08 November 2016

If you follow the tech news, you’ve probably picked up on it already: bots are the interface of the future. They’re increasingly intelligent, and they’re here to stay.

Thanks to technological improvements and some hefty investments from the world’s biggest technology players, (chat)bots or conversational interfaces are ready to revolutionise the way we communicate digitally. At Ferranti, we’re always looking into the ways technology can improve utility provider’s communication with their customers, so it should come as no surprise that we have an announcement to make!

Meet MIA! Wait, who is MIA?

MIA stands for MECOMS Interactive Agent! She is your next generation cognitive call centre agent, or as we like to say it, your Innovation Assistant.

We’re creating her as a real innovation in our product offering, in order to enable energy retailers to provide better customer service at a much lower cost than your current call centre.

What can MIA do for you and your customers? As a chatbot (you can read more about chatbots here), she can help your customers with most of their questions, on multiple channels (chat, Facebook, e-mail, SMS, …) and in multiple languages. She can answer both basic questions – the kind that you would today cover in your FAQ – in a more interactive way, and guide customers through more complex questions or actions because she can access customer details like contracts, bills, or meter readings when prompted. And as a good call centre employee, she will also detect emotion and ask for people’s feedback, helping you improve your processes.

Why did we build MIA?

As we mentioned earlier, the utility sector has struggled with balancing great customer service with a manageable cost to serve. And while customer’s expectations are now higher than ever before, many utility providers find it hard to keep up.

As a digital provider for the utility sector, we’re always looking into the latest and best tools to improve these situations. We recently included our own, high-quality, customisable self-service platform as a part of our flagship product MECOMS, but we’re already looking into the future – and conversational interfaces or bots are going to play an increasingly large role there.

We think intelligent bots will be instrumental in upping the standards for customer care. Imagine a world without music on hold…

Down to business: let’s talk details

A bot like MIA is your ideal call centre employee. She’s available 247 and can handle an unlimited amount of customers (with sufficient infrastructure). Customers never have to wait to talk to her, and when they do, MIA is knowledgeable, friendly and patient. She can also analyse language patterns and keywords to detect when customers are unhappy or frustrated and can act accordingly.

You can use MIA to automate repetitive situations and questions. She doesn’t mind answering the same simple question time and time again, which means she can take care of all of your most common customer interactions without increasing the size of your call centre – no matter how many customers you serve, or how much you grow as a business. This means human brain power can be allocated where it can make a difference – in fact, certain writers and thinkers, like Steven Van Belleghem, have suggested the idea of human contact as a premium service in the future! And Microsoft names research by Gartner, stating that 85% of all customer interactions won’t require human customer service reps by the end of this decade, as one of the reasons they’re investing heavily in AI technology.

Another benefit of bots is that they are malleable: when given the right input, they can learn and adapt to become the perfect face for your company. You can train MIA to get to know your customers, speak their language and use your company’s tone of voice, business rules and best practices. Of course, she already has a strong knowledge of the utility industry – that’s a given!

The future is now, and it’s filled with … bots

Perhaps most importantly, we think MIA will put our utility clients on the right track for the future. Conversation is the UI of the future; virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana and Alexa, will increasingly become the agent through which customers get their information. This opens up a whole new world for customer service, and with MIA, you’ll be ready to rise to the occasion.

“This is the future of customer care.”

– Andrej Šajn, COO Gen-I –

To ensure this future-proof philosophy from a technical perspective, we chose to build MIA using Microsoft Cognitive services. This platform has been announced as Microsoft’s primary focus area for the coming years, which means MIA can rely on the continuous investments of the market leader in artificial intelligence.

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