Telcobots to save telcos $1.2bn by 2022

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Megan Wright

The uptake of virtual assistants in the telco sector is forecasted to boom over the coming five years, new AI research finds 

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As telcos increasingly embrace artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their customer services, new wave telco virtual assistants, or “Telcobots,” are fast emerging in market.

With the likes of tier one telcos such as Orange and SK Telecom announcing the launch of their own multi-talented chatbots—named Djingo and Nugu respectively—in early 2018, the AI-telco landscape looks set to grow dramatically.

In fact, new research from technology market intelligence firm ABI Research, forecasts that virtual assistants will enable telcos to save $1.2bn on customer care management by 2022 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17 per cent over the next five years. This is particularly impressive given that telcos were not the early adopters of virtual assistants.

Taking care of customers

While telcos are currently prioritizing these virtual assistants primarily to improve customer engagements and consequently reduce churn rates, they are also positioning themselves to compete directly with the Siris, Cortanas and Alexas of the webscale giants.

"The recent introduction of virtual assistants in customer service signifies the level of urgency within telcos to start emphasizing the importance of customer relationships and customer care management, something they have been taking for granted for decades," said Sarju Vasavada, industry analyst at ABI Research.

"Case in point, Vodafone released TOBi, a virtual assistant to address their customer service woes after being fined £4.6mn by U.K. regulators Ofcom for falsely charging more than 10k pay-as-you-go customers for top-up credit. They also had a record-breaking number of customer complaints until TOBi stepped in." 

Delivering multiple benefits

Telcobots now assist customers with a variety of issues ranging from basic account inquiries to SIM purchases, service troubleshooting, and technical settings. Those that are realizing the advantages and benefits of adding virtual assistants to their arsenal for customer service delivery, are aggressive in their uptake.

Read more: Chatbot market to reach $1.25bn by 2025

The high number of interactions with customers and volume of recurring questions or enquiries makes AI bots an obvious choice for improved customer support in sectors such as telecommunications, said Jasmine Anteunis, VP product at Recast.AI.

“The clear thing we can do is to automate the most frequently asked questions,” she said. “You have the benefits immediately, so it’s really easy to start with these kind of customer support use cases in big companies where there is a lot of interaction with customers.”

Increasing market opportunities

According to ABI Research, AI investment from telcos set to reach $14bn by 2022 with a CAGR of 22.4 per cent. Of those telcos that are already investing, many are leveraging AI and NLP heavyweights, including IBM Watson, Nuance, LivePerson and IPsoft, or choosing to build their technology in-house.

For example, Telefónica is developing their digital chatbot, Aura for 2018, and DT's Tinka is already averaging 50k customers in Austria every month.

"Telcos are slowly but steadily getting ready for prime time. We are bullish on telcos making this "Next - Gen" leap within next five years," said Vasavada.

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