Using AI to power a new era of customer service quality


Fibre leadership

Using AI to power a new era of customer service quality

Elsa Chen, Chief Customer Officer, CityFibre

17 October 2022

Elsa Chen 36 1

CityFibre is making game-changing improvements to how ISPs manage the full fibre upgrade for their customers through a digital first, effortless customer journey by using advanced AI technology and service co-creation.

Customer experience, let’s face it, has never been one of our industry’s strong suits. A broadband upgrade can often seem more trouble than it’s worth, and trying to fix things – a service outage, say – is usually far from straightforward.

It doesn’t have to be this way. By using clever artificial intelligence algorithms, service delivery – from an end-user’s perspective – can be effortless and intuitive. Problems can also be solved quickly, perhaps before the customer is even aware of them.

There’s no technical reason why our industry should not be more like an Uber or an Amazon in providing frictionless customer experiences, or akin to a utility company offering swift repair. But there needs to be a firm commitment to raise the service bar – which is where CityFibre comes in.

In the past, infrastructure builders have often used their wholesale status to avoid responsibility for the full customer journey, leaving that down to ISPs to tackle alone. We see things very differently at CityFibre. Yes, while we are wholesaling full fibre connectivity, that doesn’t mean we don’t care about how end customers are faring when they upgrade their legacy copper connections. We care very much. In fact, we see full fibre adoption as a fully-shared responsibility with ISPs.

ISPs as partners, not just customers

We believe in working closely with our ISP partners, developing bespoke services that will enable them to differentiate in the market on customer experience. We use a ‘service co-creation’ model to define the ideal customer journey with each ISP and then set about delivering it together, leveraging our technology and capabilities. The aim is to help our ISPs move large numbers of customers from legacy copper to our full fibre infrastructure in a way that’s effortless for the consumer. The vision is to make moving to full fibre as simple as a software upgrade pushed to your phone.

Technology holds many of the answers, but not all of them straight away and complex scenarios will always exist. For these a more hands-on approach is needed. So we take the best of what technology can offer but retain the human element when it’s required.

Getting off the white-knuckle ride

Everyone knows that retaining customers is just as important as attracting new ones, and managing customers through any upgrade or migration journey can be a white-knuckle ride for ISPs, not to mention resource-intensive. If things don’t run smoothly, then customers might ditch the process and stick with their existing package – or worse still, be motivated to shop around and move to a competitor. The typical way of managing a migration programme is for ISPs to create a database of target customers and then contact them through call centres. A letter drop is also needed, making sure those contacted understand the migration process and are happy with it. Once that’s done, call centre capacity is used to book an engineer appointment, as well as handle any requests to change that appointment.

In contrast, our AI-powered approach to managing customer migration is a breath of fresh air. We began implementing the AI-powered engagement tool concept late last year with a large ISP partner that sought to move tens of thousands of prospective customers from copper to our full fibre infrastructure. Our approach puts much less strain on the customer and ISP and is also far more cost-effective. Once the database is set up, our ISPs need only contact their prospective customer once – via email or letter – informing them that a full fibre service is available. All future communication is done via SMS, generated by us on behalf of the ISP.

Subsequent text exchanges are human-like and conversational, not robotic – technology with a human heart as I like to call it – and can handle various enquiries and requests, including shifting booked engineer appointments to another day. From an end customer perspective, as well as for our large ISP partner – which can happily avoid the expense and operational pain of call centres – the migration process is trouble-free. For our industry this is transformational.

One AI size doesn’t fit all

In partnership with another ISP, we are developing AI-based predictive and proactive communication with its end customers. When a customer’s service goes down, we’ll send them an immediate text – again, on behalf of the ISP – saying the problem has been spotted, someone’s on it, and there’s no need to call in. Our goal is to be ahead of the customer’s information needs and meet those needs without being asked. Service downtime can be a churn trigger, so handling it quickly and efficiently is a must.

Different ISPs have different customer experience requirements. There will be some common denominators, but also an element of customisation. Service co-creation, or co-design – in CityFibre’s book – means developing bespoke AI solutions rather than expecting a standard solution to serve all. The creation process therefore involves our operational teams working with customer experience experts from different ISPs to ensure our AI-powered engagement tool is tailored to deliver friction-free service in every scenario.

This bespoke way of working with ISPs has already turned old industry norms on their head. Not only are more and more end customers getting on with what’s truly important in their lives rather than waiting in queues, but they are enjoying the best possible start to their fibre-powered future and sharing those experiences. As a project, excitingly, it’s also just one of many – each live proof of what’s possible when you challenge the past and choose never to stand still.

Explore more about how CityFibre is building a new network, purpose built for the data age.