The telco industry is one of the world’s most important, given that the services and conveniences that telcos deliver are critical for everyday work and life. Consumers depend on telco networks to connect with their preferred businesses as well as their social circles, while enterprises need telcos to connect with the greater global economy.  During the past 30 years, the industry has moved beyond mere telephone companies into the role of network custodians responsible for shepherding torrents of data to and from a growing number of connected devices. This evolution will only accelerate as the next generation of powerful 5G networks come online to support even more advanced features and services.

With continued 5G expansion, customers’ expectations for accessibility, personalized service and quick resolutions will only accelerate. The good news is that Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help telcos meet these expectations today and prepare for the ones delivered through future 5G networks.

Service Anytime (and Almost) Anywhere

Modern AI-powered Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs) allow organizations to automate high-quality customer engagements at scale. The most advanced IVAs like Amelia have state-of-the-art intent recognition which means that, unlike a static chatbot which searches for keywords or specific phrases, these technologies can discern meaning from the wide spectrum of human speech (e.g., “How many minutes do I have left on my calling plan?” vs. “How much time do I have left this month?” vs. “Can I do a two-hour conference call without going over my minutes?”). With this kind of conversational AI, customers can interact with Amelia just as they would with human agents. Also, unlike a basic chatbot, Amelia can handle context switching between requests and scenarios, so she can manage longer engagements that might jump between steps in a process.

While it would be wonderful for telcos to provide every customer with immediate access to a knowledgeable human agent whenever needed, that’s not a practical strategy — or at the very least not a cheap one. But IVAs scale to meet demand, which means telco customers can access digital agents 24/7 from any connected device (click here to read how one major telco leveraged Amelia to automate consumers’ social media conversations to enhance services and increase sales).

Customer: How much would it cost to add a separate mobile phone line to my account?
IVA: I would be happy to help you with that. Let me show you the different plan options available.

Not only can an IVA answer customer FAQs, but the solution’s back-end integrations allow users to independently resolve issues without any human intermediation, resulting in faster service.

Customer: I’d like to add a new credit card for automated bill payments.
IVA: I can assist you with that. What is the card number you would like to use?

While IVAs can be used to automate just about any routine user-facing task, that doesn’t mean that telcos will no longer rely on human agents altogether. IVAs are ideal for automating repeatable, high-volume tasks (e.g., answering FAQs, password resets, simple billing requests for mobile devices, etc.), freeing human agents to address more complex or unique customer needs (e.g., “My kid just dropped my phone in the bathtub, and now it’s on the fritz – can you help me fix it?”).

Alternatively, IVAs can make human agents more productive by augmenting how they work. As agents engage with customers, IVAs can provide the most up-to-date information and relevant protocols to their human colleagues in the background. For example, when Allstate insurance hired Amelia as a “whisper agent” to work with its human agents, it was able to reduce average call time and increase first-call resolutions in just the first few months. This kind of scenario can be applied to agents working in telco call centers dealing with questions related to billing, coverage, payments and other areas.

As 5G expands its scope, customers will demand even more from their telco providers — but thankfully telcos can lean on AI technologies, particularly conversational AI, to keep up the pace.