'Advisors'. That's what we call the employees who assist VodafoneZiggo customers through the chat function. "They are supported by predictive software so that they can offer customers the best and fastest help possible. A chat program based on artificial intelligence continually provides them with text suggestions. These are short sentences varying from 'Good morning, what can I do for you?' to 'Have you tried turning the television off yet?' Just click on one and the message is sent. This is convenient because it saves them a lot of typing. But there is more. Over the course of the conversation, this software quickly guides the advisors to the appropriate solutions."
Power in numbers
VodafoneZiggo provides a mobile network and wired internet connections to millions of customers. These technical products and services often require some customer service. "A question about your call credit, or a media box that isn't working correctly — we have around a million conversations each year just via chat," says Jasper. "With these numbers, you can imagine that every detail counts. And when a chat lasts a second longer than necessary, all those seconds add up. So efficiency is extremely important to us. And that's good news for our customers, because of course they also want quick help. And good help. The main reason for using technology is that it gives our employees more time to focus on quality and to really help the customers."
Texts in your own style
Even while the advisors are typing, the software is simultaneously thinking. Suggestions for completing their sentences are shown in a light grey font. They can insert a suggestion at the push of a button, so that it goes straight to the customer. "The suggestions that appear on our advisors' screens are not just random, but based on millions of chats which the algorithm has meticulously analysed. The software also analyses that particular advisor's previous chats in order to generate suggestions in their own personal writing style, so that it continues to feel natural."
Refining our chats
Jasper is responsible for all digital channels associated with customer service, from chat and messaging to social media. "And how we connect those to Vodafone's and Ziggo's sites and apps. We have a special team that manages our chat program and continues to develop it. This program is an innovative AI application that we have adapted to chat and messaging over the past few years in collaboration with a software supplier, working from scratch. Our goal is not for the computer to completely take over our advisors' work. On the contrary, the intention is that our software will enable them to do their work even better so that they can focus more on important interactions and on finding solutions quickly."
Real humans preferred
"In the very beginning, we made a blooper. We built a version of the program where the advisor was forced to choose from certain suggestions. Our advisors were far from impressed. This was a real eye opener. The customers themselves are another big reason why we are not aiming for fully computer-controlled customer service. Our customers simply need real contact with real people. This is partly because it’s sometimes easier to fix a problem that way, and partly because people just want someone they can talk to. Satisfaction surveys have even shown that customers would rather have someone sympathetic listening to them than to have their problem solved. This is the sort of finding that really gives you food for thought."
Like simultaneous chess games
Chatting is completely different to talking on the phone, explains Jasper. "Customers can simply 'vanish' and then pick up the conversation a few minutes later. Or they just type very slowly. In any case, a chat generally takes longer than a call. That's why it is important for advisors to be able to conduct two conversations at the same time.” Important — and complex. In no time at all they will have all sorts of different screens open, and then they really have to focus to avoid getting the customers mixed up. "Our software helps them do this as well as possible. Currently over twenty per cent of all the chat messages we send are generated by the program. The percentage is even higher for conversations with our mobile customers."
A user-friendly cockpit
"Of course we are continually developing our software and are constantly adding new functions. We are also hard at work on improving the transition between various channels. What I ultimately envision is that advisors will be in a sort of cockpit where they can manage, say, ten customer conversations simultaneously. They will be like moderators, making sure everything stays on track and intervening where necessary to add that human touch which makes all the difference. It's clear to me that our advisors will remain the company's most important touchpoints."