Creative Virtual USA Executive Interview
Patrick Gallagher, Managing Director ANZ & North Asia, Creative Virtual USA
Two-thirds of customers prefer to use
online self-service. What steps should companies take to ensure their customers
can resolve issues with minimal effort?
Over the past three decades, companies have
invested millions in their contact centers, offering support to their customers
that call to purchase, enquire, complain, apply or just need assistance.
Traditionally this has been the ‘tried-and-tested’ option as companies
continued to invest in their contact center in order to build their customer
support capability. But as their customers move into digital channels (and the
majority have already moved there), what are companies doing to ensure they are
continuing to support their customers in the new digital channels and offer
true online support to their customers? They now face a pressing need to be
prioritizing investments in online customer service tools, communicating and supporting
their customers where they now live, in the online channels.
As organizations work to embrace these new digital
channels, it’s key for them to recognize that it’s more than just support that
their online customers want. Customers expect that they should be able to
purchase, enquire, complain, apply and get help effortlessly online. So what can companies do to address this? Well,
it is about embracing the new digital channels and building ‘smart help’ online.
The first step in determining how ‘smart’ your online help truly is, is to
really test it out. Some common pitfalls that companies fall into (that
customers really hate!), are having an online search tool that either returns
pages and pages of results that require the customer to spend long amounts of
time sorting through or returns zero results because customers didn’t use the
exact terminology or search terms. Another big pitfall (and this is my pet
hate) is to give answers that say ‘To find out about this product, please call
the contact center’. This really creates a poor online experience for your
Deploying virtual agents and smart help solutions
that include Natural Language Processing (NLP) that can effortlessly understand
and answer customers is enabling companies to take a step in the right
direction. These self-service tools allow customers to ask questions in natural
language (no more guessing the right search terms) and return a single,
consistent answer to the query. Truly smart solutions can also be integrated
with other support options to provide an effortless experience. For example, a
customer can be seamlessly escalated from virtual agent to live chat agent
should they need or want to move from self-service to a live agent.
Smart help should understand what your customer is
asking, maintain the context of the conversation, and above all, be able to
deliver personalized answers to your customers. It’s official: customers want
their interactions to be about them, and they expect technology to know who
they are, how important they are, what their preferences are and what products
and services they have from your company. They want online smart help that
knows all of this and provides them with the appropriate answers that are
personalized to them. Companies should already be delivering effortless, smart
help for their online customers today, and planning how to make these customer
interactions personalized in the near future.
How does employing the combination of
Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology
improve the customer support experience?
A natural language virtual agent mimics the way
humans interact with one another, seamlessly integrating simple question and
answer pairs with decision trees (for disambiguation and multistep solutions),
keyword matches, and conversational responses. These systems are engaging and
accurate, responding to questions as well as taking initiative, combining
first-line support with ‘live’ branding, simple and intuitive customer service
with proactive sales support.
Unlike a traditional search engine or FAQ tool, the
virtual agent presents content that is relevant to the specific query at hand,
and does not overwhelm the user with tenuously-linked information. A single
answer is linked to each user query through a sophisticated natural language
But a word of caution about the ‘pure’ AI solutions
on the market that are being promoted as virtual agents. While these
technologies have a definite place in driving quantitative analysis of large
volumes of data, they are not ready to be deployed for a support and service
experience for customers. Virtual agents should employ self-learning
capabilities, and deliver benefits from this, but in a way that gives companies
control over the reliability of the responses. Combining self-learning with human
curation of content allows organizations to be absolutely sure that their
virtual agent is responding to users in a predictable way.
Why is it important for intelligent
virtual agent (IVA) service to be available across all contact channels now
commonly used by customers?
Technology and the availability of that technology,
in particular the widespread adoption of smartphones, has changed the way
customers want to engage with your company. Whether they are looking for
self-service on your website, your Facebook page or your mobile app, or are
talking with an agent on the phone or live chat, customers expect to receive
consistent and accurate information. Utilizing IVA technology across all
contact channels gives your company the ability to present consistent branding
and messaging to customers and makes it easy for customers to receive reliable
information regardless of the channel they choose. The key to successfully creating
this consistency is to use a single IVA knowledgebase to power all channels.
Using a central knowledgebase allows for content updates to be made quickly and
easily across all contact channels. This not only means your customers are
getting the most accurate, up-to-date information but also creates efficiency
and cost savings for your company. The ability to customize IVA responses by
channel – giving a shorter answer on a mobile device or a more informal answer
on a social channel, for example – can also improve the customer experience.
In what ways does your technology enable
businesses to leverage their collective
knowledge and provide personalized experiences to their customers?
technology is designed to be complementary to the systems and processes already
in place, to sit on top of your existing infrastructure and integrate with
existing company assets. We’ve taken this approach because we know that the key
to leveraging your company’s collective knowledge is to integrate your existing
‘silos’ of information and make that information readily available to customers
and employees. There’s no need to throw out what you’ve already spent time and
money putting in place and no new lengthy and expensive development commitments
with our solutions. V-Portal™, our knowledge management, workflow management
and business intelligence reporting platform, is what enables us to bring all
of your content together and quickly create customer conversations. Personalization
is the most important aspect of creating true value in the user journey, and so
our technology integrates with personal account information. Combining the
understanding of the customers’ intent with their individualized customer
information delivers a superior support experience.
How can an IVA solution
complement the knowledge capabilities of a live agent?
Having an IVA will improve the
digital experience your company can deliver across multiple channels and will
give your customers access to effortless, smart help, but the benefits don’t
not stop there. Deploying the IVA into your contact center allows your organization
to use the same knowledgebase to increase the efficiency of your agents. The
IVA will understand questions asked in natural language and instantly provide
agents with the information they seek, reducing average call handling times by
up to 40% and increasing first contact resolution. You also build confidence
with customers by assuring consistent communication from all agents and across
In addition, an IVA can be
integrated into your company’s live chat solution to provide seamless
escalation from virtual to live agent. Creative Virtual offers a deeper
blending of these two technologies so that the virtual agent will automatically
suggest answers to the live agent, and a real-time feedback loops enables
agents to keep content updated for both virtual and live agents just by doing
their normal jobs.
Today’s IVAs can help automate
your contact center and increase the efficiency of your live chat agents while
driving compliance and consistency.