In this digital age, companies – and the customers they serve – are increasingly relying on digital tools to communicate and interact.
While customers still want the option to have that conversation and human interaction, automation can save valuable time and create more efficient interactions for businesses and the people they serve.
As a leading cable, internet and home technology provider Comcast has found a way to take the artificial intelligence (AI) it uses in devices like its voice-activated X1 Platform and remote, and applying that state-of-the-art technology to enhance their customer service experience.
Piers Lingle, senior vice president of customer experience at Comcast Cable, played a key role in the development of the X1 Platform, and is now one of the leaders spearheading the nationwide rollout of new customer experience technologies leveraging AI and machine learning – RealTime Assist and Xfinity Assistant.
“Our customers are calling us and messaging us with all kinds of questions about their service, and everyone has different ways of asking the same questions,” Lingle said. “For example, through our research we discovered there were more than 7,500 ways to say ‘I want to view my bill.’ We wanted to know, ‘Can we use the technology to help customers find answers faster?’”
Through these technologies, customers can receive quick support in a timely fashion on a preferred communication channel.
RealTime Assist, was launched to provide customers with timely updates about technician appointments, equipment updates, deliveries, network upgrades and planned maintenance windows via text messages to their mobile phones, the My Account app, or to their X1 screen. It was developed in part by researching how to improve the process of customers moving their services from one physical location to another.
“Something that became very clear to us was Comcast was not communicating as much as customers wanted us to,” Lingle said. “We’d schedule service but then we didn’t say much else after that. So we used our technology to understand when a customer was entering a journey and began communicating at key moments of truth in that journey.”
Comcast customers can enter their move information on the website or speak with an agent to begin receiving notifications. Proactive messages include reminders of upcoming service, including reminders of what customers need to do ahead of a technician entering their home.
For example, one message reminds customers who have moved to make sure their TV is unpacked and ready to be connected before the technician arrives.
“By proactively delivering these messages, we were able to improve customer satisfaction,” Lingle said.
More than 8 million customers have used RealTime Assist nationally over the past year, and Comcast reports initiating 642,000 customer interactions with Washington customers in 2018. Response has been positive too, with customers opting out of the program only about one percent of the time.
Lingle said the development of RealTime Assist helped Comcast realize that customers wanted to communicate back to these messages.
“Sometimes you would get a service reminder and realize, ‘Oh no, tomorrow is not going to work for me, I need to reschedule that appointment,’ Lingle said.
This led to the development of Xfinity Assistant, which uses machine intelligence and understanding of natural language to deliver personalized customer service solutions.
“We wanted to build a virtual assistant that could actually be there for customers when they actually needed help,” Lingle said.
Xfinity Assistant launched in November of 2017 and is available on the website, through text messaging, Facebook messenger and within Comcast’s My Account mobile app. Washington customers can ask questions about their service or respond to their service-related texts, and the assistant will provide quick and easy solutions based on the questions.
Lingle said Xfinity Assistant works to eliminate extra steps for customers — repetitive steps like entering and re-entering account information, or forcing customers to reconnect or transfer to different departments. By eliminating these steps and going with an automated messaging platform, customers get the quick information they need as soon as possible.
The new technology allows Comcast to better communicate with Washington customers who prefer text and mobile-centric communication modes, but also enables them to easily connect with a live employee when they want.
“If the Xfinity Assistant can’t help, it can be handed off seamlessly to a live employee,” Lingle said. “We’re also empowering our employees, with the virtual assistant handling queries in real time and summarizing them for the human agent, they are set up for success to resolve issues that the automated process couldn’t solve.”
In Washington State, approximately 116,000 customers interacted with Xfinity Assistant this past year. Combined with RealTime Assist, more than 700,000 Washington customers have benefited from these technology-based customer service and experience channels.
Lingle said the technology is also being used to anticipate service-related inquiries.
“Instead of waiting for a customer to call and say, ‘Our TV doesn’t seem to work right now,’ we can identify issues and share that information ahead of time,” Lingle said. “Maybe a tree fell on one of our poles and we can identify how many customers are being affected at the time.” “We want to be able to get an answer to a customer before they even have to ask, or we want to offer immediate help,” Lingle said.
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