Robot transforms into service employee

Robot transforms into service employee

Chatbot in action at VodafoneZiggo

TOBi, the chatbot of VodafoneZiggo, is well on his way to get his diploma in customer service. "He cannot win a chess tournament yet, but he is getting smarter every day", says Sarie Jacobs of the Digital department.

On a few web pages of Vodafone and Ziggo, customers see a button with the invitation to start a chat. If they click on it, a window will open where they can type their question. The answers usually come from our colleagues, but more and more TOBi tackles his task here.

This chatbot made its 2017 debut on the My Vodafone app. There TOBi helped users with information about subscriptions and login procedures. Customers responded positively to this new approach. Since then, TOBi has also been active on the websites of Ziggo and Vodafone. TOBi (who used to be called Kris, in the first few months) is still under development, but in the meantime, he can handle various customer requests. From requesting a new password to linking an email address or from support if you cannot use the internet on your mobile to block your SIM card.

Simple questions
"We deliberately started with small, well-organised problems," explains Sarie. "The chatbot had to learn a lot, just like we did. We wanted to learn the system and the technique quickly, so we worked in small steps. Simple questions provide simple conversations, so you do not have to write dozens of different scenarios. It is often yes or no, right or wrong, resolved or not, and the chat conversations that TOBi now enters, he opens with a handy menu, and as soon as the customer makes a choice, the dialogue starts. If TOBi handles the simple questions, the work of our colleagues in the contact center becomes more interesting and fun: they no longer have to deal with simple problems, but can focus on more substantive and challenging issues."

TOBi also serves as a gatekeeper. He helps the customer and finds out what his or hers problem is. "The chatbot is not yet linked to the customer systems, so for the time being it provides general information. If you have a question that cannot be answered by TOBi himself, he connects you directly with a colleague who can, within a few seconds, our colleague can read the chat history and get the relevant data in. Customers do not have to repeat their whole story."

A solution as soon as possible
For many customers, the telephone is still the most important means of communication with VodafoneZiggo. We wants to change that, preferably in the short term. "Customers grab the phone because they want to speak to someone who can solve a specific problem, nobody wants to be put in a queue, everyone wants a solution as soon as possible, so do we, and so we look for other resources, such as self-service and chat."

Skip selection menu, fast 'to the point'
Chat has many advantages compared to 'old school' calling, Sarie concludes. "Customers skip the selection menu and come into direct contact with an employee - or with TOBi, both of whom can have multiple chat conversations at the same time, so that saves waiting time." Chatting is a quick way of exchanging information: people often come to the point more quickly than in a telephone conversation. We can also send links to online steps or explanatory texts, so that customers can get started with their own hands, and if they succeed in solving the problem themselves, they will have a sense of pride. With our websites where many solutions are explained.

Developing knowledge
"We are expanding his knowledge even further, but now we are still using our online roadmaps. The next improvement is that TOBi can also look into the customer systems from that moment on, and it will probably be the first point of contact in the near future. For all customers who contact us, TOBi will recognise them, get the right information, read specific preferences and provide customized advice, and eventually learn to modify subscription details and settings, schedule appointments with technicians, break through to give or even solve it, and in the years to come it could become a full-fledged service employee."

Six times more productive
Smart use of chat bots can lead to a six times more productive helpdesk, according to research by Vodafone Group, our parent company at the end of 2017. The company recently expressed the wish to use robots far more often at customer service. "There are so many beautiful artificial intelligence developments in the future that several companies are working on," says Sarie. "We keep a close eye on these developments, and we also focus our suppliers on developing their products so that they continue to fit in with the digital transition that VodafoneZiggo has deployed."