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A Complete Omnichannel Experience for Those at a Desk and on the Move

By Liam Ryan, Sales Director

In my nearly 11 years with Creative Virtual, I’ve worked with organisations across all sectors looking to implement successful virtual agent solutions and have seen the industry and the technology change massively. As the number of communication channels have grown and customers have become more digitally savvy, virtual agent technology has also become more advanced and sophisticated. Today companies are using these solutions to increase engagement through natural language conversations and are seeing all the usual benefits that you’ve heard associated with chatbots and virtual agents for years – an enhanced user experience, improvement in CSAT scores, reductions in calls to the contact centre and lower customer service costs.

Yet, as I explain in my recent Executive Interview with CRMXchange, the benefits go beyond that with today’s solutions. Chatbots and virtual agents can now provide a complete omnichannel experience for those at a desk and on the move. By being able to linkup channels – web, mobile, Facebook, messenger apps (like Facebook Messenger and WeChat), voice assistants (like Google Home and Amazon Alexa), etc. – companies are benefiting from delivering a consistent, accurate and seamless experience that’s available to customers 24/7.

It’s important that companies looking to implement a virtual agent fully explore the benefits of deploying the solution across multiple contact channels using a single knowledgebase. This then needs to be a central consideration during their selection process. Many virtual agent and chatbot solutions on the market today don’t have this capability which means you end up with a stand-alone tool on a single communication channel and an even more disjointed customer experience.

In my interview I also talk about the benefits of using self-service virtual agents for employee support, particularly for internal service desk and HR support, and how working with an experienced vendor like Creative Virtual can help an organisation get the most from their virtual agent. I discuss why human moderation of the machine learning component of chatbots is essential and the effect the explosion of media hype and buzz around artificial intelligence and chatbots has had on the industry.

Read my full interview for more and request a live demo to see Creative Virtual’s technology in action. My thanks to CRMXchange for the opportunity to participate in their Executive Interview series!

Overcome Language and Culture Barriers with Chatbots

By Philip Chuck, Territory General Manager, Greater China

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend the annual Asian Financial Forum (AFF) in Hong Kong with our partner HKT. The forum brought together some of the most influential members of the global financial and business community to discuss developments and trends in the dynamic Asian markets.

The two-day forum featured over 100 international speakers sharing insights into the event theme “Steering Growth and Pioneering Innovation: Asia and Beyond”. On Day 2, HKT sponsored a session on “Business Transformation along Your Belt and Road Journey”. This session discussed megatrends in global business development and how companies can accelerate their growth in overseas and mainland China markets through transformation and the effective use of various infrastructure and ICT services.

Björn Gülsdorff, Creative Virtual’s Chief Business Development Officer, joined me at the forum and gave a presentation on chatbots as part of HKT’s Belt and Road session. I asked him to share his thoughts with me after the event:

The One Belt One Road initiative is one of greatest business initiatives of our time – and as ours is the time of globalisation, that is to say: in all times. In this undertaking, Hong Kong is a central element for all sorts of reasons. So, when entering the plenary hall of the Asia Financial Forum 2018 in HK, I wasn’t surprised to find the stage taken by an executive board member of the German Federal Bank in discussion with Group CEO of HSBC (among others in that league).

The event nicely mixed the big picture with more workshop-type sessions about the very next steps and what this means for the individual business. I think it is fair to say that many companies see a big challenge in this new outward facing and more connected way for China to do business in the world. Being the world’s workbench and garden was much more clear-cut and even easier in a way.

So, we had a packed room and an eager audience in our session on “Business Transformation”. Flanked by two great co-speakers I shared some ideas how virtual assistants and chatbots can help businesses to grow across countries, time zones and languages without jeopardizing their customer communications. Thankfully, I could do this in English (and listen to Chinese speeches), because the organizers provided real time translations via headsets – what a great service! My only “problem” was that I had to scratch the artificial intelligence (AI) part of my speech because Professor Daniela Rus, Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, had just explained in a key note how much manual work it takes to get machine learning right. Regular readers of our posts will immediately picture me nodding heavily for the entire 45 minutes. What really struck me at this conference, was the nearly unanimous view that technology will be key, but shall support people, not replace them. In short, the financial services sector in this part of the world is ready for virtual assistants and a hybrid approach of human and machine labour.

For me, the forum really showed that chatbots and AI are no longer just areas of study or something for companies to research. In the Finance sector, organisations are now taking action and making this technology a real part of their digital initiatives. Deploying a chatbot in different languages breaks through the barrier of initial customer engagement in doing business in “One Belt One Road” countries.

We are delighted to have engaged HKT as our partner to promote Creative Virtual chatbot solutions in Hong Kong. HKT is one of the largest suppliers of high-end Omnichannel Contact Centre solutions in Hong Kong, where chatbots are increasingly being used for improving customer engagement, and for expediting customer services. Together, HKT and Creative Virtual shall deliver outstanding customer engagement solutions, combining the strengths of both companies. We are looking forward to that.

Our thanks to HKT for inviting us to take part in AFF 2018 and to the event organisers for putting on a great forum. To learn more about how chatbots and virtual agents can help you overcome language barriers and grow your business, request a personalised demo.

Asian Financial Forum

Chatbots in Action – Creative Virtual at CCW 2018

By Björn Gülsdorff, Chief Business Development Officer

The end of February is Call Center World time, Europe’s biggest “international conference and trade show for innovative customer dialogue”, now in its 20th year. (Congratulations!)

Whilst chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) made it to the stage last year already, they have now become one of the major topics of the show and I am excited to have three speaking slots with our partner sogedes.

Excited and a little bit nervous: Since last year, the AI hype cycle is said to be past the “peak of inflated expectations” and having started the descent into the “trough of disillusionment”. Looking at what some people did promise and how they boasted about the “intelligence” of their solutions, that is a well-deserved set-back, but there is always the risk of an overreactions and buyers turning their back on technology altogether, just because of too high expectations. I will learn it the hard way, I guess, whether they have embraced the pragmatic (and working) hybrid approach already or not. My recent speeches in places as diverse as the Financial Forum in Hong Kong and the Service Desk Forum in Mainz, Germany give me hope, but you never know.

I am also looking forward to CCW 2018 because the world of call centres is comprehensively covered. It is the perfect place to see how virtual agents do (and must) fit into a customer communication strategy, how they can support agents best – “collaborate”, I should say – and which backend systems to integrate with. I’m also interested to hear where newer channels like messenger platforms (such as Facebook Messenger) are fitting into contact centre strategies. Could they be replacing AI as the most hyped topic?

In any case, it will be three challenging and inspiring days (from February 27 to March 1, since you ask) at the booth with sogedes and my colleague Katrin Zieren (Hall 3, Booth E8-E10). I am looking forward to that.

If you’re attending, be sure to catch our “Chatbots in action” presentation on Tuesday, February 27 at 11:30 in Hall 3 – International Plaza. We’ll also be showcasing chatbot solutions on Wednesday at 15:10 and Thursday at 13:00 in Hall 1 – TeleTalk-Demoforum. There’s more information and the full agenda on the CCW 2018 website.

If you can’t attend but want to learn more, request a live demo to see our chatbots in action.

A Look Back: 2017 in Review

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

The end of 2017 is quickly approaching and so, as has become our tradition, it’s time to take a look back at Creative Virtual’s year. To say this has been an exciting and busy year for us, our customers and our partners would be an understatement! 2017 will go down as one of the most important years in Creative Virtual’s history, so let’s take a look at some of the year’s highlights.

Queens Awards for EnterpriseBy far our biggest company announcement came in April when we were officially recognised as the winner of The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017! The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise is the UK’s most prestigious business award for British companies, and we were recognised for innovation for our V-Person™ and V-Portal™ technology. Over the summer, our Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel, and CTO, Peter Behrend, attended a Royal Reception at Buckingham Palace for the winners and got to meet Her Majesty the Queen and several other members of the royal family. In September, the company hosted our official award ceremony and celebration, bringing together Creative Virtual team members from around the world, customers, partners and a variety of other guests in London. Mr Leslie Morgan OBE DL, Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London, presented our award on behalf of the Queen, and Jim Fitzpatrick, our local Member of Parliament (MP) for Poplar and Limehouse, also said a few words.

Creative Virtual was recognised by a variety of other awards programmes this year as well, being named ‘Best Customer Service Solutions Provider 2017’, ‘Most Innovative Customer Support Tool: V-Person Live Chat’, and ‘Best Virtual Assistant Solutions Provider 2017’ among others. We were also a proud part of the APPEX Omnichannel Catalyst which took home the Outstanding Performance in the Catalyst Program award at TM Forum Live! 2017.

Two individual members of our UK team were recognised by independent awards programmes this year for their contributions to Creative Virtual. Rachel F Freeman, Operations Director, was a finalist in the Women in IT Excellence Awards in the category of ‘Hero of the Year (SME)’ for demonstrating excellence in her support of others and going beyond the call of duty to achieve a business goal. And I was honoured to be named ‘Best CX Solutions Business Marketer – UK’ in the 2017 Business Woman of the Year Awards for my success in driving brand recognition, thought leadership and lead generation activities. It was certainly a big year for award wins for us as a company and individually!

While we enjoyed celebrating – and walking the red carpet! – this year, we were also busy sponsoring and hosting industry events and delivering thought leadership presentations in 11 different countries – India, the United States, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, France, Luxembourg, Singapore, Germany, Australia and Hungary. Our fifth annual Technology Innovation Showcase webinar (Chatbots, Virtual Agents and Your Contact Centre) with CRMXchange had a record-breaking number of registrations, highlighting the huge surge in interest in chatbots, virtual agents and artificial intelligence (AI). You can still watch that webinar on-demand, as well as our most recent webinar AI, Chatbots & Live Chat: Separating Truth from Myth.

While there has been a marked increase in interest in chatbots and virtual agents this year, there’s also a lot of confusion, unrealistic expectations and false promises being perpetuated in the marketplace. We drew on our expertise to share a realistic view of AI and chatbots in the customer space in our whitepaper AI, Chatbots and Virtual Agents: The Threat to Mankind and the Contact Centre. Founder & CEO Chris similarly tackled this topic in a column for CMRXchange, Are Chatbots, Virtual Agents and Artificial Intelligence Threats to Your Contact Centre?. Chris also shared his expertise in interviews with ReadITQuik and The Wharf Newspaper, and Mike Murphy, CEO of Creative Virtual USA, shared his thoughts on the industry in a CRMXchange Executive Interview. Following on the heels of our launch of V-Person Live Chat last year, early in 2017 we created a new video showing how you can combine self-service virtual agents and human-assisted channels to deliver a fully integrated support experience.

This year we welcomed a number of great organisations to our expanding Global Partner Network. Our V-Person Family continued to grow throughout 2017 with new virtual agent and chatbot deployments across the globe in a variety of languages, and our collaborations with current customers resulted in new features and functionality being added to existing installs. This year Motability Operations’ award-winning ‘Ask Mo’ and National Rail Enquiries popular ‘Ask Lisa’ virtual agents both celebrated their 10th birthdays. REST Industry Super’s virtual agent Roger played a part in two award wins for them this year: ‘Best Innovation Super Feature’ in Money Magazine’s Best of the Best Awards and ‘Best Fund: Innovation 2017’ in the Chant West 2017 Super Fund Awards.

As he does every year, Founder & CEO Chris took the award for most travelling as he once again flew around the world visiting with the Creative Virtual team, partners and customers and taking part in a number of different events. In November, he also added a new job title to his CV, taking on the role of monthly technology columnist with The Wharf Newspaper.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check out our 2017 in Review photo album on the Creative Virtual Facebook page. We’ve compiled shots from our official presentations and events as well as our fun group activities and award celebrations – everything from Founder & CEO Chris meeting to Queen to him taking a pie in the face during our fundraising efforts for the RSPCA. There will still be more photos to come, so be sure to like our Facebook page so you don’t miss any.

AI, Chatbots and the Threat to Your Contact Centre

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Warnings abound about the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI) and smart robots, with industry and academic experts such as Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates expressing concerns about everything from a huge loss of jobs to the end of the human race. Yet in a recent interview with the BBC, Garry Kasparov, chess grandmaster and keynote speaker at last year’s Social Robotics & AI conference, said this:

“Intelligent machines will not make us obsolete but our complacency might.”

So, should we be worried about intelligent machines taking over the world and triggering the end of life as we know it? Once seen as a far-off dream of the future and the stuff of science fiction, AI has become a reality in households and workplaces around the world. From the voice assistants on our phones to the self-driving cars in our streets to the chatbots providing customer service on Facebook Messenger, AI is having an impact on our day-to-day lives.

Customer experience professionals should also be questioning the impact chatbots and intelligent virtual agents are already having, and will continue to have, on the contact centre. The age-old debate about whether automated self-service or human-assisted support is better seems to be coming to a head as technology and generational changes are having a big impact on how we communicate with each other and companies. Are AI-powered chatbots the future of the contact centre, or are they a threat signalling the end of contact centres?

In order to get a realistic view of AI, we need to take a step back from the warnings, predictions, promises and hype to see where we are right now. The perfect place to start is the brand new whitepaper AI, Chatbots and Virtual Agents: The Threat to Mankind and the Contact Centre. This whitepaper discusses the warnings about the dangers of AI, the inflated expectations for chatbots created by unrealistic promises in the marketplace and the reality of using these technologies in the contact centre and for automated self-service. More specifically, it guides readers through:

  • A realistic view of AI and chatbots in the customer experience space
  • The impact of chatbots and virtual agents on the contact centre
  • Why chatbots should use a combination of self-learning and human input
  • How humans and machines can work in harmony to provide perfect customer service
  • Leveraging AI and chatbots to prepare your contact centre for the future

When it comes to AI, chatbots and virtual agents in the customer engagement space, organisations need to make informed decisions based on realistic expectations. Download a full copy of this whitepaper to get a better understanding of the technology and how it’s already starting to impact your contact centre.

Calling All Chatbot Enthusiasts to Berlin!

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Chatbots will take centre stage – along with the Development & AI Stage and the Product & UX Stage! – in Berlin next week at the Chatbot Summit. In its second year, the summit will bring together industry experts, established vendors, new start-ups and chatbot enthusiasts for a day of keynote presentations, panel discussions and networking opportunities on Monday, 26 June 2017.

Creative Virtual is pleased to be a sponsor of this year’s summit and to have Björn Gülsdorff, our Head of Business Development, joining the list of esteemed event speakers. Björn’s keynote presentation, Enterprise Chatbots: Taking a Hybrid Approach to Machine Learning, is scheduled for the afternoon on the Development & AI Stage. He’ll explore why pure AI and chatbots touted as wholly self-learning and self-maintaining aren’t a good fit for providing predictable, consistent and reliable customer service.

The Creative Virtual team will also be manning booth #13 where attendees can see live demos of our innovative chatbot solutions and get a look behind the scenes at the science of conversation. As an established and trusted vendor in this space, our chatbots are answering over 50 million questions every year for enterprises around the world – and that number is constantly growing! In April, Creative Virtual was awarded The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017 which was a win for the chatbot and virtual agent industry as well as our company. In order to receive the award, we had to prove not only that we’ve developed innovative technologies, but that Creative Virtual is achieving outstanding commercial success because of it. The Queen’s Awards recognition brings attention to chatbot technology and the positive results forward-thinking organisations are already achieving with our solutions.

In the early days of the technology, chatbots and virtual agents were standalone self-service tools that could answer only very basic questions and were often viewed as a novelty rather than a way to improve the customer experience or cut customer support costs. Today, they are tried-and-tested tools for providing digital self-service with greatly improved conversational abilities, options for integration across customer contact channels and proven results for reducing costs and improving customer experience. The Chatbot Summit – an event focused solely on this technology and its applications – highlights this exciting evolution and the growing awareness of chatbots.

Interested in joining us in Berlin for the Chatbot Summit? Purchase your tickets now using code cvbot20 and receive a 20% discount.

Not able to attend or want to do a little preparation before the summit? Download our educational whitepaper Virtual Agents and Chatbot and Avatars – confusing or what! to learn more about the role of chatbots in digital customer engagement.