The first half of 2020 forced companies all over the world to redefine strategies. Changes that were already in play had to be accelerated overnight to adapt to a new, more digital world in quarantine with social distancing.
In light of this, automation technologies and artificial intelligence became excellent resources to deal with the situation.
CIEE (Centro de Integração Empresa-Escola) and Light, two Brazilian companies, were trailblazers in using these tools in their customer service strategy.
Everton Alvez, Aivo's CRO, spoke live with Monica Batista Vargas de Castro (CIEE Operations Manager) and Lucas Neves da Silva (Light Digital Channels and Innovation Coordination) on how they adapted their processes through it all.
Below are key points from their conversation.
CIEE's new strategy
CIEE is a Brazilian non-profit association. Its goal is to help students access internship programs by connecting them with private companies across the country.
With the support of more than 600 employees, they interact with thousands of students over the phone, email and their website for everything related to daily student recruitment tasks.
Before quarantine, CIEE had three operations centers physically located in Brasilia, Fortaleza and San Pablo. However, in March they decided to prioritize their employees' health and moved to remote work. As a result, their entire customer service strategy had to change.
How did they do it? They turned to conversational artificial intelligence, which had to be implemented in less than two weeks to ensure continuity of service.
Automation and empathy, two sides of the same coin
To complement and ease the work of customer service agents, CIEE decided to implement an AI chatbot 24/7 on its digital channels. These channels were already an essential component of its strategy, since the company's main audience are students - millennials and centennials.
But the main challenge was to automate the experience without neglecting the human, personal and empathetic factor. This meant “speaking the student's language,” as Monica explains.
“When we talk about training a bot, it seems like a mechanical and impersonal task at first. But it's not like that. With all the tools it has, it's possible to personalize the service,” she adds.
The entire process of moving to remote work and automating digital channels took about 15 days, including bot implementation and training, and training the team to use the content management platform.
A problem-solving, efficient experience
As a result, in just two months, the chatbot had already resolved more than 16,000 interactions with an average time of 1:13.
Out of 16,000 interactions, 1,134 were on Saturdays and 752 on Sundays, days when agents aren't available. This shows that with the technology, CIEE was able to extend its support hours for students and provide 24/7, immediate assistance, even during non-working hours. Before that, they would have to wait until Monday for a response.
Another fact Monica highlighted was that only 10% of queries were transferred to customer service agents. For her, this demonstrates the high degree of audience adaptation. 90% of the questions could be automated and answered immediately by the bot.
A big advantage for CIEE has been being able to access these metrics. For customer service, they constantly monitored what was happening between the chat and users, and users who interacted with the chatbot. For Monica, it's a huge difference to be able to constantly improve the content of the bot and thus connect better with users.
“We're really satisfied with these numbers. This information is very significant because it shows we made the right decision and that we're on the right track,” Monica explains.
“No doubt about it, this tool has been very important for us during this time and it's here to make life easier for us,” she adds.
Laying the foundation of the new normal
For CIEE, automation technologies are here to stay.
“I think there's no turning back with digital channels. They were already a trend that was going to happen naturally, but many companies anticipated it and implemented it in their action plan because of the pandemic. It's a very efficient way of providing new experiences to the customer,” Mónica concludes.
Related article: How the financial sector is using AI for customer service in times of crisis [Cases]
Light's 180° turn in strategy
Light is an electricity supplier from Rio de Janeiro. Like CIEE, before the pandemic they decided to implement a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence.
The idea of incorporating this technology was already up and running, with the bot implemented and in training.
Until then, the goal was for it to be automatically available to customers who wanted to communicate frequently over digital channels. The bot had to complement the face-to-face, phone and email interactions that were there already in customer service.
A new strategy for a new reality
The sudden arrival of the pandemic forced them to make a 180 on strategy. As in most cases, agents had to go to remote work overnight, removing any possibility of face-to-face assistance, which was the main means of contact until then.
To handle the situation and continue service, Light decided to accelerate the bot's implementation process that was already in motion.
“It was a turning point completely different from what we had imagined. The driver of this digital transformation wasn't a CEO or a shareholder, it was coronavirus. We made the most of this opportunity not only to transform our own channels, but also to adapt the experience of our users within them, providing increasingly better assistance and more opportunities for contact,” Lucas explains.
The last eight days of March, they trained their employees working from home and made the service process more flexible through digital channels, which became the main point of contact.
In addition, they assigned a person in charge of the bot who's responsible for the knowledge base and continuous improvements to it.
Incorporation of WhatsApp
One of the main changes in the strategy had to do with assistance automation through WhatsApp.
Mainly, this was the channel bringing the customer through different processes and procedures needing resolution within the website.
Related article: WhatsApp in Customer Service: Advantages and Recommendations
“We received inquiries from a lot of customers who didn't know how to go through some processes because of difficulty with the website. But very simply, they communicated through WhatsApp and the bot explained how to solve their problem,” Lucas says.
“I think the key is to provide them with the power of choice, so the customer can choose where and how they want to be served. I think that's the big difference. Not only does it point to financial return, but it puts the customer first and provides a totally different experience,” he adds.
High voltage results
At the end of the month and only eight days since implementing the new strategy, they received 11,900 queries through the chatbot and 3,500 were transferred to human agents. All this with positive feedback from 80% of customers.
A month and a half later, these figures went up. “May ended with an incredible 117,000 inquiries made through the chatbot, and almost 40,000 inquiries answered by humans. The results were taking on a dimension we'd never imagined,” Lucas says.
“It's very nice to see these results after weeks of hard work, countless meetings, procedural changes, the rush to get people out of the office, trainings, and much more. And best of all, we created an opportunity for customers to access our customer service with a tool,” he concludes.
How does strategy continue after COVID-19?
A lot of companies like CIEE and Light decided to bet on artificial intelligence solutions for customer service. During the pandemic, these provided a chance to ensure continuity of service and handle the situation.
But the end of quarantine won't necessarily mean going back to traditional channels. On the contrary, as Monica explained, after implementing and optimizing digital channels, there won't be a return to the previous support model now.
If you want to know more about what the post-coronavirus customer experience will be like, you can download our latest whitepaper for free, with feedback from more than 15 industry leaders.
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