For some more information about the benefits of using virtual agents to support customers during this uncertain time, check out Part 1 of this blog series on self-service. You can also request a personalised demo to see first-hand how this technology, and Knowledgebase Engineers like myself, can help your organisation improve your self-service.

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.

Opportunity for Retail Banking Solutions in 2016

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

In December BAI Banking Strategies published an Executive Report examining the coming year for the retail banking sector, and found the general outlook to be a combination of optimism and uncertainty. While this report focused mainly on the US, I know many of the challenges and opportunities identified will resonate with other financial organisations around the world as well.

I had the pleasure of contributing to one of the articles in the report, ‘Opportunity for Solutions Providers in 2016’, which takes a look at the trends and developments vendors are seeing as we enter the new year. It’s interesting to note that even though those interviewed have expertise in a variety of different types of solutions, there was a common theme that emerged: banking customers are expecting convenient, consistent and personalised experiences. This presents a variety of challenges for banks as they battle for customers in a highly competitive marketplace while also dealing with internal struggles against legacy systems and out-dated, siloed processes.

At Creative Virtual we have a strong track record in this sector, signing our first financial customer shortly after our company started trading (and I’m proud to say they are still our customer today!) and now working with banks in regions around the world. We know first-hand that over the years many financial organisations have already made large investments in improving their customer experience. That’s why it is important for us to offer solutions designed to be complementary to what organisations already have in place and which can be implemented without lengthy or complicated development projects.

As I explain in the article, Virtual Customer Assistants (VCA), also known as intelligent virtual agents, combined with a knowledge management platform empower banks to address their customers’ expectations of convenient, consistent and personalised experiences. As a complementary solution, a VCA can be integrated with other support options, existing CRM and contact centre systems, personalised account information and community forums – to name a few possibilities. Focusing on an omnichannel customer experience will really be key for financial organisations in 2016, and these solutions are a powerful player in meeting those goals.

My thanks to Katie Kuehner-Hebert, author of the article, for inviting me to provide my insights. I appreciate the opportunity! A full copy of the Executive Report can be downloaded from the BAI website. The ‘Opportunities for Solutions Providers in 2016’ article begins on page 21 of the report.

I also invite you to read more about V-Person™ for Finance, Creative Virtual’s solutions designed specifically for the financial services industry, and then experience the technology for yourself by requesting a personalised, live demo.