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Meeting Modern Expectations: How DRUID Conversational AI Revolutionized Liberty Global's Operations
A world leader in converged broadband, video, and mobile communications services partnered with DRUID to transform operations and boost internal collaboration.
"It's like the deli counter, where you take your ticket and wait until your number's called. That was very much the experience we were providing to our customers a couple of years ago, and that just didn't meet their expectations."
This is how David Hodsdon jokingly describes how the shared services center he looks after used to interact with its internal customers. This center serves as the operational backbone for 12 to 15 businesses within the multinational group Liberty Global, encompassing such household names as Virgin Media O2 in the UK, Sunrise in Switzerland, and VodafoneZiggo in the Netherlands. As VP of Operations, it falls upon Dave to ensure the optimal functioning of this "engine room" and the delivery of the best possible experience and outcomes to its internal customers.
The Challenge Is in the Scale
"The shared service center is the common back office for all these businesses. When we talk about operations, we mean finance, transactional finance, accounting, legal, litigation, contract management, HR, payroll, and construction support, which refers to your relationship with planning and construction teams."
The sheer volume and complexity of these responsibilities are staggering. Liberty Global's companies collectively provide over 85 million fixed and mobile connections across six European markets while simultaneously rolling out the next generation of products and services. All of this is accomplished with the help of 33,000 employees. Undoubtedly, the scope of the group's operations is immense, creating opportunities for knowledge transfer and expertise sharing across departments, driving potential efficiencies and cost savings, all while embracing innovation and excellence at every level. However, the same scale also magnifies the challenges faced by the teams supporting these expansive operations on a daily basis.
Changing Customer Expectations
"There are many reasons why people need to communicate with this back office that the shared services center represents. It serves as an extension of the customer, and this is how the teams need to show up in order to truly deliver for that customer. The way in which we have done that traditionally has been less effective than it could have been, and it did not meet the demand of our internal customers", Dave explains.
Today's consumers have evolved into a more informed and demanding group, primarily due to the more accessible and broader access to information afforded by the digital age. With the internet at their fingertips, consumers can swiftly research products, services, and brands, forming educated opinions and expecting immediate responses. This transformation in consumer behavior can be attributed to several factors, including the popularity of smartphones and social media. As consumers become accustomed to instant gratification and seamless interactions in their personal lives, they bring these expectations into their workplace as employees. In the context of their work environment, employees now seek similarly efficient and accessible methods of interacting and accessing information. They anticipate user-friendly digital tools, real-time communication platforms, and quick access to data and resources to enhance their productivity and collaboration, mirroring the rapid-response culture they experience as consumers. This shift highlights the interconnected nature of consumer and employee experiences, both shaped by the same technological advancements and heightened expectations in the modern era.
"This context drove, for us, the need for something new. It won't surprise many to know that, in the context of a traditional back office, which is how we used to be set up, engaging with the teams would either be via telephone (and here, the speed of the response depended on how many people you could have manning the phones) or you would communicate via email with a ticketing system in the background."
Both methods are unable to deliver the immediacy that users expect nowadays. "If we're going to be a really effective partner for our customers, we've got to offer that. We've got to be there when they need us, no wait times, immediate responses, friendly and professional interface."
The Transformation with Druid Conversational AI
The true value of technology in corporate environments lies in its ability to solve complex problems and streamline processes effectively. Embarking on a digital transformation process is no easy feat for any company to undertake – but the benefits of implementing it must always offset the efforts. Liberty Global had already been looking at using more innovative technology tools to bring positive changes to parts of its business, beginning with a partnership with UiPath that used its tried and tested RPA technology to suffuse the operations with time-saving, efficiency-boosting automation. The next step was improving the experience of human users – and this is where DRUID came in.
"Getting us closer to the customer to deliver more value was, for us, the real use case for conversational AI, and that's how the collaboration with DRUID got started," Dave explained.
Liberty Global identified the pressing need to enhance customer support and provide an exceptional experience for its internal customers. To achieve this, they sought a more streamlined approach for interacting with their shared service center teams and accessing information. This went beyond their existing self-service options, which could be cumbersome at times. They explored the integration of a conversational AI layer into their automation as a solution. Through collaboration with DRUID, the company recognized conversational AI as a transformative tool capable of revolutionizing support delivery. This approach made internal interactions smoother, more responsive, and user-friendly, effectively meeting users where they needed assistance.
"Our business is on a journey of transition. We're digitizing the services that we used to offer in an analog way; we're looking at the value created by having humans undertake fewer administrative tasks and moving them to more knowledge-based tasks. We're trying to get closer to our customers and move up the value chain. The way we've done that has been to enter into a partnership with DRUID, a vendor who really understands how their technology works in a real corporate setting. Right from the beginning, we've recognized the DRUID team's passion for helping us solve some of our corporate problems."
Dave Hodsdon, VP of Operations Liberty Global
Utilizing DRUID's expertise, Liberty Global designed and configured a comprehensive technology platform. This platform seamlessly integrates various conversational solutions with existing technologies, automating a wide range of business processes across different business units. The journey began with the deployment of an intelligent virtual assistant, initially for Virgin Media O2 users in the UK and later a similar tool for instant interaction with Sunrise users in Switzerland.
Throughout the ongoing partnership spanning several years, the DRUID technology platform has empowered the group to personalize and launch a total of six virtual assistants. These tools provide invaluable support to internal users across Liberty Global's companies, particularly in transactional finance. They offer real-time updates on purchase orders, invoice statuses, payment deadlines, and guidance for processes such as supplier onboarding.
What Does It All Mean for Liberty Global?
The deployments have proven successful in meeting Liberty Global's expectations, currently achieving a query resolution ratio of around 65%.
"That means that six and a half out of 10 queries coming through are being answered automatically by the virtual assistant without human intervention. That's exciting because between 50% and 70% of all queries coming in today have pretty straightforward answers. I don't want our committed, experienced, and loyal workforce to have to pick up the same query 10 or 15 times per day. Frankly, that's quite soul-destroying", Dave adds.
Liberty Global's ambition extends beyond achieving time and cost efficiencies through automating routine tasks in a natural, conversational manner for its internal customers. Enabling conversational AI to handle these tasks presents a valuable opportunity for companies. By automating repetitive and mundane processes, organizations can free up their human teams to focus on more complex tasks that require creativity, critical thinking, and strategic decision-making. This not only enhances productivity but also elevates the overall quality of work.
Furthermore, conversational AI systems, equipped with natural language understanding and automation capabilities, can provide consistent and efficient customer service. This improves customer satisfaction while reducing operational costs. In essence, harnessing the power of conversational AI unlocks a wealth of potential, enabling companies to optimize their workforce and allocate human resources where they are most needed, ultimately fostering innovation and driving growth.
"Automation can take care of such routine operations, so we can let them lift the weight of those 65% of queries, and then the teams can focus on driving the resolution of the underlying causes for those queries. The teams can focus on partnering with our customers to provide more value."
A Journey of Ongoing Transformation
The current state of these conversational platforms is just one step in Liberty Global's ongoing journey. Conversational AI can do more than engage with a human user and provide static information. The next development phase focuses on enhancing the virtual assistant's capability to take proactive actions based on user queries. For instance, this may involve automatically sending push notifications to business owners for purchase order approvals or confirming goods receipt to expedite payments.
Furthermore, while the support bots currently reside on Liberty's Sharepoint, ongoing efforts are underway to transition them to Microsoft Teams, the preferred engagement channel. This transition aims to enhance employee value and further streamline interactions.
Conversational AI, a Cornerstone for the Future of Efficient Operations
As the market landscape rapidly evolves, it becomes increasingly crucial to maintain a sustained focus on developing solutions and consistently optimizing conversational AI. This advanced technology can be a game-changer, especially when it comes to achieving clear objectives like those pursued by Liberty Global.
In a world marked by increasing complexity and uncertainty, shared service organizations and their customers face the prospect of encountering even more intricate and costly challenges. Effectively managing these challenges now necessitates solutions founded on flexibility, scalability, and customization—qualities inherent in conversational AI systems.
Moreover, in today's business landscape, there is a growing expectation within the business community that shared services should provide added value to the organization. Simply meeting targets and offering services is no longer sufficient. Conversational AI-powered shared services are increasingly expected to drive greater business efficiency while enhancing client experiences and relationships, making them a cornerstone of future-ready shared service organizations.