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Setting Course for Success in 2021: It’s all about people and relationships

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Happy New Year!

We all know how tough things have been, and indeed continue to be, with a lot of uncertainty still. And the festive period was very different for everyone. But a new year brings new hope, and we can see the dawn of the vaccines rising above the horizon. I’m sure 2021 will be remembered as the year that we defeated this awful pandemic. Hats off to the remarkable scientists, their teams and the vaccine trial volunteers! Whilst we reflect on the devastating suffering and loss of life, let’s hope that some of the good things, like the renewed community spirit, stay with us forever.

On the one hand we are reminded of the vulnerability of human life when there’s no defence against a virus wreaking global havoc, and on the other hand we have come so far considering the incredible vaccine progress and comparing that with other pandemics over the centuries. Education and curiosity are what drives human endeavour. When you consider the world’s greatest inventions and advancements, whether it’s been down to lone genius or collaboration and teamwork, one thing is for sure: the education and business environment needs to be right to enable such individuals and teams to flourish.

It’s been a tough period for every organisation. At Creative Virtual we are very fortunate to have fantastic customers and partners, and it’s been truly incredible how everyone has pulled together. When I founded Creative Virtual 17 years ago, I put long term relationships at the centre of our Creative Virtual DNA and taking a longer-term view on things has never been more important than this past year.

Whether it’s about the company or helping in the community, it all comes down to the people. I’m so proud to lead a company with so many amazing people! Teamwork has certainly been the operative word this past year! We talk about the importance of our people in our ‘Focus on Experience’ whitepaper. Innovation is another key characteristic of our company, and during the past year we have been investing significantly in the next generation of our products.

Governments around the world have had to put unprecedented amounts of money into supporting economies. Eventually, the books will need to be balanced, but we owe it to the generations to come to maintain a healthy environment where our scientists and innovators can flourish.

As we embark on a new year, let’s celebrate the quirky ones who dare to try new and unconventional things. And let’s remember that quite often we need to fail before we can succeed. Let’s support individuals and businesses that are changing the world for the betterment of mankind. That would be a fitting legacy to the pandemic of 2020.

Onwards to 2021! Happy New Year!

Wishing you a Happy Holiday Season!

As we approach the end of 2020, the whole Creative Virtual team around the world want to say thank you to all our blog readers, customers and partners for joining us on this roller coaster of a year!

We started the year celebrating the company’s Sweet Sixteen and are ending it with a wealth of new expertise gained from supporting our customers, our partners and each other through many unexpected challenges. One of our goals this year became sharing our deep knowledge and extensive experience with virtual agent, chatbot and live chat solutions with you so that you could also meet the challenges you faced supporting employees and customers. We are very proud of our newest whitepaper, Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor: Forget the Technology & Focus on Experience, which features ten of our own industry experts with over 83 years of combined experience in this space. Be sure to download it if you haven’t already! Then check out our 2020 in Review blog post for more highlights and educational resources.

On behalf of all of us at Creative Virtual, wishes for health and happiness during this holiday season and the coming year!

A Look Back: 2020 in Review

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Around this time every December, I put cursor to page and fingers to keyboard to take a look back over the last 12 months and reflect on some of the highlights of the year for Creative Virtual. This is the seventh time I’ve done this annual year in review blog post, but never have I had to review a year that was like 2020. I don’t need to tell you that not everything went as planned, but there were still some bright spots for us and the chatbot, virtual agent and live chat industry.

Creative Virtual started 2020 celebrating the company’s Sweet Sixteen. Founder & CEO, Chris Ezekiel shared his pride in ‘building a successful, world-leading company over a sustained period of time with an amazing group of people’ in our first blog post of the year. As an organisation that has been in the industry since the infancy of virtual agents and chatbots, we really understand the past, present and future of these solutions and bring a wealth of experience and expertise alongside our technology.

It is that experience and expertise of the Creative Virtual team that took centre stage this year. As physical offices and business locations were closed to comply with lockdown and stay-at-home orders around the world, our customers were faced with a surge of incoming queries from their customers and new challenges in supporting their employees while also dealing with rapidly changing information and guidance. They turned to our team for advice and assistance in keeping their virtual agent and chatbot solutions updated and proactively relieving pressure from their contact centres. Laura Ludmany, one of our experienced Knowledgebase Engineers, wrote a two-part blog series about helping some of our financial customers with their 24/7 customer support tools during this time. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Several months later, AI Time Journal approached us for a contribution to their upcoming ebook featuring ‘Conversational AI Success Stories During Times of Pandemic’. We were happy to share the experiences of one of our international financial services group customers using our V-Person™ virtual agent to provide customer support. You can read more here and download the full ebook, Conversational AI Trends 2020, here. For this organisation, their virtual agent was the best way to keep up with rapid content changes and deliver accurate information to customers. With the support of our team, they were able to successfully push their virtual agent to the forefront of their CX strategy.

Neutrino release of V-PersonThe consultation and guidance that we provide is also key to the Neutrino release of V-Person which we introduced to the market in June. The localised support, international insights and best practice expertise of our team are combined with our virtual agent/ chatbot technology (V-Person) and orchestration platform (V-Portal™) for the conversational AI industry’s smartest solution yet. With Neutrino, organisations can leverage their existing knowledge to power chatbot, virtual agent and live chat solutions for improved customer and employee experiences.

2020 was a record-breaking year for use of our virtual agent and chatbot implementations. With the help of Creative Virtual Analyst, Lester Lane, we took a look at the usage spikes and trends across different regions and sectors in two blog posts. Our initial look in April showed a spike starting at the end of February and beginning of March that surpassed anything we had seen in the 16+ years of the company’s history. When we reached the halfway point of the year, we again crunched the numbers and discovered that those virtual agents had already recorded approximately 75% of the total transactions from the previous year.

This explosion in usage of virtual agents and chatbots wasn’t surprising given the closure of physical locations and long call centre wait times that many businesses experienced. However, offering these digital self-service tools delivers no benefits to customers or companies if they don’t provide a consistently positive and accurate experience for users. That is what inspired us to publish a new whitepaper this year titled, Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor: Forget the Technology & Focus on Experience.

virtual agent & chatbot guideOn the surface, it may sound like something else crazy happening in 2020 – a technology company saying to forget about the technology! The reality is that it doesn’t matter how great the technology is if you don’t have the skill and know-how to implement it in a way to achieve success. In this whitepaper, Creative Virtual team members once again put our knowledge and expertise in the spotlight, explaining the six essential areas of experience your virtual agent vendor should have and why each is important to the success of your solution. We highlight expert tips from ten members of the team – Rachel F Freeman, Laura Ludmany, Claudio Chico, Rachael Needham, Len Power, Maria Ward, Rob Foster, Peter Studd, Ridhi Mathur and myself – who combined have over 83 years of experience specifically in the virtual agent and chatbot field.

With travel and in-person events unsafe for much of this year, we couldn’t attend and join our partners at industry conferences as we normally do. Instead, after attending CCW 2020 in Berlin with our partner Sogedes in March, we focused on producing content that could be shared, read and watched virtually over digital channels. We held a webinar, Tips for Deploying AI Chatbots & Virtual Agents, which can now be viewed on-demand. Mugdha Desai, Head of Operations for Creative Virtual India, and Shantanu Purandare, Executive Director of Creative Virtual India, each presented in virtual AI and chatbot events. Founder & CEO, Chris spoke for a sixth time at the Hong Kong Customer Contact Association (HKCCA) Symposium at the invitation of our partner Continuous Technologies, but this time virtually. We are sponsoring one more webinar this year with Customer Contact Central on 17 December, The Future of Contact Centers: A New Paradigm for Superior Customer Experience.

The team also produced our annual blog celebration of Customer Service Week (5-9 October) and CX Day (6 October) with insightful tips and recommendations that reflected the new customer service challenges that 2020 brought to businesses. If you missed any, be sure to check them out:

Founder & CEO, Chris may not have been able to do his usual travelling around the world to spend time with our team, partners and customers throughout the year, but he did take part in a podcast and two online interviews. In February, Chris participated in the Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s podcast alongside one of his heroes, Sir Geoff Hurst, to discuss leadership. In AI Time Journal’s interview series AI vs COVID-19: Sharing Sessions with People in AI, he talked about turning the remote work challenge into an opportunity to learn more about each employee, how technology may impact our need for in-person interactions and the difference AI is making in combating the virus. Chris also took part in Startup.info’s Innovators vs COVID-19 interview series where he discussed Creative Virtual’s approach to innovation and the pandemic’s effect on the conversational AI industry.

100 SmartTech Innovators 2020This year we celebrated being named to the Top 100 SmartTech Innovators List. We continued the five-year-long celebration of our Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017, and Chris continued to tell everyone about going to Buckingham Palace with our CTO, Peter Behrend, to meet the Queen – see the photographic evidence here! We grew our Global Partner Network and added new technology integration partnerships, including those we announced this year with Spitch and Semafone’s Cardprotect Relay+.

Unlike other years, we don’t have a 2020 in Review photo album to share with you since we weren’t able to gather much in-person for group activities or events – and no one wants to look at a whole album of grainy screenshots of video conferences! Be sure to check out the Creative Virtual Facebook page though for a few photos and virtual company celebrations.

And now we head into 2021 with a year of overcoming professional and personal challenges under our belts and a deep sense of pride in knowing that the experience and expertise of the Creative Virtual team helped our customers and partners survive their challenges, too. It’s impossible to know what next year will bring, but we’re looking forward to finding out!

The Chatbot & Virtual Agent Experts Have Spoken: Experience Matters

By Rachel F Freeman, Operations Director & Laura Ludmany, Knowledgebase Engineer

Whitepapers are designed to be plain-speaking and informative documents spanning an array of subjects. At Creative Virtual, whitepapers are not created too often as they hold a special place in our repository of resources since they offer information that stays valid for a much longer time than other documents. We write them as valuable reference points which can be reviewed when required.

We take great pleasure in introducing this newly created whitepaper from Creative Virtual as it has a lot of straight talk about one of our favourite subjects: user experience in the realm of self-help tools. The insight and intel our Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor: Forget the Technology & Focus on Experience contains spans the width and breadth of the company: sales, marketing, technical and not least the operations team, some of who contributed by submitting their hottest and most relevant tips.

Where else can you find a paper that consolidates industry understanding and expertise from a group of people with a combined 83 years of experience in a field that has only been viable, commercially, for about the past 20?!

In addition to contributions from both of us, the whitepaper also includes insights from Claudio Chico, Rachael Needham, Len Power, Maria Ward, Rob Foster, Peter Studd, Ridhi Mathur and Mandy Reed. We drew from our extensive experience in the virtual agent and chatbot field to explore six areas of experience that are necessary for success. For example, we touch on the importance of skill in building a strong business case, integrating with other systems and technologies, creating the right user experience and identifying future developments.

We were so glad to contribute to this guide as it really brings the whole team closer to the readers. Having that personal touch makes a difference and helps to make the technology as well as industry jargon and terms more understandable. Having to choose a self-service solution can be a daunting task – there are so many industry-specific, and often even provider-specific expressions (which usually all mean pretty much the same thing!), that during your search, you might just feel even more confused than before you started. Demo calls might have the same effect, especially if you need to pass on the gained information to your team.

It helps to have clear, short and objective guides to help with your selection process – our 7-page long whitepaper is a perfect example of this. AI tools don’t need to be complicated and overwhelming if you go with the right team who can make things simple and easily understandable for you.

For example, we’ve found in our personal experience that as we go through the deployment and content curation processes clients, especially those who are new to self-service solutions, often find somewhat abstract our third area covered in the whitepaper: Experience with building and deploying successful solutions. To them, customer behaviour analysis and conversation flows are mysterious things and so they find it difficult to identify and deliver complex user journeys.

For an experienced virtual agent team, this is a typical case when a picture, or in this instance one demo flow, is worth a thousand words. Once we create a prototype flow for our customers, they are able to visualize their content flows and get quickly into the swing of things, supplying us new journeys and loops proactively. This is the sort of invaluable consultation experience you will receive when you work with the right virtual agent vendor.

The right team will also help you with analysing your virtual agent or chatbot’s usage to help you identify some quick wins. For example, for a new project we’ve been recently working on, our analysis enabled us to suggest creating new structured conversation flows by linking together existing content. This meant the client did not have to provide any new content, yet the user experience and their specific KPIs (key performance indicators) were improved significantly. It is personalised recommendations like this that enable you to get the most from your self-service tool, and that only happens when you work with a provider that builds a close relationship with your company and team.

virtual agent & chatbot guideWe encourage you to take a look at the tips and nuggets of wisdom from a dynamic and accomplished group of people on the Creative Virtual team who know their stuff and are happy to share it. We hope you find it useful as reference as you consider self-help tool options and providers. We may be a little biased, but we firmly believe you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better and well-informed source!

Download your copy of our Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor: Forget the Technology & Focus on Experience right now! Don’t forget you can always request more information or your own expert consultation by contacting us here.

Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Chatbots and virtual agents have proven themselves to be quality self-service solutions, being increasingly implemented by smart organisations to provide support and being increasingly preferred by customers and employees for quick, easy access to information. Many more organisations around the world either have a virtual agent on their 2019 roadmap or are considering adding one. Yet, despite all the success stories, there are also stories of failed implementations and conflicting messages about artificial intelligence (AI) that are giving decisionmakers pause.

The explosion of interest in chatbots over the last several years helped bring attention to the technology but has left the market confused with media hype and a growing number of new, inexperienced vendors trying to break into the industry. It can be difficult to know how to select the best technology and implement it for long-term success, but organisations shouldn’t let this deter them from plans to offer a conversational self-service tool.

Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019 addresses the most important items organisations should consider when evaluating and deploying this technology with eight actionable recommendations covering topics including:

  • Building your business case around the right key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Selecting a technology that fits with your roadmap and provides the necessary security and integration options
  • Collaborating with a vendor that can provide expertise beyond just the technology
  • Implementing your solution to create a seamless omnichannel experience
  • Keeping your solution accurate and up-to-date with the right combination of humans and AI

Chatbot and virtual agent technology continues to change quickly, and organisations need to keep in mind that the technology of 2019 is not the same as that of even a few years ago. Educating yourself – and others in your organisation – about the current capabilities and deployment options of these solutions needs to be the first step in your chatbot or virtual agent journey. Companies with failed chatbot implementations or tools that haven’t kept pace with more recent technology developments will also find these eight tips helpful to determine next steps for finding a replacement solution.

Download Top Tips for Implementing a Chatbot or Virtual Agent in 2019 for help with selecting, deploying and maintaining a successful self-service solution this year.

A Look Back: 2018 in Review

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

As 2018 is quickly coming to an end and planning for 2019 continues to move full steam ahead, it’s time once again to take a moment to slow down and look back over the past year. It’s been another exciting year not only for Creative Virtual as a company, but also for the virtual agent, chatbot and live chat industry, with lots of new developments and innovation. So, as per our annual tradition, let’s take a look at some of the highlights from the past 12 months.

We continued our five-year-long celebration of our Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Innovation 2017 by publishing more Meet the Team interviews and pushing forward with our Innovations Roadmap. In September, we added a new recognition to our growing list of accomplishments when we won a place on The Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 as one of Britain’s fastest-growing private technology companies. Rachel Freeman (Operations Director), Peter Behrend (CTO) and Chris Ezekiel (Founder & CEO) attended the awards ceremony in London to accept our award and spend an interesting evening mingling with other Tech Track 100 companies. This year we also had the opportunity to share our story in The Parliamentary Review as a Best Practice Representative for the technology sector. It was exciting to see our article in print – there are still copies of the publication available in our London office – and talk about our journey from a small industry pioneer to a global leader in our space and our company culture based on innovation, teamwork and ownership of which we are very proud. You can read our full article here.

We can’t mention recognitions without a special shout out to the Transport for NSW team and their chatbot RITA on having an exceptional year. RITA was in the news in January for giving commuters access to voice-activated information with a new integration with Amazon’s Alexa. The team also brought home three separate awards this year: ‘Most Innovative and Intelligent BOT for Customer Experience’ at the AI Conference Awards, ‘Best Multichannel Customer Experience’ in the EY-Ashton Media 2018 CX Awards, and a win in the Solutions category at the Transport Recognition Awards for “A new frontier in customer information”. Congratulations!

There were also some other noteworthy and news making announcements for individual members of the Creative Virtual team this year. Maria Ward, Andre Matthews, Dinah Clarke, David Barker, Chloe Tooley, Tracey Biela, Björn Gülsdorff, Steve Smith, Rachel Freeman and Chris Ezekiel completed the Virgin Sport Westminster 10K in July and exceeded their fundraising goal for the RSPCA. This was the fourth time a group of runners from Creative Virtual did a 10k in support of the RSPCA. Jeff Clifford was invited to speak at Milton Keynes College during Digital Day in February to share insights on chatbots and virtual agents with students (read our interview with Jeff here). Rachael Needham had her ‘Meet the Team’ interview featured in her local newspaper, the Cameron Citizen-Observer, in September (read the article here and our full interview with Rachael here). Liam Ryan was featured in CRMXchange’s Executive Interview series, sharing his thoughts on self-service technology and recent industry developments (read his full interview here).  And I was honoured to be named ‘Most Influential Marketing Manager 2018 – UK’ as part of the 2018 Business Woman Elite Awards for my work at Creative Virtual.

We once again celebrated Customer Service Week (1-5 October) and CX Day (2 October) with a special series of posts on the Creative Virtual blog. This year we explored the evolving role of chatbots and combining automation with a human element to better support customers with special contributions from Laura Ludmany (Leverage Your Chatbot to Its Full Capacity), Rachel Freeman (Are We Chatting or are We Serving? – The balance of chat and getting the solution quickly) and Chris Ezekiel (Automation Shouldn’t Force Customers to do the Work Themselves). We also shared our annual blog post roundup (Five Stars for Customer Service Week) to kick off the week and released a brand new whitepaper, A Chatbot for Your Contact Center, which shares tips for selecting and implementing a conversational platform to support agents and provide an omnichannel customer experience. It includes 12 specific questions to ask when deciding what solution will work best for your organisation.

In September, we presented our sixth annual Technology Innovation Showcase webinar with CRMXchange, this year titled ‘Humans & AI: The Perfect CX Power Couple’. Chris Ezekiel shared a series of live demonstrations showcasing how to bring together artificial intelligence and human input to provide quality self-service options, improve live chat and contact centre performance and increase customer satisfaction scores. You can watch the recording on-demand here. Then at the end of November, he presented another webinar, this time with Engage Customer titled ‘Orchestrating a Seamless and Efficient Customer Experience’. He again shared live demos along with eight recommendations for organisations either looking to implement chatbots, virtual agents and live chat or who want to improve any of those tools they already have in place. Within minutes of finishing the live webinar, Chris received an email from an attendee that read, “I would like to say thank you for the best online presentation in my life.” Luckily you can also watch that recording on-demand here to experience it for yourself!

As always, we were busy sponsoring and joining our partners at industry events around the world during 2018 – Hong Kong, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Malaysia, Macau, India – and were grateful to deliver thought leadership presentations and/or sit on expert panels at many of them. In addition to presenting at four of these events, Chris Ezekiel also penned an article for CRMXchange, Are You Ready for the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Your Contact Center?, which identifies three areas contact centres should focus on when it comes to developing and implementing digital initiatives and AI projects. We released two new Customer Success Stories this year: Rest, one of Australia’s largest superannuation funds by membership, who use virtual agent Roger to provide 24/7 support for customers on their website and Google Home; and a large Government Department that is reducing internal service desk costs and improving employee productivity with a virtual agent.

This year we celebrated the launch of a brand new Creative Virtual website that better reflects our company, brand and technology. We welcomed a number of great organisations to our expanding Global Partner Network, and our V-Person™ Family continued to grow with new deployments in a variety of languages and additional features and functionality being added to existing installs.

November marked the 15th anniversary of Chris Ezekiel founding Creative Virtual in London’s East End, and January will be the anniversary of when the company first started trading. As we finish out the end of 2018, we’re looking forward to celebrating our 15th anniversary next year!

Don’t forget to check out our 2018 in Review photo album on the Creative Virtual Facebook page. We’ve compiled photos from our official events and presentations as well as our fun group activities, company celebrations and fundraising activities. There will still be more photos to come, so be sure to like our Facebook page so you don’t miss any.

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!

Infographic: Are Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence Threats to Your Contact Centre?

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

Some academics and experts are warning about the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI) – predicting everything from a huge loss of jobs to the end of the human race. At the same time, industry analysts are predicting significant increases in chatbots and virtual agents in the customer service space. So what does this mean for your contact centre? Should you approach chatbots and virtual agents as threats? Are contact centres about to become completely automated?

Check out the new infographic below for a realistic overview of the impact AI, chatbots and virtual agents are having on the contact centre. And then download the whitepaper AI, Chatbots and Virtual Agents: The Threat to Mankind and the Contact Centre to learn more.

AI Chatbot Threat to Contact Centres

 

 

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.

Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – Confusing or What!

By Mandy Reed, Marketing Manager (Global)

I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone involved with customer service, marketing, customer engagement or sales who hasn’t heard something about chatbots this year. Along with all the attention and media buzz has come a wave of confusion for the marketplace. What’s the difference between a chatbot and a virtual agent? Should I be jumping on the bandwagon and offering a chatbot on Facebook Messenger? What do my customers actually want from a self-service virtual agent? Are bots just a passing fad for engaging my customers?

If any (or all!) of these questions left you scratching your head, don’t worry.  You’re certainly not alone. Even industry analysts and experts have taken a second look at how they view and talk about this technology. A new whitepaper, aptly titled Virtual Agents and Chatbots and Avatars – confusing or what!, acknowledges this confusion and sets out to demystify the names, uses and future of digital customer engagement tools. As we approach the end of 2016 and begin to look at what 2017 will bring for the customer experience and service space, this comprehensive whitepaper is a great resource for understanding automated conversational systems and how they fit into your overall customer engagement plan.  It walks readers through:

  • The names and terminology being used for these systems in the customer engagement space: Virtual agent, chatbot, avatar, virtual customer assistant, bot, virtual assistant, chatterbot – there have been lots of different names used over the years which has added to the confusion in the marketplace. The whitepaper looks at the different terminology being used and what customers expect you to call your self-service.
  • The technology and AI behind chatbots and virtual agents: “A chatbot called by any other name is still only as good as the technology powering it.” This whitepaper discusses the buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in relation to self-learning chatbots. It also addresses the types of features, functionality and integrations you should look for when exploring this technology for customer support.
  • Selecting a tool that’s right for your company and your customers: Step one is to determine how the solution will fit into your overall digital customer engagement plan. The series of questions presented in this whitepaper will help you choose a chatbot or virtual agent that fits with that plan and meets the very high expectations of today’s customers for 24/7 access to personalised, consistent and accurate information.
  • Current use cases for conversational self-service: Facebook Messenger’s introduction of chatbots was certainly a big announcement this year, but this technology has also been proven successful for providing self-service on other customer engagement channels as well. This whitepaper also goes beyond customer support to explore a compelling use case for using these tools for employee self-service, too.
  • Preparing for the future of digital customer engagement: Will chatbots play a role in the future of digital customer engagement or are they just a passing fad? With so many organisations working with tight budgets and limited resources, this is an important question to explore before investing in any new technology. Backed by industry statistics and analyst predictions, you’ll get a peek into the future of the contact centre and digital engagement.

Ready to leave your chatbot confusion behind? Download a full copy of this whitepaper to help you explore the possibility of chatbots being a win-win for your organisation and your customers.