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It’s Time to Pull Back the Curtain on Enterprise Conversational AI Pricing

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Enterprise software pricing is often shrouded in mystery and the subject of intense negotiations between the supplier and customer. For applications where the market is immature then this is necessary as it takes some time to equate the cost with the business value. Whilst chatbots and virtual agents have been around for a long time, it’s relatively recently that they’ve become ubiquitous within the enterprise. I’m very pleased to report that Creative Virtual is stepping forward to lead the way in removing this shroud of mystery around conversational AI pricing.

Long-term relationships based on trust and transparency are attributes that underpin the culture within Creative Virtual, and we’re proud to launch the ‘Guide to Enterprise Conversational AI Pricing: Calculating the Cost of a Successful Chatbot or Virtual Agent’ whitepaper

This comes at a particularly important time as the conversational AI market is oversaturated with solutions that do not deliver the level of sophistication, flexibility, and customisation needed for a well-performing enterprise solution. These tools come with a lower price tag but end up negatively impacting the organisation’s bottom line by harming the customer experience and eroding customer loyalty.

This expert guide pulls back the curtain on enterprise-level pricing to empower organisations with the knowledge they need to properly budget and evaluate costs of conversational AI solutions.

We have drawn on our many enterprise-level customers and partners, together with a world leading amount of experience within the industry, so that organisations can have confidence not only in the pricing but also the advice on the effort and expertise required to maintain a successful solution. And whilst the technology platform is clearly a key part, the experience and expertise are often undervalued. That was the motivation for our previous whitepaper, ‘Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor: Forget the Technology & Focus on Experience’.

conversational ai pricingNow, your organisation has two important complementary whitepapers that draw on Creative Virtual’s nearly two decades of delivering successful solutions in many sectors to help you develop a conversational AI roadmap designed to give your company a customer experience competitive advantage.

Download our new guide to enterprise conversational AI pricing for insider tips on budgeting for your solution, typical pricing models, and average costs for pilots and full systems.

When you’re ready to learn more and start building your own business case for a conversational AI solution, our expert team will be here to arrange a personalised demo and discuss your consultation workshop.

Will Old Internal Systems Destroy your Conversational AI Dream?

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Microsoft announced this week that they will stop supporting Windows 10 in 2025, with no new updates or security fixes being released after 14 October. This news comes as the company plans to reveal a new Windows operating system later this month. Screenshots of the new Windows 11 have been leaked online ahead of that virtual event – you can check them out here.

Whether you’re a Windows user or not, this type of announcement can highlight the need for wider discussions about the technology and systems being used internally at your organisation. Are you one of the many companies that relies on old or out-dated solutions? These legacy systems can have a knock-on effect, sometimes creating issues when the restrictions they create aren’t acknowledged at the start of a digital project or even keeping organisations from embarking on new projects at all.

For example, this can be the case when deploying an internal conversational AI solution for employee support. As virtual agent and chatbot expert, Peter Studd explains in a conversational AI guide:

“It’s very important to be aware of your users’ technology when you’re implementing a virtual agent to ensure it will be compatible. For example, it’s not uncommon for large companies to have very old systems and browsers that are still being used companywide. This can cause issues if not taken into consideration when developing an internal virtual agent.”

Constraints created by old systems and browsers don’t necessarily mean you need to abandon your plans for an internal virtual agent. However, they should be identified and discussed at the beginning of your project to avoid any unwanted surprises. If not, you could find that you’ve invested time and money into a solution that can’t be properly integrated with an important legacy system or isn’t user friendly for employees using older browsers.

This is just one of the downsides of taking a DIY approach to building and deploying a chatbot or virtual agent. If you don’t have people with the right experience on this team, it will be easy to miss or overlook older systems that could create project roadblocks. You end up with a case of ‘we didn’t know what we didn’t know’ and a tool that doesn’t meet expectations.

An experienced conversational AI provider will know the right questions to ask to help you pinpoint any potential compatibility issues upfront. They’ll provide guidance on any changes or accommodations you may need to make to your plan. They’ll also be able to offer suggestions for ways to work with potential constraints based on a deep knowledge of their technology and prior experience with similar challenges.

In an ideal world, all of the systems and technologies being used by your organisation would be up-to-date and easy to incorporate into new conversational AI projects. Since that’s not likely to become a reality any day soon, the best course of action is to work with a provider that can not only help you identify potential challenges but also provide the guidance on how to overcome them. Old internal systems don’t need to destroy your conversational AI dream.

A Seamless Support Experience is Music to Your Customers’ Ears

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

Every month Creative Virtual’s Founder & CEO writes his Virtual Viewpoint column for Wharf Life, a local newspaper available in the area around the company’s headquarters in London. You can also read the paper online, getting an insider’s look at what’s going on in the area as well as Chris’ perspective on a variety of topics from technology developments to stress management to space exploration.

In his latest Virtual Viewpoint column, Chris shares his recent experience attending a string quartet recital. He marvels at how in sync the musicians were, each bringing their own style and sound together for a cohesive performance. He compares this to running a successful company. Each member of the team contributes their unique skills and style but must work together towards a common goal.

The same principles are true for delivering a positive customer service experience. Creating your overall strategy is similar to writing a musical score – you have to pay attention not only to the performance of each individual component but also how they interact with each other over the course of the journey. You need to ensure each element is utilised to emphasise its strengths but do so in a way that creates a joined-up, seamless experience.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that a number of my own personal customer service experiences have revealed a strategy that is out-of-sync. Way too often a company’s digital experience appears to come from a completely different strategy than other parts of the experience. While many customers were willing to cut businesses a little slack as they dealt with sudden pandemic-related changes, that’s no longer a valid excuse for the disjointed support experience so many companies are still delivering.

Recently I’ve come across some articles claiming customers, who are increasingly turning to digital channels, hate using chatbots and just want to talk to a human. However, when you delve into the real reasons behind these claims, you realise that it’s not the automated self-service tool that customers hate but rather the poor experience that some of them are delivering. If the chatbot can understand their questions, provide accurate and relevant information, and give the option to escalate to a human if needed, then customers have no issue with using a chatbot.

This highlights a failure in both the development of these chatbot solutions and their implementation as part of a synchronised support strategy. A quality chatbot must be backed by conversational AI technology that combines machine learning with a human-in-the-loop. It must be integrated with human-assisted support channels, such as live chat, for a seamless handover. It must be approached as one piece of a comprehensive customer service strategy and not as a stand-alone tool or side project. All of these elements are essential for your solution to be effective, but companies often struggle because they don’t have enough knowledge in this field.

Rachel F Freeman, a conversational AI expert, started working with chatbots and virtual agents in 2000. She has experienced first-hand the evolution of the technology, and today collaborates closely with organisations on the development and implementation of their solutions. She shared this important piece of advice in a chatbot vendor selection guide:

“You should feel comfortable saying to your vendor, “we don’t know what we don’t know and are looking to you as the experts”. This applies to everything from possible use cases to suggestions for conversational flows to UI design tips. If you don’t have confidence they will guide you in the right direction, you’re working with the wrong team.”

This is sage advice for companies as they make conversational AI a part of their customer service strategy. If you don’t want your customers to hate your chatbot, then give them a chatbot that delivers the experience they want. That requires working with knowledgeable experts to ensure your self-service tool is properly developed and integrated with your overarching support strategy, goals, and customer needs.

While engaging with a company for customer support will likely never be as enjoyable as listening to a professional string quartet recital, the experience should be just as seamless and in sync. This is certainly not an easy feat, but is one made easier when you work with the right experts. And when you are able to deliver a seamless, omnichannel support experience, it will be music to your customers’ ears.

Is Your Inexperienced Approach to Self-Service Driving Customers Away?

By Mandy Reed, Global Head of Marketing

As many people around the world reflect on more than a year of pandemic-related lockdowns, restrictions, and public health measures, it’s impossible not to marvel at how we all adapted to our current reality. This has involved a lot of trial-and-error as we learned new skills and created new routines in both our personal and professional lives.

Trial-and-error is important to our individual growth and life in general. However, when it comes to areas like customer support, using a trial-and-error approach can have a devastating effect on your customer experience. And it is no secret that poor experiences can lead directly to customer churn and lost revenue.

Perhaps in the early days of limited in-person interactions and surges in calls to contact centres, customers were more understanding about long wait times or out-of-date self-help content. The attitude of ‘we’re all in this together’ extended to giving companies a little space to try some trial-and-error to get their support experience right. If that grace period did exist, it is now long over!

During the past year, more customers have turned to digital channels and automated self-service for support. Usage of virtual agents and chatbots exploded with record-breaking levels of traffic. Customers expect these conversational AI tools to be easy-to-use, convenient, accurate, and reliable. When built and maintained properly, they are all those things.

Unfortunately, not all companies tackle the implementation of conversational AI solutions with a realistic understanding of what it takes to make them successful. Instead, they take a DIY approach with limited internal knowledge and experience. This requires a lot of trial-and-error which creates poor performing tools and frustrated, unhappy customers.

As Claudio Chico, Development & Support Technician at Creative Virtual, explained in a recent conversational AI guide:

“A proper business virtual agent has many parts and building one involves knowledge in many areas. If any part is new to you or you aren’t extremely familiar with the tools you are using, you’re stuck applying the principles of ‘hoping this works’ and ‘changing stuff and seeing what happens’. When you outsource this to an experienced provider, you get a whole team of people who not only know what they are doing but have done it thousands of times. They have a deep understanding of how to use their tools and how they work, so nothing is a mystery anymore.”

Part of the underestimation of the importance experience plays in successful conversational AI projects stems from a misconception that chatbots and virtual agents are new self-service solutions that burst onto the scene several years ago. If this is new technology, then surely everyone is inexperienced and utilising a trial-and-error methodology, right? The truth is this technology has been used in areas such as website self-service for over two decades.

Even though these self-service tools may be new to your company and team, vendors like Creative Virtual have years and years of experience with delivering successful solutions. This means that forward-thinking companies – perhaps even some of your competitors – have years and years of experience with offering successful solutions. It also means that customers have used those successful solutions when engaging with other businesses and will use your chatbot or virtual agent expecting the same level of reliable and accurate self-service.

When it comes to creating positive customer experiences and getting the most from conversational AI technology, there is no substitute for having hands-on experience with building, integrating, installing, maintaining, and expanding virtual agents and chatbots. An inexperienced, trial-and-error approach doesn’t drive success. It drives your customers away.

Download the Guide to Selecting a Virtual Agent or Chatbot Vendor: Forget the Technology & Focus on Experience whitepaper for more tips from industry experts.

Also check out the ISG Provider Lens™ Intelligent Automation – Solutions & Services report for the analyst group’s independent evaluation of the conversational AI market and vendors.

Bottom line: Work with an experienced team to deliver your company’s self-service solutions and leave the trial-and-error for finding the most flattering lighting for your next Zoom meeting or testing the best ways to trick your kids into eating their vegetables.

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.