Serendipity: Reverse Discovery of Conversational AI

This post is part of a series of articles. It comes as a reflection of my digital journey with passion for application, automation, and the benefits they can bring. As I stay tuned to discovering (or rediscovering) how customer channels are evolving to impact our customer’s experience — either simplifying their interaction or making a bad service experience. These articles have been written with the aim of re-experiencing some of the key accomplishments from the past, that gives newfound meanings today.

When did it happen?

In 2008, I was working for one of the largest telecom service providers in India (present day Vodafone Idea). I was driving a large and complex business transformation program in customer experience area. During the ideation workshops, me and my colleagues were applying all our learnings and experiences to good use. The program was introducing a state-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) platform which was integrating all known and popular customer engagements channels.

After contact center, Short Messaging Service (SMS) has emerged as one of the most popular channels during the feature phone era (like WhatsApp in the smart phone era). In my earlier role, I had experienced the pain one had to go through to read and analyse customers’ free text messages that used to come on a common number (short sender code: 12345). These customer messages were of varying spectrum: some genuine requests or complaints, and rest either vague, incomprehensible, comical, or even a touché inappropriate. And this was my opportunity to bring a change to this practice or ways of working.


Note: Above graphical excerpt has been taken from the original concept note

What did I do?

I applied my empathetic perspective and ideated with the team to propose a structured approach (keyword based) and intuitive automation to manage customer’s query, request, or complaints (Q/R/C) using the SMS channel. The offering was named MySMS, and was the first conversational automation solution that was introduced in the market and was quick to gain popularity. It solved multiple pain points: auto-filtering of invalid messages, automatic assignment of customer Q/R/C to the relevant backend team, reduction in overall turnaround time. It also resulted in call deflection from the contact centers (a more costly channel). As the business owner for this application, I defined the roadmap to include new enhancements and make the dialogue (or asynchronous messaging) more intuitive: auto-responding with keywords matching customer’s text or providing help options so that customers are not required to remember the keywords. Also, automating the end-to-end request fulfillment process, making the experience more seamless with zero manual interventions.

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Note: Above graphical excerpt has been taken from the original concept note

What impact did it make?

The firm was receiving approx. 40,000 SMS daily (across all regions). Only 30% of these messages were valid and the activity used to consume a vast amount of human effort (wastage). MySMS automated this end-to-end journey and above all improved everyday work life of 23 employees — who could focus on more qualitative work.

MySMS is a good use case of present day, chatbot or Conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI). This new age term represents messaging and speech-enabled applications that offer human-like interactions between computers and humans.

The key drivers instrumental in making MySMS initiative a huge success was:

§ In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity (Albert Einstein): Remember the things that made life difficult; so that you can make it right or better one day.

§ Stay hungry, stay foolish (Steve Jobs): Stay curious and never be shy to try new things

§ Human factor: Leverage your experience

§ Simplification: Make use of Technology

As an endnote, I wish to summarise with the thought: disruption or innovation can happen anywhere or anytime, by chance or by design. It happens when we apply clear conscience and empathy to solve a problem. It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.

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Serendipity: Reverse Discovery of Conversational AI was originally published in Chatbots Life on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.





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