You have reached an answering machine. But this one has your answers.
The city of Espoo wants to develop its services with the aid of digital solutions and newest technology. The city’s customer service receives a lot of questions and feedback which burden especially the telephone services.
Could Artificial Intelligence be of help to streamline the customer service? We set out to find out together how this (at the time) new to us technology works and if Artificial Intelligence solutions are ready to genuinely serve the end users.
Together with the city’s technical services’ customer care we tested how well the bot we created can give answers to questions and react to feedback given by the customers over the phone.
The bot was given three tasks. We assessed the most common questions the residents have and based on this analysis the topics were divided into trash bin related issues and street light related questions. The AI’s ability to help the customer service personnel was tried and tested by searching for information from multiple different sources.
The callers seeking for service were able to choose whether they wanted to take part in the bot trial or not. For those who opted in the trial the technology worked like a charm. The bot was able to recognise issues and locate the problems regardless of different manners of speaking.
The bot also aided the service personnel in searching for data with great success. While the customer was speaking with the customer servant the AI converted speech to text and searched for relative information to show on the customer servant’s screen. This allowed the servants to focus only on listening to their customer.
The bot's voice is pleasant and conveys a genuine desire to be of service. A good experience. Even an unsuccessful contact felt pleasant. As if I had indeed been listened to and the City really cared about my worries.
The city of Espoo gathered valuable information during the trial period and got a deeper understanding on what Artificial Intelligence can offer. We were able to solve an actual issue and with this experience our understanding on the limitations of AI grew. We learned what deployment of a customer service bot requires from the city, its partners and city residents. It was noticeable that although the robot voice was perceived very pleasant the threshold to communicate with a bot is still quite high for the municipal residents. Adapting to new technology always takes some time.
The trial was the first of its kind in Finland, perhaps even in Europe. To us this is a big deal. Many applications that convert speech to text already exist but doing so over a telephone connection is something different. An AI operating the phone lines can improve services by taking care of routine issues quickly and efficiently freeing the people to tackle the more demanding issues.
Next we might make a push to introduce a phone bot as a lifeline in the Who Wants To Be a Millionaire -quiz. Who wouldn’t want to see the presenter’s face when their ”colleague” brings up the right answer in 0,2 seconds -with no other remaining options.