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Redefining customer interaction and business efficiency with AI

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In the current business landscape, companies are increasingly focused on innovative strategies to enhance customer experience while improving operational efficiency. In the telecommunications industry, the integration of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies has become a catalyst for personalized customer interactions, especially when it comes to providing real-time engagement, addressing billing inquiries, offering payment reminders, and creating personalized payment plans.

For leading telecommunications providers PLDT and Smart, using AI-powered conversational bots are seen as a very cost-efficient method to deliver personalized payment deadline reminders to their 4.5 million postpaid customers. This is why they collaborated with ePLDT, the ICT subsidiary of PLDT, to launch an advanced AI-driven initiative in November 2022 that revolutionized their collections process and offer a more convenient and efficient experience for their customers — in the form of the Intelligent Virtual Collections Assistant (VCA) program.

The VCA operates without supervision and can handle a wide range of customer interactions, from answering general questions about PLDT’s services to guiding customers through the payment process. The chatbots under VCA can also understand natural language and provide personalized responses, making it easier for customers to get the information they need quickly and efficiently.

The VCA also has AI-powered conversational bots, named Cindy, Celine, Cassie, and Chloe. They automate the collection reminder process while maintaining a high standard of customer experience. These bots engage customers in Taglish (a mix of Tagalog and English) and address inquiries naturally, often leaving customers in disbelief that they were interacting with a robot.

Additionally, they are capable of handling collections-related tasks such as reminding customers about their outstanding balances, providing payment options, and even scheduling payment arrangements. They can also send reminders starting from day 35 after the due date, with up to two daily calls if the outstanding balance remains unpaid. Customers can customize call attempts and preferred schedules for callbacks through live agents.

This helps the PLDT’s collections team to streamline the collections process and reduce the need for manual follow-ups.

According to the PLDT-Smart data, the implementation of the VCA program has yielded remarkable results, with a 222% increase in processed accounts and an 82% increase in productive calls per day.

Dianne Blanco, PLDT and Smart VP of Consumer Credit and Collection Account Management, said that since AI is efficient, both the company’s productivity and collections have increased substantially when they rolled out the service.

The success of the VCA program can be attributed not only to the advanced technology but also to the expertise and support provided by ePLDT. Despite the complexity of AI technologies, ePLDT’s expertise, partnerships, and existing infrastructure enabled the VCA program to be up and running in just six months — a timeline that is notably shorter than the years typically required to deploy and implement standard information and communication technology (ICT) solutions of similar scale.

John Palanca, PLDT and Smart SVP for Sales and Development, highlighted the critical role of having the right partner: “Working with ePLDT has allowed us to pioneer this AI-powered collections initiative. They collaborated with us from the start until full deployment. They continue to help ensure the success and efficiency of the Talkbot solution in production.”

ePLDT’s role extends beyond the initial implementation, with project managers continuously monitoring the bot’s analytics and readily adjust business strategies as needed. This ensures that the VCA program remains effective and efficient in achieving its goals.

The intelligent virtual collections assistant is currently available to all PLDT customers and can be accessed through the company’s official website and social media channels.

As PLDT continues to invest in digital technologies, it is expected that the program will play an increasingly important role in the company’s customer service and collections strategies going forward.

If you are ready to embark on your own digital success journey, visit https://www.epldt.com/cloud/conversational-ai/talkbot/ or email inquiry@epldt.com  to explore ePLDT’s talkbot solutions.

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