Creative Virtual Executive Interview
more customers start their support journeys online and take advantage of
self-service options, does that translate into a declining need for live
In the traditional sense of “live agent”
(phone agents), yes. And that’s a really great thing! Every company needs great
customer service representatives, and always will. The conversational content
that gets leveraged in intelligent self-serve solutions has to come from
somewhere. The best source of great content for your business is from the
mind/mouth of a front-line rep. They should have their own virtual assistant
helping them out, and have an integrated feedback-loop on content that pushes
out to the rest of your self-serve channels (with an approval layer). Improved
self-serve solutions don’t eliminate the need for live agents, nor should that
be anyone’s goal. It’s simply a solution that allows businesses to invest more
dollars in really good representatives and better leverage their customer
service expertise. Let’s get those great agents out of call centers and have
them messaging with customers like every other personal communication these
can businesses benefit by driving greater collaboration between virtual agents
and front-line customer service representatives?
Maybe you were anticipating my answer to
the previous question when you wrote this one? :) Simply put, those great
front-line reps are the key element to success. You want to emulate the
experience the talented ones are delivering to your customers. Find tools that
incorporate their learnings into the self-service solution in a low-effort way.
If a rep figures out a better way to explain a fee, it should take one click
for her to get that into an approval queue.
organizations do not fully understand the definitions of virtual agents,
chatbots and avatars: can you elaborate on the differences between them?
No thanks! Who’s to say I’m right? It’s
actually the best and worst thing about our emerging space...no rules (yet)!
Call it whatever you want. Eventually the market will settle on a consensus,
but these are early days. More important than what these things are called is
the results. Whatever you’re being pitched, make sure you get a customer
reference that closely mirrors your own business. There is a lot of “big hat,
no cattle” marketing for these solutions out there. If it isn’t delivering
great customer conversations, move on.
you explain the concept behind your Omnichannel Smart Help and how it helps
personalize the customer experience across a variety of touch points?
isn’t a channel these days? I’m pretty sure in another 3 months I’ll be able to
ask my couch to book a flight for me. Our philosophy has always been to stay
outcome-focused. Getting the conversation right so that customers can get
accurate and personalized answers with as little effort and personal time
invested as possible is always our goal. So we ensure that conversational
structure stays in place, while we keep entry and exit points flexible enough
so that we can take an existing client’s content and demo a new channel the day
something new is released to the market. If they release that couch API
tomorrow morning, we can demo it providing a customer’s account balance and
payment date by the afternoon.
Virtual has experienced success in the UK and other international markets: what
type of impact have you had in the US and North America and what are your
expectations for growth over the next several years?
Our global presence has been a wonderful asset in helping us
evolve our solutions in well-informed ways. There are a number of regional and
cultural differences in how companies are leveraging this technology. Maintaining
product flexibility in order to deliver globally has kept us prepared for the
rapid advances in capabilities. Perhaps the biggest contribution from the US
deployments has been scale. We don’t do things small here! While the average
enterprise chatbot deployment around the world handles about 100,000
conversations a year, several of our US deployments do that volume in 3 days!
We mostly service the top-end of the enterprise market across telco, banking,
and hospitality. These are industries with substantial security, scalability,
and quality requirements that push a vendor to extremely high standards. As far
as growth expectations, we measure our success by how well we help our clients
succeed in their goals. We’ve got several clients sharing their digital
transformation stories today, and expect many more of those stories in the
I always find these
discussions enjoyable and interesting. But I’ll happily acknowledge that
my answers to most of these questions are no more likely to be correct than
anyone else’s. Any “correct” answer I give today is often incorrect before the
milk in my fridge expires. My best advice is to place less value in “how” these
solutions work and more in “what” they are actually accomplishing in the real
world in the form of actual customer conversations. While I’ll admit there are
some pretty cool super bowl commercials out there for this stuff, look past the
marketing to the actual customer experience. Get a demo that is customized to
your business and try it out for yourself. Ask how many conversations the
solution provider has shifted to the chatbot and it’s like-to-like success
rates for similar deployments in your industry. Simply put, channel your inner
“Where’s the Beef” lady. The providers getting these solutions right should
have several clients that will personally tell you how the product transformed
their business, shifted significant percentages of live contacts, and improved
customer experience. Ask for proof, not just concepts. Otherwise, you could find
out you’ve purchased the idea of a solution rather than the real thing.