We're working hard to make our customer service experience the best in the business. Here's how AI and predictive tech is changing the game...

We’re always working on ways to make things better for you. But that doesn’t just mean fine-tuning and upgrading our network; it also means making our processes run smoother when things aren’t going so well for you. Namely: customer service.

It’s something we’ve been totally transforming over the past couple of years, and it’s at the forefront of everything we’re doing as we head into 2019 and beyond. In fact, customer service was right at the heart of our recent Future Ready conference – the very same one during which we demoed the UK’s first 5G holographic call.

Here’s what we announced there, and what you can expect from your Vodafone UK customer service experience in the future…

Customer service, evolved

“When it comes to customer service, we haven’t always got it right, but we have changed dramatically over the last two years.” Those are the words of Vodafone UK’s Neil Blagden, addressing the crowd at our first ever Future Ready conference.

“But guess what?” Neil continues. “We’re not stopping there. We’re going to revolutionise customer service by blending the best use of technology with human interaction, in a personal, instant and easy way.”

And it’s no mean feat. To do this, we’re completely redesigning your customer service journey from the ground up, adding industry-leading AI, and even giving our employees the opportunity to re-skill. It’s our vision for the future of customer service as a whole, and the entire transformation can be best explained in five easy steps:

1. Simplification
This first one seems straightforward, but it’s the true ethos for everything we’re doing when it comes to how you experience speaking to us – whether that’s on the phone, over email, or anywhere else online.

“For me,” says Neil, “it’s an obsessive focus on product and process simplification. End to end, journey by journey, step by step. Making it smoother, quicker and more enjoyable.” And that thinking leads us nicely on to step two…

2. Digitisation
“Our ambition is to be 100% digital,” Neil says, explaining the shape of tomorrow’s customer service. “That means that whatever you want to do, you can do it digitally – online, in-app, via a smart assistant, or, eventually, on your TV.” When we get to that point, you’ll be able to speak to us any way you want – whether you’re typing, dictating, or chatting – online.

And we’re already halfway there; you can now chat to us through Alexa or the Google Assistant, message us in the My Vodafone app, or have a catch-up with our chatbot TOBi – more on him in step four.

3. Prediction
This is where things get much more proactive than customer service usually tends to be, because our new processes, “will use the latest machine learning technology to do be less reactive,” says Neil. As an example, when a customer upgrades mid-month, their next bill can sometimes look different, so a number of these customers may call to clarify.

“Using this method, we’ve recently trialled sending an SMS to 55,000 recently-upgraded customers on the day their bill was generated – simply explaining why it looks different and where they can go to get help.” The results were pretty positive. “This world-leading proactive intervention saw 15% fewer calls. Personally,” Neil adds, “this is something I’ve wanted to do for many years, but we’ve never had the technology. Now though, the potential to revolutionise care with proactive contact is huge.”

4. Automation
This is where TOBi comes in. When we launched our little chatbot friend, his capabilities were fairly simple – he could help you get answers to questions on things like roaming, or your bill, or he could transfer you to the right agent. But he’s getting smarter all the time and can now handle a big percentage of your requests, end to end.

Now he’s gone global too, debuting in the My Vodafone app in 12 countries around the world, and he’ll even be helping our internal teams soon. The key to his abilities is that TOBi was created by just five members of the customer service team – the people who know your needs best. Which brings us nicely onto the last piece of the puzzle…

5. Super Agents
So, what about the people? Don’t worry: while TOBi and digital assistants are all well and good, we know that sometimes you need to speak to a real person to get your problems solved. “We will always need humans,” Neil says. “A digital Britain will be based on new jobs and new skills among our workforce. And, as we increase our AI workforce, that human touch will be more important than ever. But we’ll use that human touch in new ways, and with new skills.”

“We will always need humans.”

To that end, we’re upskilling our team into ‘Super Agents’ by launching #CodeReady, a new programme that offers frontline employees in our retail stores and contact centres the opportunity to learn to code – and even switch careers.

“We see two types of customer service agents in the future,” says Neil. “One is highly specialised, empowered and dedicated – working closely with our customers. The second is a reskilled agent, coding digital customer journeys with our digital teams, and using their knowledge of customer journeys to create the best possible digital experience. Just like the five guys who built TOBi.”

So, those are the five ways we’re making things better than ever for you, when you need us most. “Digital is at the heart of everything we do,” says Neil in closing, “and it’s working.

“Our customers are telling us that our service is the best it’s ever been, while our Regulator complaints are 83% lower than four years ago. But we’re not going to stop there.” Watch this space.

Have you seen the UK’s first ever holographic call? It’s a sight to behold. Click here to watch the power of 5G in action.