Even better customer service thanks to voicebot Emma

Tech & Data

If travellers, companies, or intermediaries have a question or complaint about a trip, then they contact KLM's customer service. The reviews show that customers were assisted well in most cases: on average, we score a report mark of 7.5 to 9.5 - quite high for customer service. Yet there's always room for improvement. That's why we are working hard to develop voicebot Emma. Vice President Services Customer Contact Herbert is closely involved and looks ahead.

Global service

Herbert leads the customer service team, which comprises of 5,000 colleagues spread over 30 contact centres worldwide. 'We help customers with questions in 30 different languages, most of which are about tickets, baggage, and our frequent flyer programme Flying Blue. We're also there for their complaints. That contact is all handled by phone, chat, e-mail, and social media. This amounts to some 25 million contact moments per year, which is quite an operation. But a successful operation, after each interaction we ask the customers to give us a rating and the average is between 7.5 and 9.5.

Good afternoon, madam. I can help you with that

'To help you as well and efficiently as possible, we need to know two things: who you are and what do you need help with? This information determines which KLM person can best help you, not every colleague specialises in the same subject. But more importantly: if we know who we have in front of us, we can start a more personal conversation and provide the right solution faster'.

The latter proves especially important for the customer experience, says Herbert. 'Of our Flying Blue members, we often have contact details in the system, so we recognise their phone number when they call and can also directly see that they will be flying to New York tomorrow, for example. So instead of "Good afternoon, how may I help you?" we can open with: "Good afternoon, Mrs De Jong, I see you have a question about rebooking your flight for tomorrow?" That starts things off in a much more personal, solution-oriented way. The 9.5 rating therefore comes from people we know well such as our Flying Blue members and business customers. The less we know about customers, the lower the rating they give our customer service, a 7.5 is still a great average.

Onwards and upwards

Many organisations would be very happy with such ratings. 'And of course, we are,' Herbert stresses, 'but we would like to help our customers even more effectively. That's why we thought of developing a voicebot, Emma. The idea is for her to find out who is calling and what their question is, so she can direct customers to the right KLM representative - who then has all the information needed to help them in the best possible way. That works a lot more efficiently than a drop-down menu and is also much more personal.'

We tested the voicebot for several months in Switzerland, in three languages: English, French and German. This pilot was very successful. In January, we will take the next step, finding a technology partner to further develop Emma for us. If everything goes according to plan, customers will hear her for the first time by the end of 2024. In the meantime, we're also working hard on the implementation on our side, this new technology has to fit in neatly with our own systems. Although I am involved in that, it's mainly a project of my colleagues Thibault and Alwin.

Herbert, vice president Services Customer Contact

New reality

As wonderful as the outlook for Emma is, Herbert says the change requires adaptability. 'Customers naturally have to get used to a voicebot. During the pilot, some people didn't realise that Emma wasn't a real person, which I found funny. But we want to be as transparent as possible about that, everyone should know she is a bot.'

A lot is changing for customer service colleagues. 'For instance, we now have to think about what a conversation with Emma will look like; we've never been involved in that way before. For instance, what do we do if she doesn't understand the answer to a question, will she ask the same question again, ask another question to get the same information or just carry on? In addition, we have to be really careful that our colleagues don't start asking the same questions as Emma, that would only make the customer experience worse. But if we can avoid these pitfalls, then I'm sure we can help more customers better and faster!

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