A responsive, effective call center is a key ingredient for high-quality customer service. MultiChoice South Africa aimed to provide agents with rapid access to account details and product information.
MultiChoice South Africa turned to IBM Services to help to develop a virtual assistant named TUMI. Powered by IBM Watson Assistant, the solution enables agents to source relevant information quickly.
70%chatbot accuracy places relevant information in the hands of call center agents
20%faster call resolution boosts customer satisfaction
60%reduction in training time for new call center agents
Business challenge story
Delivering first-rate entertainment
The competition for market share is heating up in South Africa’s media broadcast sector—and even market-leaders like MultiChoice South Africa need to find new ways to stand out from the crowd. Serving more than 7 million customers with video entertainment services, MultiChoice South Africa recognizes that innovation, first-class content and exceptional customer experiences have never been more important.
To ensure subscribers can always remedy issues with their subscriptions and gain information on new deals and services, MultiChoice South Africa relies on a call center staffed with more than 1,500 agents. When a new agent joins the company, they must go through rigorous training before they can start to field calls from subscribers.
Roland Naidoo, Head of Customer Operations Support at MultiChoice South Africa, elaborates: “Our call center is the front line of our customer service. When our agents answer calls from subscribers, they need to be able to understand customer needs and identify information and solutions to meet those needs immediately. We wanted to discover new ways of putting that information into the hands of our call center agents as quickly, smoothly and accurately as possible.”
Deploying cutting-edge cognitive technology
To better support its customer service personnel, MultiChoice South Africa decided to create a virtual assistant to answer employee questions during calls using IBM Watson Assistant. For support during the development and implementation phases, the company turned to IBM Services.
Roland Naidoo explains the selection: “We were looking to drastically change the way we assist customers, and also find new ways to help our staff and engage them digitally. IBM Watson stood above the other options in terms of enabling us to do this. Why? Because the capabilities of the IBM Watson suite cater to our needs, and give us the ability to upskill our people in IBM Cloud Platform development. This will help us create jobs for the future, which will be key in ensuring AI is adopted and driven effectively in developing economies.”
The first step was a proof-of-concept exercise. MultiChoice South Africa created a simple test: could IBM Watson Assistant on the IBM Cloud™ answer queries faster than the company’s best call center agents? IBM Services developed a working pilot using Watson Natural Language Classifier—an early forerunner of IBM Watson Assistant—and trained it to recognize 30 separate service requests.
Roland Naidoo continues: “When we ran the tests, the results were even better than we had thought possible. At that point, there was no doubt in my mind that we had found the future of the call center. We soon completed our business case, and it became a very easy investment decision.”
Next, MultiChoice worked with IBM Services to upskill its people and develop the virtual assistant. The team trained the virtual assistant to recognize and respond to 200 unique customer service queries—a capability that MultiChoice has since extended to more than 2,000 queries. MultiChoice also added its own personality to the virtual assistant, naming the chatbot TUMI—short for The Ultimate Master of Information—and giving her an identity in the form of an avatar.
In the first phase of the rollout, MultiChoice South Africa’s 20 most experienced call center agents asked the assistant questions all day, every day, for ten days. During this process, the company gained valuable insights into the performance of the chatbot and identified key areas to focus the next stages of training
Providing superior customer service
MultiChoice South Africa is now supporting more than 1,500 call center agents with the TUMI virtual assistant, which provides answers to 200,000 customer enquiries every month. Roland Naidoo continues: “On the first day of live operation, the chatbot provided the correct response to 70 percent of all enquiries—an extraordinary result for a cognitive solution so early in its lifecycle, especially given the fact that it’s a closed-loop learning system.”
The virtual assistant is also enabling MultiChoice South Africa to provide speedy responses to subscribers facing issues with services or seeking assistance. So far, the chatbot has helped call center agents to answer customer queries 20 percent faster than before.
With TUMI available to provide detailed information during customer calls, MultiChoice South Africa has also reduced the time required to train new agents by more than 60 percent. Previously, it would take six to eight weeks before a new agent possessed the knowledge needed to answer enquiries; today, the company completes the process in just two weeks, helping it to reduce operational costs and redeploy resources on other value-add activities.
Roland Naidoo concludes: “We are entering a new and challenging era in the South African media industry, and superior customer service will be critical if we are to survive and thrive. Our work with IBM Watson is helping us to deliver the great quality service to our subscribers that will be integral to our ongoing success in the tough battle for market share. This is about next practice, not best practice.”
MultiChoice South Africa
MultiChoice is a leading video entertainment provider in sub-Saharan Africa, and part of the Naspers Group—the largest media group in South Africa. Founded in 1993, MultiChoice delivers world-class entertainment through multiple satellite channels, including SuperSport, DStv, and M-Net. Based in Randburg, South Africa, the company serves over 14 million customers. MultiChoice also operates a commercial airtime sales wing, DStv Media Sales, as well as online and mobile services through DStv Mobile and DStv Online.