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Synthetix - Blog

Page: 1 | 2

Contact centres winning the battle of CX

Unlike the uncertainty surrounding Brexit negotiations, the last ten years’ advances in technology (and especially AI) has helped many leading brands turn their contact centres into profit centres by improving first contact resolution, decreasing agent burnout and making their customers happy.

Technology has also changed customer expectations and customer experience can no longer be sacrificed for the convenience of the brand. Customer service is an essential part of contact centres, and with uncertain times upon us, delivering exceptional customer experience to customers via their channel of choice might have some contact centres feeling like they don’t have the right weapons to win the battle of delivering increased customer satisfaction whilst also reducing their cost-per-serve ratio. 

But, there is hope yet for those who choose their arms wisely…

Bite the bullet with efficiency

Unpredictable call spikes cause frustrated customers and weary agents, resulting in lost revenue. Self-service options like Visual IVR, FAQ Search and Virtual Agent chatbots help to optimise agent contact, coping with spikes in enquiries and assisting with rapid contact resolution in the event that a query is escalated to an agent.

Plan of attack to retain and attract

Teams burning out quickly and high agent attrition costs time and money. Gamification programs promote healthy culture; performance data improves development and retention. Dashboards reporting on agent productivity will assist contact centre managers to identify staff needing more encouragement as well as identifying those to reward.

‘Omni-channelling’ successfully with Customer Experiences

Being there for customers when they reach out via chat, email or social media is challenging when the best skilled agents or a full customer history is not be available. Using APIs and CRM integrations, real-time data can be unified in one place across channels, enabling a 360 degree view of the customer, regardless of which channel they choose to interact through.  

These quick reads provide some valuable insight to taking small steps to prepare for the ever-changing customer experience landscape and how it can create winning results in the contact centre.

  •  The small step towards AI that can deliver quick-win business results
  •  Multi-channel Online Customer Service for Dummies
  •  To-Bot or Not? Virtual Agents for Dummies


Publish Date: September 4, 2018

Waiting staff ‘lovin’ their new AI-powered chatbot.

Synthetix HQ, Stansted, UK, 1 August 2018 - One of the UK’s largest, most profitable, and globally recognised employers in the fast food industry has invested in a new and innovative way to assist their staff anytime they need it. A new intelligent Virtual Agent assists staff to troubleshoot should they experience technical difficulties with items such as the drinks dispenser or order taking equipment.

The intelligent Virtual Agent/chatbot designed by Synthetix, offers step by step guidance displaying technical manuals, to get simple issues fixed as soon as possible, without having to call and wait for an engineer. If the system detects that a problem does require expert intervention, the bot automatically logs and schedules a call for further assistance through an integrated call-back system.

Neil Spalding, Head of Channel Sales at Synthetix says, “It’s a great honour to work alongside such a global brand who are embracing technology to not only assist their staff but help serve their customers better. The Virtual Agent’s integration with the call-back system is extremely efficient to get operational levels back to optimum capacity.”


Publish Date: September 3, 2018

Repurpose digital assets to deliver relevant answers.

This webinar will delight you if you're interested in discovering how to reduce the number of incoming emails to your contact centre agents.

We will reveal how leading UK retail brand reduced their emails by 40% by investing in Visual IVR, allowing agents to deal with more complex issues and upsell opportunities.

Visual IVR is a revolutionary self-service tool for enterprise businesses, which makes the best use of self-service content and integrates seamlessly with online customer service channels to:

* Save money by reducing unnecessary inbound customer service enquiries.

* Increase customer satisfaction levels by ensuring the customer gets the answer to the question through the channel they want.

* Increase sales conversion rates by strategically escalating to an agent led conversation when a sales opportunity is detected.

* Drive digital adoption by allowing customers to find everything that they need, instantly online.

* Increase agent efficiency by intelligently structuring and routing emails, greatly increasing AHT and first-time resolution rates.


Publish Date: August 31, 2018

The dawn of a New Contact Centre

Managing a large group of loud personalities, having to forecast and plan resources tightly against projected inbound contact, meeting big targets and running countless meetings, if this sounds like your typical day, you must be in the profession of overseeing a contact centre. Finding time to think about and plan what needs to be done to develop or improve performance is a tough task when most Managers spend their time battling to keep agents and customers happy. To further complicate matters, any big changes need to be run past upper management, which according to a recent report, still perceives the contact centre as a ‘cost centre’.

And with headlines stating that AI will be ‘the death of the contact centre’, it’s understandable that Contact Centre Managers might feel like the world is against them. However, it’s the dawn of a New Contact Centre. Businesses can no longer afford to rely on archaic siloed channels for customer support and experience. The time has come for businesses to fill their customer support armoury with new strategies and AI tech to win the war on remaining relevant and profitable.

As consumers grow more and more comfortable with messaging, AI applications offer the contact centre some dramatic benefits that stretches way beyond ‘Botman versus SuperAgent’. For those businesses looking to invest in AI, there is light in this confusing artificially intelligent world of darkness. There already exists reasonably priced and ‘modest’ AI-powered solutions that can translate into cost savings, increased productivity and improved customer experience with minimal demands on IT resources.

But for AI to introduce new value and break fresh ground, strategists must take an innovative approach to CX and consider its impact beyond its novelty. As a ‘Customer Experience General’ looking to outwit the enemy, the following quick reads provide some valuable insight to taking small steps to prepare for the ever-changing customer experience landscape and how it can deliver ‘super-powered’ results in the contact centre.

  • The small step towards AI that can deliver quick-win business results
  • Multi-channel Online Customer Service for Dummies
  • Virtual Agents for Dummies


Publish Date: August 21, 2018

Virtual Agent pioneers celebrate 17 years of AI-driven solutions

Seventeen is the media world’s go-to age of bittersweet nostalgia. This important age not only has its own magazine but is often referred to as the gap between adulthood and childhood that should be seen as a huge growing experience.

Although most 17-year olds will be experiencing their first year of entering the world on their own, Synthetix is celebrating respected maturity within the AI and online customer service technology sector. We’ve been revolutionising online customer service with our effortless integration of AI-powered customer contact channels like Virtual Agents (Intelligent chatbots), Live Chat, Visual IVR, Intelligent FAQ Search, Agent Knowledgebase and Email Management. We even empower developers to create their own online customer service tools through our APIs.

Noticing our founders displaying a few emotional tears allegories, when blowing out our birthday candles, everyone at team Synthetix felt proud and an immense sense of achievement, especially since even during Synthetix’s humble beginnings, with no outside investment, we’ve had the privilege to work with some of the world’s most innovative brands such as the London 2012 Olympics, the BBC, Samsung and Ford (to name just a few). The client list today still boasts impressive names, albeit a lot longer, and we still have a personal relationship with each brand on our prestigious list.

When you think back 17 years ago what do you remember? Here’s a few highlights team Synthetix remembers (albeit, that some of us where still in nappies)

  • 17 years ago, you needed to physically attach a phone line to your computer to access the internet - scary but true.
  • Hotmail email addresses were de rigueur and the gmail domain was owned by Garfield.
  • Mobile phones had antennas or cool flip screens, they weren’t really ‘smart ‘and we used them to make phone calls and send an occasional SMSs.
  • And online shopping wasn’t really that popular and quite limited, especially when it came to payment (think paper cheques and fax).

Please feel free to share your memories.

So, until next year’s big 18th birthday, cheers to the next exciting year!

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Publish Date: May 14, 2018

Digital customer service channels to blame for poor CX?

Customer experience in one industry sets the bar and shapes expectations for all experiences. This has never been more true and applies to many aspects of our lives.

I wonder how many people have walked into a hair salon, clenching a photo of what they would like their hair to look like, just to walk out crying, disappointed that their expectations were not met in the mirror? And how many blame the hair dresser’s skill, not the fact that maybe the style or colour just doesn’t fit the shape of their face or skin tone? This begs the question: Should a stylist simply follow instructions from the customer or should they advise (as they are the experts) customers to try something more suitable?

Customer support is not exempt from customer experience or expectations. And businesses have responded offering a plethora of communication channels to customers for support. Why is then that managers are struggling to tie tech investments to improved operational outcomes or the growth of their business through efficiencies and improved customer experience?

It has become increasingly apparent that many channels are being bolted on with little or no consideration for how they are integrated with the rest of the organisation. For the customer, the existence of siloed channels can be apparent in a variety of ways, such as inconsistency in actions from channel-to-channel; different tone of voice; duplication of messaging; or having to start the conversation anew every time it shifts to a fresh channel.

With a huge 82% of customers having stopped doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience, the message is clear: Organisations that cannot provide a seamless experience across multiple channels are in danger of losing customers to those businesses that can.

These free guides offer practical advice from improving agent productivity, NPS or CSAT scores to busting the operational silos to deliver consistent customer experiences across multiple channels.

  • Murder on the dance high street shop floor.
  • Web chat - 5 killer reasons why you are doing it wrong
  • Virtual agents - to bot or not?


Publish Date: April 16, 2018

Floods of customer complaints

Us Brits sure love talking about the weather, but the past week the weather has headlined the news non-stop. Burst water pipes, flooding, snow and sink holes appearing because of the weather has left thousands of people in distress, unable to commute, some without water and sewage facilities, cut off from the rest of the world.

Jerry White, Head of Water Production at Thames Water said that last Saturday has been the busiest day of the winter so far for the company, when their customer centre received 2,500 calls, with 3,000 calls over the weekend as a whole - 30 times more than the daily average. A spokesperson for the company added that it had received more tweets in two days than it normally would in two weeks.

However, it’s not just utility companies receiving an influx of contact. Emergency services, charities, defence, and retail organisations are all under pressure as the chaotic weather continues to disrupt lives. And listening and reading the news, some companies are better than others when having to inform and respond to contact with some companies heavily criticised for their lack in keeping people informed.

With most of us today expecting the majority of customer service interaction to happen in an online environment, one would think it makes sense for companies to invest in web self-service, virtual agent, or live chat facilities to answer customer queries, leaving contact centre agents to deal with more complex issues. However, in this world where we use our smartphones and tablets to update us on the news, to query the time it will take to commute to work, to keep in touch and to ‘survive’ in this digital age, many companies still struggle to live up to customer expectations when it comes to support.

Expanding support into multiple online channels not only allows companies to offer real-time, consistent, and up to date information in a cost-effective manner but reduces the stress levels in contact centres.

Why not download these short, handy, and free guides that offer insight for businesses wanting to invest in effective digital support channels?

Multi-channel Online Customer Service for Dummies

Virtual Agents for Dummies

Web chat - 5 killer reasons why you are doing it wrong

Virtual agents - to bot or not?


Publish Date: March 5, 2018

Snow day should not equal icy customer support

The severe weather and storms this March has created havoc throughout the UK. Heavy snow not only had some commuters spending hours in their vehicles, or having to be rescued, train, flight and bus cancellations has resulted in an unprecedented surge in commuter enquiries. And with further weather warnings being issued by the Met Office, the increased demand on customer service departments is set to continue.

And it’s not only travel updates required by commuters. With staff unable to commute to work, some businesses are struggling to operate efficiently. The convenience of our always ‘on’ online world has changed the way in which we interact with businesses as we expect to be able to communicate with them over multiple channels when we want to.

With the rapid rise in the use of mobile devices, 24/7 support is within reach to those businesses eager to achieve operational efficiency, by utilising digital channels such as Virtual Agents, web chat or web self-service, especially during unexpected circumstances.

Digital channels allow businesses to maintain high levels of service during peak and off-peak times. Web self-service options and Virtual Agents don't get snowed in. And kudos to those using web chat via agents working from home - an often-overlooked advantage of chat over voice.

Businesses cannot risk being stuck in the past, however many are still finding it difficult to adjust to advancing technologies.

We've put together concise free guides and practical advice on implementing web self-service, Virtual Agents or web chat which you can download here:

Multi-channel Online Customer Service for Dummies

Virtual Agents for Dummies

Web chat - 5 killer reasons why you are doing it wrong

Virtual agents - to bot or not?


Publish Date: March 2, 2018

Synthetix self-service and knowledge software offer to U.S. utilities

AUSTIN, TEXAS, January 9, 2018 -- No longer new players in the U.S, Synthetix is set on expanding their already phenomenal global growth to address some of the very specific issues faced by utilities in the U.S.

Already the No.1 supplier of self-service and knowledge software to Western Europe’s utility sector, Synthetix systems are helping to support and serve more than 28.4 million customers, resulting in increased customer satisfaction and massive reductions in complaints. Synthetix offers Electric, Gas and Water retail/distribution-specific packages for the U.S. utility sector in three different tier levels. These different levels include options like a ready-populated knowledge-base of the most asked questions by utility customers, simple pricing and straight forward implementation of days, not months.

Adam Ashcroft, Director at Synthetix said “We are confident that we can offer scale, resources, knowledge, and a pricing methodology beyond what’s possible for any individual utility or new entrants into this sector to replicate.”

With Accenture reporting that utilities can save between $1-3 million through self-service technologies, Synthetix hope to assist in transforming online customer service delivery for both IOUs & PUCs that are under the extensive pressure to continuously reduce costs and improve operational performance to remain profitable and to achieve sustainable growth.

Synthetix provide a Value Opportunity Assessment free of charge to US utilities to assess impact and quantify return on investment as the initial starting point.

About Synthetix:

Synthetix Ltd is a leading provider of multi-channel utility solutions, providing knowledge-base software for web, mobile, e-mail, live chat, social and contact center customer service. Founded in 2001, Synthetix has unparalleled expertise in the field of online customer service design and deployment.

The company has become the customer experience web usability technology choice for global brands including; Southern Water, Virgin Holidays, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Best Western Hotels, General Motors, Ford, Ben & Jerry’s and the London 2012 Olympics.

More information and pricing >>


Publish Date: January 10, 2018

Advantage Customer Experience

I really looked forward to watching Wimbledon last week. Don’t we all love a good game? However, as a loyal fan, the nail-biting joy of watching tennis was spoilt for me, as I had to turn down the sound to be able to focus on the game rather than the disturbing noises made by some players.

This reminded me how some businesses on-board new digital service channels. They might deploy a new channel simply to keep up or intimidate the competition, but forget that their customers will be the ones using it. Businesses must be ‘present’ on their customers’ preferred support channels. But mere presence isn’t enough: customers expect their experience to be equally swift no matter the means they use to get in touch with a business.

Let’s leave the noise for the crowds.

In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.” - Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon

The game of tennis bears many similarities to a business. Both are painful to watch when their performance isn’t up to scratch. And not being on top of your game can lose you valuable customers or fans.


Although the aim of the game appears quite simple - keeping the ball within the bounds of the court, but out of an opponent’s reach - the point scoring concept can make it hard for a new viewer to keep track of what is going on. And in business, on-boarding new digital channels for customer support might seem simple enough, but there is so much more to online support than just providing customers with a means to contact you.

Think about the last time you bought tickets for an event (maybe Wimbledon). Did you drive to the venue, maybe pitch a tent to wait in line for tickets, or did you register online to buy tickets and have them printed or emailed to you after a few simple clicks? If you’re like most people, the self-service online option certainly makes more sense. The same can be said about customer support. Overwhelming statistics across industries state that 81% of all customers prefer to self-serve answers to their support queries, before having to speak to an agent ~ Forrester

Forrester also reports the cost of a self-service query on average costs less than 10 pence, while the average cost of human aided support (phone, e-mail, or webchat) is more than £5.37per query for a B2C company and just under £10 for a B2B company.

Given the huge potential benefits with using self-service tools to enhance customer satisfaction and reduce costs, businesses have much to gain by implementing web self-service technologies. With major advances in NLP architype, self-service technologies have been enormously effective at removing low-complexity issues from the agent support queue.

Agent Knowledge-base

But herein lies the challenge though: As customers self-serve simple issues themselves, frontline support agents get increasingly more complex queries and issues customers can’t solve on their own. So, what’s the problem?

Some companies that have focused on new self-service technologies, underinvested in agent support. With the absence of an agent knowledge-base supporting contact centre agents, inconsistencies in answers lead to both customer and agents getting upset and frustrated.

When agent numbers increase from 25 to 125 during the Christmas season, one of London's leading upmarket department stores are still able to maintain high levels of customer service. Using a Synthetix knowledge platform, temporary customer service agents can be trained rapidly, with the assurance that they are delivering correct and consistent information to customers over telephone and webchat channels.

Retailers of this type see a huge percentage of their online business crammed into six weeks each year, which makes its critical for their customer satisfaction rates to remain consistent throughout this surge during festive months.

Businesses that have invested in a contact centre agent knowledge platform have reported:

  • Agent training times to be reduced by 30%
  • Average call handling times to be reduced by 30% - 50%
  • Call abandonment rates to be reduced by circa 20%
  • Certain types of questions via telephone and email to be reduced by circa 80%

However, it’s important that your omni-channel game plan integrates digital support channels with each other.

Virtual Agent / bot

Remember when “there’s an app for that” was a popular catchphrase? Now, as customers’ smartphones fill up with apps they’ve only used a handful of times, and businesses try to reach consumers while they’re online, the zeitgeist has shifted to “there’s a bot for that.”

The most exciting thing about a bot or Virtual Agent as a medium, is allowing humans to step in when needed. Bots in themselves aren’t revolutionary - we’ve had phone trees and robotic dialogues for a while - but when paired with human intelligence for tasks a Virtual Agent can be a powerful tool.

Virtual Agents are not only upping the personalisation stakes. The hybrid approach of blending AI with human support enables contact centre agents to focus on complex customer queries and transactions requiring an emotive connection. A Virtual Agent, when deployed correctly, with a set of specific goals, can generate leads, increase sales, and grow a business in a big way, switching on an entire additional support channel, and this is only the beginning!

But don’t build a bot just to follow a trend; build a bot if it helps you solve a problem better, or get to market faster.


Implementing a successful omni-channel strategy is tricky.

In tech years - Synthetix are pioneers. We have been creating ‘New World’ customer experiences, revolutionising online customer service with our seamless integration of customer contact channels such as Virtual Agents, FAQ search, live chat and e-mail management.

We’ve put together a selection of concise resources to share our wealth of knowledge and best practice tips from our customers to cut through some of the hype surrounding new and existing online customer service tools.

Embrace the shift, don’t get left behind.

  • Multi-channel online customer service for Dummies
  • Why a Virtual Agent is the must-have catalyst for enterprise business transformation
  • Virtual Agents for Dummies


Publish Date: July 19, 2017

Virtual Agents, Chatbots and New Social Media Channels

London, 26 April 2017: - The Trampery Old Street, a workspace, members club and event venue, located in an iconic location on London's Old Street played host to our Spring event focused on creating new engagement and revenue generating opportunities through Virtual Agents and new social strategies.

The half day event demonstrated to businesses how they could transform their online customer experience through a compelling omni-channel strategy which included Peter McKean giving exclusive top tips on the effective deployment of Virtual Agents. Expert, Luke Todd from Gumtree shared his insights about the inevitable disruptive impact of social contact channels and how Gumtree overcame and tackles these challenges.

Attendees enjoyed the interactive workshops which helped them to discover, discuss and predict future challenges and successes of effective online customer service delivery.

Lunchtime was spent networking over scrumptious food, in this relaxed environment with access to the speakers and other experts within the industry.

Adam Ashcroft, Marketing Director of Synthetix said “The feedback from those who came along has been fantastic. We are looking forward to our next event as it’s clear that the rapid advances in technology, and Virtual Agents , have  even the most seasoned customer experience professionals enjoy the insight and re-education into opportunities to deliver great customer experiences across multiple contact channels.”


Publish Date: May 5, 2017

Virtual Agents

Is this 1995 all over again?

Early adopters of the World Wide Web were primarily university-based scientific departments or physics laboratories. The world only starting paying attention in 1992 when new generations of web browsers joined the Nexus WYSIWYG HTML editor.

Who knew that Clifford Stoll - a famous US astronomer and author - would regret his dismissal of the hype around the internet and its future. Constantly evolving, today, almost 4 Billion people access the web daily. It has become such an integral part of our everyday life, that some would say we can’t live without it.

Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Agents? Bah!

Just like in 1995, this year has seen AI, and in particular Chatbots and Virtual Agents take the crown for creating hype and excitement.

Views on the maturity of this type of technology as shown in Gartner’s Hype Cycle might have many businesses wondering if they should wait to invest or not at all, especially since predictions of Virtual Agent technology’s game-changing potential have been circulating since 1995.

The truth is that text analysis and natural language processing are getting better all the time. The list of queries that can be answered, and tasks resolved without human interaction, is growing.

Automation is not coming, it’s already here.

Back to the future

Self-serving answers when they need assistance is not a new concept anymore, in fact customers expect seamless customer experiences across desktop, mobile and social channels. This is not news to businesses either and most will have incorporated - or are looking to integrate - a powerful intelligent FAQ system into their customer service/experience strategy.

So, what’s the deal with Virtual Agents?

Virtual Agents are not only upping the personalisation stakes. Virtual Agents, when deployed correctly, with a set of specific goals, can generate leads, increase sales, and grow a business in a big way, and this is only the beginning!

The question is, are you a Clifford Stoll or would you like to find out more about all this hype?

Join us for a Virtual Agent ‘Bootcamp’ - To Bot or Not

  • What’s just hype around artificial intelligence and Virtual Agents. What is real and what isn’t?
  • Discover how new social channels like WhatsApp and F/B messenger alter the dynamics of ‘traditional’ channels.
  • Best practice to build a successful IVA deployment: The inevitable disruptive impact of chatbots and Virtual Agents but also how companies can use them to create new engagement and revenue generating opportunities.
  • Workshop with similar businesses and find out how they handle the challenges and pitfalls within their current online customer service ecosystem.

Claim your pass to this insightful event.


Publish Date: March 30, 2017

The politics of creating exceptional customer service

Politicians, representatives of the people, aim to serve their country to prosper economically and ideologically.

Team Synthetix had the honour of meeting Sir Allen Haselhurst, our MP on Monday, 13 February. Not really knowing what to expect, he had a calm and approachable manner. He discussed with Synthetix, the challenges faced by many of the UK’s businesses, especially after the volatile events of 2016 which is set to impact greatly on the future of many businesses.

Interested in exploring the online customer service software solutions that Synthetix develops, how it enhances online customer support, and save our customers time and money we used the Utility industry as an example to explain what we do.

He was impressed that 40% of all the large UK water companies use online customer service technology from Synthetix and that 5 ranked in the top 10 for customer service in 2015-2016.

Collectively this means our utility clients have 23.62 million customers who might need assistance or answers (and that’s just utilities). We are proud to say that many of these customers’ issues will be resolved using Synthetix web self-service, live chat or dynamic web forms, and even when customers do have to speak to an agent, the Synthetix Agent Knowledge-base will assist agents to answer customer queries with confidence, regardless of the channel they use to contact their utility provider.

If Synthetix were in politics - the highest, rung of dignitaries in a country - we are convinced that our portfolio of brands would vote for our seat in Westminster. We are not just fanatical about our customers, but advocates of the creation of exceptional customer service. Imagine a nation full of happy customers - just putting it out there.

We are so proud of what we have achieved in the last 16 years. In fact, apart from the suite of online customer service tools we have developed up until now, we have been trend setters. We were pioneers of Virtual Agents as a concept, which seems strange with the industry finally catching up to the idea.

We have a personal relationship with each of our customers across a wide range of industries and we are very looking forward to the next 16 years of creating cutting-edge online customer service solutions, leaving the politics up to others.

Why not attend one of our best practice events in London to network with like-minded industry peers, hear from industry experts and workshop with some of the biggest brands in the UK?

Our next event is 26 April. Find out more here.

We would hate for you to miss out.


Publish Date: February 22, 2017

New Year Customer Experience Strategy

The third week in January had Birmingham host the Utility Week Water & Energy Conferences, with industry leaders delivering their thoughts on the biggest disruptors and trends that will affect those within this industry.

A regulated industry, players within the Utility industry eagerly anticipate the yearly figures in reports from Ofgem and Ofwat. We’ve done some research into the latest statistics and it’s clear that utilities continue to face many challenges when it comes to customer expectations. (Download the infographic)

As consumers, we’ve become accustomed to a certain level of service which means we don’t just expect an uninterrupted supply of power, gas, and water, but better responsiveness whenever we require help. Meeting these needs often require utilities to invest in more resources, or does it? However, before utilities can determine how to develop the ideal customer experience, they must decide what that term means to them; customer experience means different things to different industries.

And whilst understanding the elements of the customer experience strategy is a good first step — successfully implementing it is another. In this blogpost, we will look at 9 key points that can assist utilities to positively translate their customer experience strategy into action.

Plan for the worst-case scenario

High call volumes come at times of crisis. Having the right technology in place to support contact centre staff is imperative.

Plan to be flexible

The contact centre is only one contact channel available for customers – dependent on the nature of the enquiry, would it benefit the company and customers to handle enquiries across other channels like Virtual Agents, Live Chat, Dynamic Web Forms, FAQ self-service or Social channels.

Be integrated

Are all contact centre staff up-to-date with the latest information and how is this maintained through technology? When staff shifts change or if they leave, does it affect the transferral of knowledge – how is this communicated. Do you have an Agent Knowledge-base?

Enhance resources

Given all the tools needed (such as a cloud contact centre solution), is it possible, in times of crisis, for temporary and non-frontline staff to be used as agents following minimal training?

Be pro-active

Avoid the need for customer to call in the first place. Is there another channel by which the cloud answer their queries? Push out service updates via social media to communicate with customers in advance of any issue to minimise contact?

Measure and control

Quickly and efficiently responding across contact channels to customer queries is key – is there a mechanism in place to monitor customer feedback to improve the quality of products and services and level of response in the future?


Do most customers need support during work hours or do they frequently require assistance out of office hours? Which are the most effective/popular convenient contact channels for customers – focus on these first.


It is imperative that all contact entre staff are trained to handle support, especially during seasonal influxes of contact. Effective communication, getting answers to customer quickly and consistently across all channels, can have a huge impact on how customers perceive your brand.

Prepare to adjust

A legacy infrastructure often risks only noticing failure when all has gone wrong. It doesn’t have the ability of gathering granular information to help understand how any issues might be developing. Investigate your infrastructure to see if it should be improved, updated, or replaced by more relevant technology.

Part three of this series will look at 2017 as a whole – will it be ‘The Year of Customer Engagement’ as predicted?


Publish Date: January 23, 2017

Are Virtual Agents A Box Office Hit

Today, like many other days, an analyst asked me – as we were one of the pioneers of bots as a concept – if Virtual Agents will be the next big thing in customer experience. Good question …

Synthetix were creating virtual agents for companies like the BBC, Vauxhall, and Ford, comparable to Siri, Cortana and Google Now, before they became the norm. It’s true, our Jabberwocky NLP technology has answered millions of customer questions by making sense of naturally (and sometimes, badly) worded questions.

Funny, we were asked the same questions back in 2001 about the rise of the bots, the customer service super-agents that could respond to customer queries in an intelligent manner, 24/7, that wouldn’t get ill or go on holiday.  Does this sound a little sci-fi yet?

Terminator of jobs?

Self-service has become the long-term solution to meeting customer expectations. In a global report, ‘The Self-service Economy’, 70% of consumers expect a self-service option for handling commercial questions and complaints. And millennials especially expect companies to keep improving their levels of service, expecting everything to be just a click away - their social relationships, their retail relationships, even their banking and insurance relationships.

A semblance of personal service, NLP artificial intelligence combined with a graphical representation, should be an additional contact channel, not a replacement for human interaction. Virtual Agents should raise the online customer service effort bar, offering customers who wish to self-serve answers, in an engaging, appropriate, and conversational automated interaction.

New BFFs?

Just think about the things we can have Virtual Agents do. They can exercise predictive skills, knowing the intent of your question, and therefore can predict the next. They could answer multiple questions, without getting annoyed, tired, and even with a sprinkle of humour. However, as socialising is part of our human DNA, careful consideration should be given when choosing how they should interact with your customer audience.

Intelligence levels of Virtual Agents are core to delivering efficient customer support. Virtual Agents are not meant to be virtual Agony Aunts. Care should be taken to not encourage deep social conversations, as this might have embarrassing results as Microsoft discovered earlier this year.

Employee of the year

Self-service is a powerful tool, allowing customers to find answers fast. Virtual Agents has certainly made headlines with IBM Watson the latest newsworthy assistant.

Virtual Agents however, do not preclude the need for a personal solution: if self-service falls short, personal contact as a safety net is an absolute necessity. A Virtual Assistant should be ‘intelligent enough to trigger a human intervention, recognising that it’s not assisting a customer based on the nature and intent of a query.

Back to the future

We’ve been doing this a long time.

Virtual Agents or bots, if deployed in the right manner, can reduce support costs, encourage self-service, increase customer loyalty, and serve as a branding/marketing tool. And Virtual Agents are not going away soon.

We believe this kind of self-service technology can enhance the customer experience. They can recognise the basic intent of the question and emulate human intelligence, making them capable of taking on a wide variety of tasks including to ‘decide’ to escalate, fulfil a request, or answer a question.

Why not download our whitepaper about Artificial Intelligence and discover some of the misconceptions about AI, its current state or read more about Virtual Agents in our book ‘Multi-channel Online Customer Service for Dummies’


Publish Date: November 16, 2016

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