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Are you secretly a fan of being put on hold when you make a call? If so, then prepare yourself for some unwelcome news! As explained in this text, the soul-destroying wait for the “next free Customer Service agent” when you’re placed on hold is set to become a thing of the past.


A Woman driving a BMW uses Alphabet


But how is this possible? The answer is chatbots. These are pieces of software that can automatically accept and understand questions submitted by customers via chat or voice input and provide relevant answers. And, as software doesn’t get tired and is never annoyed, chatbots can perform these tasks around the clock. They’re also more than happy to keep answering the same questions over and over again without starting to feel they’re going crazy. Questions like “Where is the nearest repair shop for drivers of company cars to get their vehicles serviced?”.
This is one of the most frequently asked questions that Customer Service employees at Alphabet Belgium used to have to answer. The Belgian subsidiary of Alphabet, the fleet management service provider within the BMW Group, is responsible for over 50,000 drivers, who keep its Customer Service agents every busy.
By using chatbots, Alphabet is now able to answer these recurring questions around the clock in less than two minutes per question. Customers are no longer placed on hold to wait in a queue. Instead, they immediately receive answers that are straight to the point – and also benefit from the fact that the human employees now have more time to devote to answering more complicated questions.

“I can understand you very well”

Of course, it’s essential that the bot is able to understand what it is that the human customer wants. We humans express ourselves with varying degrees of clarity, and so the software has to be able to handle unusual sentence structures and abbreviated text. Cloud services like LUIS from Microsoft can do just that. The software recognises the intentions behind a question, without the person asking the question having to express it in an unnaturally and blatantly obvious manner. The charm of a software-supported solution like this is that it can understand virtually any language – provided that the necessary groundwork has been laid by the provider. For Alphabet Belgium, for example, the chatbot’s languages are English, French and Dutch.
Chatbots also provide a perfect example of how machine learning can be applied. Using relevant functions supplied by the cloud provider, the bot software can learn from its own mistakes. Which means, for example, that if a bot leaves a query unanswered on its first attempt, it will subsequently learn to answer that same query the next time it is received.
Companies that use chatbots enjoy benefits including reduced costs for Customer Service. According to a study by market research firm Gartner, companies have recorded a reduction of up to 70 percent in queries received by e-mail, chat and phone after introducing a chatbot.
In any case, we at Microsoft believe that it’s high time to allow chatbots to step in and fill that gaping void in interaction that occurs when a caller is placed on hold.