First of all, how are you and your Family doing in these COVID-19 Times?
Chris Ezekiel: We’re doing well, thanks. It’s been amazing to see the community coming together to look out for each other. It’s also made me proud to see the Creative Virtual team band together during these difficult times to support each other, our customers and our partners.
Tell us about you, your Career, how you Founded or Joined Creative Virtual
Chris Ezekiel: I founded Creative Virtual at the end of 2003 and, together with my fantastic team, have turned the company into a world leader in the virtual agent, chatbot and live chat industry. My background is in software development, and I first came across chatbot technology in 2000 and have loved the space since then. I started my career as a software developer and moved on to running operations and sales and marketing teams.
How does Creative Virtual Innovate?
Chris Ezekiel: We innovate by working closely with our customers and partners to understand their requirements and issues. We’re fortunate to have some of the best minds in the industry, and we all operate in a very open and agile environment. We don’t focus on innovation simply for the sake of being able to say we have something shiny and new.
Instead, we innovate around the real needs of companies and their customer and employee experience goals. This approach is how we keep our solutions cutting-edge and delivering innovation that is practical for real-world implementation and meeting business goals. We are extremely proud to have won a five-year Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in the category of Innovation in 2017.
How the Coronavirus Pandemic affects your Business and how are you Coping?
Chris Ezekiel: We are fortunate to have great customers and partners, where we have seen strong demand for our products and services. We have seen an impact on acquiring new customers, as many companies have put purchasing decisions on hold. We have taken a very prudent approach in terms of controlling costs, while at the same time investing significantly in product development as we build the next generation of our products.
Did you have to make Difficult Choices and how do you keep Things in Perspective?
Chris Ezekiel: There are always difficult choices to be made when running a business. I find it helpful to keep in mind the words of the late Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
How do you deal with Stress and Anxiety, how do you Project yourself and Creative Virtual in the Future?
Chris Ezekiel: I make sure I have good ways of switching off and always keep things in perspective. I love to run, workout and do yoga. I like to say that watching my beloved West Ham football team helps too, but this just brings a different type of stress! Spending time having fun with family and friends is an excellent escape from the pressures of running a business. I’m lucky to be surrounded by great, humorous people.
Who are your Competitors? And how do you plan to Stay in the Game?
Chris Ezekiel: We have many competitors and have seen the chatbot, virtual agent and live chat vendor landscape change quickly over the past few years. We concentrate on working with our customers and partners to continuously understand the market requirements and stay on top of developing trends.
Creative Virtual’s fantastic team distills this into our roadmap, which we review and update regularly to stay ahead of the game. We have grown the company organically and self-fund all of our R&D, which means we don’t need to worry about pleasing outside investors. This allows us to really focus on developing and implementing technology that works for our customers and partners around the globe.
Your Final Thoughts
Chris Ezekiel: I’m proud of the way Creative Virtual has been able to support our customers and partners – as well as their customers – this year. During March, April and May our virtual agent implementations saw a record-breaking spike in usage, highlighting the importance of these self-service tools to the customer experience during a time when brick-and-mortar locations were closed and contact centers were being overwhelmed.
Many of the organisations we work with directed customers to use their virtual agent to get the most up-to-date information, and some even told us that it was quicker and easier to update content in the virtual agent than it was to make an update to their own website.