Telcos, Don’t Send a Chatbot to Do a Virtual Agent’s Job

By Evan Dashevsky, Senior Writer
March 8, 2019 • 3 minute read

The telecommunications industry has many unique challenges. As they increasingly turn to conversational technologies ranging from simple chatbots to more complex virtual agents like Amelia, these enterprises are quickly learning that simple chatbots will not do the trick.

Telecommunication companies are increasingly turning to Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enable conversational user engagements — and with good reason. Conversational AI delivers operational efficiencies by automating user access to information and self-service, all while ensuring regulatory and procedural compliance at scale.

As users become more comfortable engaging with AI, many enterprises are finding that conversational AI can be an important differentiator. Indeed, one survey found that more than 90% of leading global brands use AI to increase customer satisfaction. Furthermore, the study went on to note that the most iconic companies are using AI for more than mere chatbot functionality, which only scratches the surface of what these solutions can offer.

Beyond the Basics

When it comes to the complex challenges of the telecommunications industry, the truly disruptive possibilities are only realized when companies implement an AI-powered solution like Amelia. This new breed of Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs) is far more versatile than the rudimentary chatbots, which have been available in the market for decades.

Low-level conversational solutions react to simple keywords or specific phrasing, while advanced IVAs are capable of discerning user intent from a wide spectrum of human utterances. This flexibility is particularly important when engaging with a large and varied customer base which unsurprisingly will have multiple ways of communicating the same idea: “How many minutes does the Premium Gold plan offer?” versus “How long can I talk on your top-level plan before you charge me extra?” versus “Does that Premium Gold plan give me at least two hours of free talk per month?” (You can read a more detailed exploration of the science of conversation here.)

Conversational AI can also prove valuable for telcos when it comes to customer retention, which is an expensive consideration throughout that industry. One industry-watcher found that “the average mobile operator in a mature market spends 15-20% of service revenues on acquisition and retention, compared with the average capex spend on infrastructure (networks and IT) of just 15% of revenues.” That means mobile operators are spending more on keeping customers than they are on their products and services.

Studies have found lackluster customer service to be a top decision-trigger among all customer types, in particular small and medium enterprise (SME) customers. Conversational AI can provide enhanced services as detailed above, but it can also improve service in various indirect ways. With IVAs addressing high-volume but not necessarily high-value consumer issues with little-to-no human intermediation, experienced human service agents can dedicate time to complex customer requirements and needs.

Conversational AI = More Than Conversation

IVAs can provide personalized answers to FAQs and enable customer self-service. More importantly, they also have powerful under-the-hood functionality that can also drive value for telco providers.

For example, in 2017 one of the largest telecommunications companies in Japan integrated Amelia (using a different local branding) into their LINE account (the largest social media platform in Japan) in order to boost sales of SIM cards, data plans and new smartphones. Once customers answer a few simple questions via the company’s LINE account, the system can recommend a product and lead consumers directly to a purchase page. The telco was able to multiply its sales, but that was hardly the only benefit. Leveraging an IVA platform also empowered the company to optimize customer segmentation based on automated analysis of chat logs, which has increased the cost-effectiveness of marketing campaigns within LINE by a factor of 80.

Conversational AI can provide telco customers with rapid access to services, and allow telco providers to quantify and analyze their customers’ journey to improve services, enhance marketing/messaging efforts, and identify opportunities and customer pain points. These are versatile next-generation benefits that a typical low-level chatbot simply cannot match.


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