Vodafone Has Teamed up with Google for Its New AI Helpline

Vodafone Has Teamed up with Google for Its New AI Helpline
I, Robot. Image: Disney

Vodafone is partnering with Google Cloud and Genesys to launch some new artificial intelligence-powered features for its service, following on from the launch of its first AI chat bot TOBi.

Using artificial intelligence isn’t something new, but Vodafone sees value in it. Launched last year, TOBi is described as a digital customer care bot, centred on directing people to the right resources via the My Vodafone app.

Vodafone calls TOBi a success, with 70 per cent of customer queries said to be solved by the bot and of queries 30 per cent said to be solved by customer support.

In essence, it’s trained to understand your query and give you automated responses, based on keywords in your sentence. It’s not unlike other directory-based AIs used by other businesses.

But obviously, TOBi can’t do everything. Future Vodafone AIs will be enhanced by Google Cloud and Genesys to provide more accurate assessments of what the customer is after. Will TOBi be out of a job? Probably not, but he’ll probably have a lot of friends now, with the launched of “NLP Speech IVR”.

What is Vodafone’s NLP Speech IVR technology?

Firstly, IVR (Interactive Voice Response) is a form of processing spoken words and translating them into terms an AI can understand. Much like a text-based AI, an IVR-powered AI will scan the phrases said for keywords. This then translates to actions and responses.

NLP (Natural Language Processing), on the other hand, is the AI being able to formulate human-like sentences and speak them back to the customer. Kind of like Siri or “Hey Google” devices.

Combined, these technologies form Vodafone’s NLP Speech IVR technology, the company’s new phone-based artificial intelligence customer assistance system.

“Every minute of a customer’s time is precious, and that’s why we are committed to doing everything we can to remove the frustration of long wait times or lengthy searching for relevant answers,” says Virginia Papinyan, TPG Telecom’s general manager of customer care.

“By partnering with Google Cloud and Genesys to deliver these innovations, we are demonstrating that we are at the forefront of using customer-friendly, intuitive technology solutions to keep our customers happy and our customer care agents more engaged.”

Supposedly since its initial launch, this system has been able to identify different accents, tones, voices and pronunciations, able to actively understand them and match what they’re after 94 per cent of the time. Customers calling the Vodafone customer care line will encounter the first phase of Vodafone’s NLP Speech IVR technology, with the keyboard-based chat system migrated to speech IVR, allowing customers to simply speak to ask what they want, instead of typing it.

“When it comes to customer service, every second counts. By harnessing the power of AI, machine learning and data analytics, Vodafone can offer rich, intuitive customer outcomes, quickly. The result is a better experience for customers — they get answers faster — and human agents can focus on higher-value tasks.” says Google Cloud vice president of the ANZ region, Alister Dias.

Later this year, Vodafone will be rolling out the NLP service and AI capabilities, allowing customers to perform end-to-end simple transactions through speech IVR.

The robots are taking over.