Why the newest member of BT’s contact centre is a chatbot

With customer demand for digital engagement growing, the financial services company saw an opportunity to add an entirely new customer service tool

BT recently launched a 24/7 online virtual assistant ‘Blue’, which supports advisers and their clients seeking immediate responses to common questions, step-by-step guides and connecting people to one of our specialised support teams. The chatbot is learning ‘on the job’ and in a single week has helped over 900 people and responded to more than 2000 queries for the financial services company.

“We developed Blue because of the increasing demand for digital services and to complement the existing click to chat service,” BT head of customer, transformation and service governance, Sharyn Baker, told CMO.

From a standing start, the chatbot was built in 12 weeks using an Agile development process, and he’s quickly become one of the team. And that means connecting with customers.

“He has his own personality and it’s important we recognise him as one of the team as he’s building relationships with customers and continually learning and expanding his capabilities,” Baker explained.

Blue can provide instant responses to fees, account details and other common customer questions. Along with insights into what are the common queries, Blue has shown most of the queries are still in standard business hours.

“It’s one of the great insights he’s giving us,” she said. “Over time, we’re building up the amount of questions he can answer based on the customer queries. We think potentially about 30 per cent of our call volume could be answered by Blue.”

Channelling the voice of the customer

Blue also provides a direct expression of the voice of the customer, giving the company valuable real-world examples of how customers express themselves, which may not always be the way a company imagines it. For example, BT has been learning not just what customers ask, but how they ask.

“The way customers ask questions isn’t always using the language we would necessarily use to describe things,” Baker said. “We’ve got to constantly ensure that Blue can relate to all those different ways of expressing questions.”

The AI (artificial intelligence) has become another component of BT’s customers insights and it’s generating some rich insight data. “When we find a common thread of things that people want answers to, we can provide that online," Baker continued.

"It’s giving us insight into where their demands are for certain information, where their pain points are, showing us what information we need to provide in an educational sense any what needs to be accessible online.”

The other part of the equation when creating Blue was making sure that he sounded like BT. “We had to ensure that the way that he responds to customers is inquisitive, helpful, timely, in terms of the way he comes across,” Baker explained.

“He also asks for a thumbs up from customers to get feedback to be sure he’s meeting their needs and we also track that to be sure we actually are meeting their needs. We also track how many questions are resolved by Blue and how many go on to click to chat to answer their query.”

Blue has the ability to highlight what information is most important to customers - transactions times, payments, fees unit prices - which is what BT anticipated. But the journey of revealing these customer insights has just started. As new demands emerge, BT will be able to build out this information through its digital platforms so that it’s easily accessible to customers.

“We’re also looking to build out more of the how-tos, so more of the digital engagement, which also become a great education tool for our advisors and then focussing on our corporate super members to build out more digital engagement,” Baker told CMO.

The dual CX role

In launching Blue, BT wanted it to be an easy experience for customers. It meant integrating the capabilities online and giving Blue a personality to ensure it could get the insights about how people are interacting with it and what's critical for them.

“It's also about ensuring our chatbot represents everything the BT culture stands for, and that is being available, curious and accessible,” Baker said.

“The insights will be valuable as a means to develop educational material as well as marketing material and online information. The chatbot has the vital dual role of helping customers with their queries while also helping BT to learn more about the customers.

“It’s important to learn those things and know how valuable the technology is, not just in helping customers but helping BT learn more about our customers.”

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