The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading across our highly connected world, yet getting accurate, up-to-date information to employees and customers is still an enormous challenge.

With call center agents working from home, customer care wait times are lengthening, leading to dropped calls and endless complaints. At the same time, employees are finding it impossible to get through to human resources (HR) departments to understand what the lockdown and new regulations mean for them. HR department staff are having to answer the same questions multiple times on how the pandemic will affect life and work.

Orange Business fast realized that the pandemic fallout would overwhelm call centers and human resources. To help customers cope with the situation, Orange built an innovative artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot with its subsidiary Business & Decision. Chatbots are the most commonly used form of AI in companies.

Using an agile approach, Orange developed the chatbot in just three working days, and it went live within a week on a website belonging to a government organization and another belonging to a financial services company. The chatbot acts as a 24/7 virtual agent. It has absorbed up to 80% of frequently asked questions, helping to manage the massive spike in calls that COVID-19 has created.

Frequently asked questions are offloaded to the chatbot to answer. If the chatbot can’t answer the question, it re-routes it.


Taking the pressure off call centers and HR departments

Many call centers and human resources departments are trying to handle increasing call volumes, via a remote working model, from customers and employees wanting to know how the virus will affect them. Many of the questions are repetitive: Can I order online? Can I still click and collect my order? Does the company have to pay staff if they self-isolate? Should I go into the office?

For frequently asked questions, AI chatbots can quickly increase first-line call resolutions, freeing up agents and human resources personnel to answer more complex, unpredictable queries. Research has shown that contact centers using chatbots or automated call answering receive better customer experience ratings overall.

Orange knew that its chatbot offering had to be easy to implement as there was no time for complex integration. It has therefore been designed to plug into any website. When a person looks for a “contact us” section on the website, the chatbot launches and automatically starts an interaction.

Regularly updated and customized information

Using regularly updated public data feeds from the World Health Organization, local health bodies and internal information that needs to be communicated to customers and employees, Orange populates the chatbot’s answer bank according to customer requirements and integrates into the webpage, contact center queue or the intranet enriched with company-specific information. Frequently asked questions are offloaded to the chatbot to answer. The chatbot picks up key words and looks at the context to provide answers. If the chatbot can’t answer the question, it re-routes it. In the case of the government organization, it routes to an email query form; for the financial services company, it routes to a human agent. As with any AI application, machine learning will improve answers with time.

Orange is supplying initial support for the AI chatbot, which runs in the cloud.

Developing a chatbot in a crisis

COVID-19 has undoubtedly accelerated the use of chatbot technology as organizations look for a fast and easy way to get information out to their customers and employees. Information can easily be adapted for local requirements, and as Orange has proven, a chatbot can be plugged in and be up and running in hours.

80% of FAQs dealt with by AI