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The Challenge

With over 100 million customers, T-Mobile is the #2 wireless carrier in the US. The company has been recognized year after year for commitment to outstanding customer service, recently named to Newsweek's Best Customer Service Companies 2020 and awarded #1 for U.S. Wireless Full-Service Customer Care by J.D. Power.

Providing consistently excellent customer service relies on more than experienced agents. It also requires technology that empowers human agents to be their most effective. One of the most striking customer service technology trends in recent years has been the widespread adoption of virtual assistants, particularly among millennials, who value the convenience and ability to receive an immediate response. Across industries, virtual assistants allow customers to contact companies on their terms and timeline, freeing human agents to focus on solving customers' most challenging problems.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic acutely highlighted the need for this type of self-serve option for T-Mobile Messaging customers. At times, over 20k+ customers could be in queue to speak with a T-Mobile Expert, many with simple requests. Creating an automated, self-service alternative promised to dramatically decrease wait times and time to resolution, improving customer experience while relieving pressure on human agents. With routine requests handled by an assistant, T-Mobile Experts could focus on problems requiring empathy and complex problem-solving.

Lindsey McCarthy, Senior Technical Product Manager on the AI @ T-Mobile team, summarized: "We wanted to create value for our customers by giving them the option to complete simple tasks online or offer them information for simple questions." Lindsey noted that the assistant also needed to properly direct the customer when the reason for contact fell outside of the assistant's current capabilities. "It's extremely important that they can get to an Expert quickly if the virtual assistant cannot solve their problem."

The Solution

The AI @ T-Mobile team was tasked with building a new virtual assistant to assist Messaging customers. Previous experience taking a sales virtual assistant to market in 2019 left the team with learnings that would shape their approach. That assistant, built by an outside vendor, had proven to be expensive and difficult to manage. T-Mobile decided to bring the development of their virtual assistant fully in-house using Rasa, allowing T-Mobile to own and customize every aspect of their virtual assistant.

After selecting Rasa as the conversational AI framework for their virtual assistant, T-Mobile launched an MVP version in July 2020. The virtual assistant is able to customize experiences for users that qualify for self-service. Customers are automatically qualified by starting a messaging conversation with an intent that matches a topic the virtual assistant can handle. From there, the virtual assistant acts as a wayfinder, pointing the customer in the right direction. Some transactions can be fully resolved by the assistant, without transferring the customer to another channel.

Working alongside the Rasa Customer Success team, T-Mobile's full-stack team built an API integration to customize the user experience, integrated with T-Mobile's chat platform, and rapidly assessed language changes and model updates. Taking an iterative and agile approach, T-Mobile continually releases improvements to the assistant, sometimes shipping updates 2-3 times per week.

The Results

Since launch, T-Mobile's virtual assistant has reached 10% of Messaging customers, with a goal of serving 25% of customers with seamless, personalized conversational experiences by the end of 2021.

The AI @ T-Mobile team continues to expand the capabilities and scope of their virtual assistant, looking ahead to launching new self-service options and expanding to Apple Business chat for iOS users in 2021 and beyond.

Our team loves working on the Rasa platform. The flexibility has produced many creative ideas, and we already have teams outside of the Care department that want to use our virtual assistant.

Lindsey McCarthy, Senior Technology Product Manager, AI @ T-Mobile

Industry: Mobile telecommunication

Location: Bellevue, Washington, USA

Employees: 52,000

Revenue: $78B 2021 Analyst Projection

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