By sending a message via Whatsapp to one of Neoenergia’s distributors, the customer will be welcomed with the following message: “Hi, I am Coelba’s – Celpe’s, Elektro’s or Cosern’s virtual assistant”, as the case may be. This is the first step of the customer’s interaction with the technology, which deploys artificial intelligence to simulate a chat. This innovation, available via the Company’s Whatsapp and Facebook message sharing systems, has been transforming relations with customer and has proven to be an important ally in service digitalization, mainly during Covid-19‘s pandemic, when social distancing is mandatory.
Chatbot development is one of the work fronts included in the strategy of Neoenergia’s Digital Connection Project, which deploys, mostly, resources from the National Electric Energy Agency’s Research and Development program (R&D Aneel), focused in transforming the electric sector’s customer experience through digital innovation. Over 60 services are available for customers, ranging from notice of energy outage, reconnection, copy of the energy bill through bar code or PDF and checking debts. Launched in March, chatbot recorded over one million assistances via virtual assistant, only in the first month of operation. In a four-month period, this figure is as high as 2 million and 300 thousand, corresponding to an average of 18 thousand assistances per day.
For requesting Neoenergia‘s services via chatbot, the customer just have to send a message via the distributors’ Whatsapp, numbers 71 3370-6350 (Coelba), 81 3217-6990 (Celpe), 19 2122-1696 (Elektro) and 84 3215-6001 (Cosern). The service is also available via Facebook profiles coelbaoficial, celpeoficial, energiaelektro and cosernoficial.
The technology uses artificial intelligence oriented to understand and adapt communication to the customer’s needs. Two resources are used: Natural Language Process-NLP and Machine Learning-ML. “Both are artificial intelligence resources programmed based on the language and human behavior analysis. The result is an ongoing learning arising from the interaction between the individual and the bot, to enable the dialogue to be as natural as possible”, explains Neoenergia’s Message Solutions supervisor, Mateus Prates.
Among the steps for chatbot construction is the building of conversational flow. In practice, this refers to the possible answers that can be given by the virtual assistant based on the customer’s questions. For achieving this flow, a mapping was prepared based on calls received at the call center, database and history with over 400 thousand talks. This service allowed identifying which services are provided by Neoenergia and which would be eligible to be automated at the chatbot.
“Elements such as the chatbot emotional and intellectual factors, voice tone, language and which media is used, e.g., text, emoji and link, were also considered. In addition, based on the data collected, a continuous monitoring is carried out in order to develop further contents based on answers and interactions made, leading to new insights and communication construction”, says Prates.
If the bot is not able to solve the customer problem, they can be referred to a human assistant for service. However, just 25% of chats are redirected. In total, 75% of requests are solved by the automated resource. The goal is to expand this even more, introducing new services and solutions, such as audio sending and channel integration.
For Neoenergia’s Strategy and Digital Services corporate manager, Renato Suplicy, it should be understood that chatbot is much more than a digital solution. “It operates based on three pillars: the customer journey, creating a solution and digital inclusion. That’s why transforming the customer experience goes beyond automation. The goal is the creation of customer-centered answers, putting their vision and needs as the focus of decisions for creating and developing digital solutions”.
By using apps such as Facebook and Whatsapp, Neoenergia also eases the communication with the consumer. Customers have the opportunity of interacting with the company from their personal channel, and have the flexibility of being served wherever they are. “The technology development arrived to change the company’s level in its consumer relations. With this, we offer accessible products that contribute to the improvement of both internal processes and customer service”, says Neoenergia‘s Research & Development corporate manager, José Antônio Brito.
Launched in March 2020, Digital Connection is considered the most important customer-centered Research and Development (R&D) project in Brazilian electric sector. “The initiative has ten work fronts. Among them, review in processes and journeys, system integration, communication center, new digital channels, such streamlining the virtual store and roll-out of the new app, in addition to a platform aimed at ensuring sustainability, continuity and innovation of processes”, says the Digital Connection project manager and Customer Experience Digital Transformation corporate manager, Inácio Dantas.
The project streamlines processes and customer journeys, integrating service channels for the 14 million Neoenergia’s customers in its four concessions (Coelba-BA, Celpe-PE, Elektro-SP/MS and Cosern-RN). A total of 115 products will be launched over 42 months, improving the consumer experience with a more efficient service.
This initiative is part of Iberdrola group’s response to Coronavirus..