Soon, we'll be talking to him!

The development of chatbot TOBi into personal assistant

Let's assume you become a VodafoneZiggo customer. With your order you also send in a photograph of your connections. Through image recognition chatbot TOBi immediately knows which equipment you need. You receive the package the next day. TOBi helps you step by step to connect everything. And should you still need additional help, then TOBi will arrange for a serviceman to come to the rescue.

"This is how the chatbot should function in future, as the customer’s personal assistant," says Erik van Doesburg, Innovation Specialist and Product Owner chatbot at the department of Business Planning and Innovation. "At the moment, TOBi is only available within various web pages. But we are constantly upgrading him, so he will be able to inform and advise a customer about numerous subjects. Even in a verbal conversation."

No more talking at cross purposes
That stage hasn't been reached yet. Right now, TOBi is primarily active on the website and is improving all the time. "We are constantly analysing what happens in the chats, so we can make Kris smarter," Erik explains. The customers types a question or describes a situation in the input field. The next step is for TOBi to analyse this information and ask a follow-up question to check whether he has understood the customer correctly. "These follow-up questions often led to miscommunication. The bot and the customer no longer understood each other. This has now been solved by having TOBi offering options, 'Do you mean phone, laptop or both?' All the customer needs to do is click on the right button." That works, as customers prove to be more satisfied and arrive faster at the right place to have their question answered.

New features in 2019
The next step is for TOBi to recognize the customer. That is to say that he, just like an agent on the phone, can view the customer's data in the system. In that case, TOBi can also implement a change of address, answer questions about an invoice and instantly block a SIM card. Connecting the chatbot to the customer systems, however, is rather complicated. "For each topic we have a separate system. All those systems need to converge in the chatbot. We start with simple questions, like 'What is the amount of this month’s invoice?' To answer that TOBi only needs to access one system. A question about the difference in the amounts of this month and last month is already more complex. TOBi would need to be able to compare the two invoices and explain the difference. This is a feature we will add later on."

A thousand chats a day
Disruptions is something VodafoneZiggo wants to avoid as much as possible, but should one occur, TOBi clearly shows his value. "We are immediately alerted if there is a failure somewhere," Erik explains. "We start with collecting as much information as possible about the failure and feed it to the chatbot. At such times, TOBi is capable of handling a thousand chats a day. He can therefore help many more customers than our agents."

A small step for mankind, a giant leap for the chatbot
And if we can actually tálk to TOBi in the future, his benefits will increase substantially. TOBi will become capable of relieving agents on the phone. It brings the ideal scenario of the personal, digital assistant another step closer. A development that is already quite common in the United States. Erik: "In the US around fifty percent of people with a broadband connection already have a voice assistant like 'Siri' at home. In the Netherlands, this has only just been launched. Inquiring about your data usage, at home on the couch, is then only a small step."