Digital Transformation Week 2020: Telus says offloading 4.1M support calls to AI improves customer and employee satisfaction


Service quality and customer support go hand-in-hand when it comes to customer service. For Telus, one of Canada’s largest mobile carriers, digitally transforming the latter was no easy task, but was the right call to make.

By the end of 2019, over 10 million Canadians relied on Telus to stay connected. In the first quarter of 2020, Telus’ subscriber base increased by another 106,000. According to Opensignal’s annual mobile experience report, Telus’ mobile network quality consistently ranked as the fastest in both urban and rural areas.

Servicing nearly a third of Canada is no easy task. Given the volume of support calls, Telus wanted to provide a faster way to tackle simple issues and reallocate its call centre resources to resolve more complex problems.

“It’s helping customers who have those simple questions to get their answers quickly,” said Cory Wain, director of automated customer experience at Telus. ”But it’s also helping all of our other customers have those more complex challenges to also get their answers quickly.”

With this vision in mind, Telus whipped together its Automated Customer Experience (ACX) team in 2017, a dedicated team of nine to figure out the best way to digitally transform the monotonous formula for its customer support system. Telus’ ACX team eventually merged with its Intelligent Digitial Experience (IDX) team as the project grew.

And the team worked fast. By the end of 2017, it rolled out its first virtual assistant for Telus’ flanker brand Koodo, followed by the Telus Assist in early 2018. In total, the AI assistants were able to offload 4.1 million support calls in the two years after their launch.

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But no project is without their hurdles, especially one as ambitious and extensive as digitally transforming the customers’ touchpoint. Telus initially faced internal resistance due to negative experiences with early chatbot technology, and had to direct Koodo users to go through the bot first before contacting support. As it refined the technology through gathering feedback from both customers and support division, user engagement improved on all fronts.

“In early going there was a little bit of a dip in our customer satisfaction because of the nature of the bot and what it can provide,” said Wain. “Over time, we have really enhanced our chatbot’s capability… it’s actually changing the customer’s account and adding features in the account profile, such as roaming packs or data top-up or maybe changing the channels on our home services side. And over time, as the bot becomes more mature, as the bot becomes more intelligent, and as we personalize the bot more and more, customers accept a lot more.”

When the chatbot ran into issues it couldn’t handle, it passed it off to Telus’ support centres. By offloading some of the common, simple tasks, it was able to allow Telus support staff to better use their time and engage in different ways. When COVID-19 pandemic pushed most of its staffers to work from home, diversifying engagement has proved to increase not only customer satisfaction but employee satisfaction as well.

“We’ve actually seen an increase in not only customer satisfaction, but also employee satisfaction,” said Jim Radzicki, chief technology officer at Telus International. “As you think about some of the bots that are deployed in the case of TELUS and customer-facing–but in the case of other customers–employee-facing as well. Being able to provide those answers to internal questions or internal challenges, and in the case of COVID, where many of our employees actually have gone home to work, these digital solutions and bots actually encourage them to engage in different ways, which actually has not only helped but increased employee engagement during these times.”

Digital transformation is a delicate and tricky process. Businesses large and small are looking to correctly assess how much resource and determine the necessary skills to transition as seamless as possible. Organizations still exploring viable transformation pathways can speak with Telus to gain expert insights on their journey.


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