Tractica’s recently published Artificial Intelligence for Telecommunications Applications report is a comprehensive examination of market and technology issues surrounding key telecom use cases. One of the cases in which telecom service providers are aggressively investing is intelligent customer relationship management (CRM).
CRM systems help organizations track and make sense of customer sales, marketing, and support interactions. What was born primarily as a sales tracking tool has expanded, with the advent of digital and social media, into robust platforms designed to unify insights around broader customer interactions and transactions, beyond just sales. The goal of these systems is to facilitate a 360º view of individual customers, improving customer share and retention, reducing churn, and increasing revenue. In the telecom operator space, there are extensive opportunities given the near-constant connectivity and data flow involved in customer relationships.
Applying AI to Every Aspect of the Customer Relationship
In telecom environments, AI can be applied to nearly every aspect of the relationship, including personalized notifications and promotions, real-time responses to service requests, augmenting loyalty, and reducing churn. As 5G grows in availability, competitive pressures will force more dynamic customer relationships.
Companies are using machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) to mine large datasets for cleanliness and data integrity, purge bad data, help process incomplete contacts, suggest those to de-duplicate, etc. AI can be used to suggest potential contacts worth outreach as well. This is a particularly useful tool for sales enablement and customer acquisition. When it comes to sourcing, analyzing, prioritizing, and predicting prospective customers, AI is being applied for predictive lead scoring, suggested prioritization for sales outreach, and optimizing related sales workflows. ML and DL, in conjunction with natural language processing (NLP), are being applied for content curation and strategic outreach, wherein models process large datasets and then recommend specific content, offers, and outreach that may most resonate with particular kinds of prospects or customers.
AI-enabled CRMs help companies assess which customers could be the most profitable and likely to respond to sales outreach. AI is also being used for sales enablement, even predictive sales. AI can help sales agents read, triage, and respond to inbound prospects; analyze and predict the most appropriate action to take based on behavior and conversion trends; and even filter, score, and prioritize similar leads. Not only do AI models take into account customer trends, but some fuse CRM data with external data from news, social media, weather, etc. to come up with sales leads and predictive pitches.
Post-purchase phases of the customer life cycle are being enhanced by AI-enabled CRM systems. Call centers and service agents are using AI to automate triage and service escalation, activity capture, case classification, recommended responses, etc. Service organizations are increasingly using AI to more efficiently allocate resources.
Automation Anywhere Empowering Robotic Processes with AI
Robotic process automation (RPA) specialist Automation Anywhere (AA) has been helping telecom operators manage customer service operations with AI-powered virtual digital assistants (VDAs). “Where many enterprises are using our AI-powered RPA to automate back office operations, telecom customers are leveraging our solution to create their own bots for customer service,” said Manish Rai, Vice President of Product Marketing, “From our platform, they can build bots to look up order information for live agents or handle email customer support.” Rai said two Tier One telecom operators in the United States use its solution in this manner.
AA’s IQ bots use computer vision (CV), fuzzy logic, ML, and NLP to help with document-centric processes, such as invoice processing, purchase orders (POs), and financial statements. Now with AISense, AA is infusing AI capabilities throughout its RPA platform. An example of this is the use of the solution in Citrix automation. “Citrix environments do not lend themselves easily to traditional automation, and plain screen scraping techniques deliver less than ideal results,” said Rai. “AI-powered smart screens create dynamic linking between objects. This delivers change-resilient and highly accurate automation in applications where fields, labels, text, screen resolution and colors change constantly.”
Rai said the difference between AA’s approach to AI is that while most vendors rely on third-party AI solutions, AA has developed its own RPA-focused AI capabilities, while making it extensible for integration with AI products like IBM Watson. AA customers can build their own bots and leverage AA’s predictive capabilities without needing AI development expertise.
CallidusCloud Leveraging AI to Deliver Configure, Price, Quote Advantage
Under the broader umbrella of the Intelligent CRM system use case, some telecom operators are using Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) software to elevate their customer experiences with business-to-business (B2B) customers. According to Financial Force, “CPQ is software that helps companies accurately define the price of goods across a huge and constantly changing spectrum of variables. CPQ software aggregates these variables, which in turn allows companies to configure products or services in the most optimal way (i.e. bundling, upsells, etc.), price them according to costs, competition and local economic factors, and quote a customer the absolute best price possible in accordance with all of the above factors.” According to Shawn Willett, Director of Marketing for CallidusCloud, the company’s Thunderbridge AI3 solution leverages AI to deliver CPQ.
SAP announced the acquisition of Callidus on April 5, 2018.
Conversica Providing an AI-Powered Sales Assistant
Conversica is helping deliver solutions under the intelligent CRM systems use case through B2B sales chatbots. Gary Gerber, Senior Director and Head of Product Marketing, explained:
There is a classic problem in most organizations—tension between sales and marketing. Marketing creates leads, but sales has trouble following up on all of those leads. In our research, we found 4 out of 10 people who query a company for more information or state a sales need are ignored by the company. That’s because human sales professionals have to prioritize the leads. But there is a massive long tail of other leads to follow up with. We provide an AI powered sales assistant. It will take leads and will engage each of those leads in a natural language conversation to qualify a lead and set meetings for human sales managers.
Conversica has deployed its solution with CenturyLink. According to Gerber, CenturyLink is identifying “hundreds of thousands” of leads a month. Gerber also said CenturyLink told Conversica it is seeing a 13 to 1 return on investment (ROI) with the Conversica solution.