In their ongoing effort to make the customer experience the best it can be, Comcast’s Customer Experience Solutions team creates digital solutions designed to make it easier for customers to interact with the cable and Internet provider. Using the latest in artificial intelligence (AI) and intuitive technology, Comcast has built innovative reactive (X1 Voice Remote), interactive (Xfinity Assistant) and proactive (RealTime Assist) digital tools that help customers better manage all that Comcast has to offer.
Piers Lingle, senior vice president of Customer Experience Solutions, leads the team, brainstorming ways to use technology to identify problems for customers and presenting opportunities for them to get most out of Comcast service.
“How do we use technology to create solutions for customers? How do we build products to best solve problems and that are easiest for customers to use?” he said in explaining the thought processes that he and the Customer Experience Solutions team explore. “Ultimately we want to get answers to the customers even before they know they have a question.”
The team has been quite successful in offering customers ways to find what they want, starting with Comcast’s X1 Voice Remote. Developed several years ago, X1 is the heart of Comcast’s voice control platform, using AI to understand what customers are saying (in either English or Spanish), interpret those commands, and surface what the customer wants in real-time (less than a second). It even goes beyond television programming, as you can find current news, music, sports stats and more.
Lingle said that X1 soon made it clear that there are more than 20,000 different ways to say something as simple as “watch HBO” and 7,500 ways to say, “view my bill,” not to mention regional colloquialisms that play into how people speak. The Customer Experience Solutions team’s task was to figure out how to interpret all these different ways of asking for something and expand the technology to make it happen. They started with research into understanding what the customer is actually asking for.
“Part of that analysis led to recognizing that the customer is on a journey – a multi-step process,” Lingle said, akin to moving to a new home. From the customer’s perspective, their move is about all kinds of things – new schools, new job, setting up new utilities, etc. Having cable and Internet service switched over is just one part of it.
“We know this is a stressful time for our customers, so we wanted to create a simple and easy experience for them,” Lingle explained, like confirmation that the service would be moved, reminders that the technician would be showing up and even reminding the customer to make sure their TV is unpacked. “Delivering these messages proactively, we could improve the customer experience.”
Comcast turned that one specific customer journey into a broader-based tool and called it RealTime Assist. RealTime Assist provides timely updates about technician appointments, equipment updates, self-install kit deliveries, network upgrades, and planned maintenance windows through text messages, the My Account app, or updates on their TV screen via X1 Voice Remote. Washington customers, for example, can now enter their move details on the Comcast website or speak with an agent and they will then get helpful information during their move process. In 2018, Comcast started 642,000 conversations with Washingtonians via RealTime Assist and with 8 million customers nationwide.
“We found that all our customers liked receiving these short informative texts so we began to use them for other interactions to make those simpler,” Lingle said.
Reaching out to customers proactively made it soon apparent that they want to talk back. This led to the creation of the virtual Xfinity Assistant that uses machine intelligence and natural language understanding to deliver informed, personalized customer service solutions. Washington customers, as 116,000 of them did in 2018, can ask questions about their service or respond to their service-related texts and Comcast provides quick, easy solutions based on their question. And if the virtual assistant can’t help, a human agent jumps into the conversation for a seamless handoff.
Having reached 2.3 million customers in 2018, the Xfinity Assistant technology is constantly getting smarter, learning from what’s asked of it and which solutions resolved customers’ issues. The Xfinity Assistant integrates into what Comcast customers currently use like the My Account mobile app and Facebook Messenger (through the Xfinity Facebook page), and Comcast is building to implement it across all of customers’ preferred platforms.
Between Xfinity Assistant and RealTime Assist solutions, in 2018 Comcast helped 703,000 Washington customers better manage their service with Comcast.
“We design solutions to help all of our customers,” Lingle said, “but what’s particularly interesting about Washington customers – given the demographic and high technology focus in the area – is that they are much more accepting of these solutions. They’re using all kinds of ways to interact with automated platforms.”