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Mobile Operator VOXI UK Launch First AI Chatbot to Support Customers

Thursday, Mar 7th, 2024 (11:31 am) - Score 1,720
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Contract-free mobile operator VOXI, which is Vodafone’s virtual network operator (MVNO) sibling, today claims to have become “the first telco in the UK” to develop and deploy a Large Language Model (LLM) based AI chatbot to help “transform its customer services“.

The new system has been built in collaboration with Accenture and is being powered by the popular ChatGPT framework from OpenAI. VOXI believes that this new LLM generative AI chatbot “will improve the customer experience by engaging in human-like interactions and managing more sophisticated customer requests“. No doubt if it works it’ll also enable them to cut costs too, like jobs.

The new chatbot also leverages an “AI safety framework” developed in collaboration with “industry experts” to ensure a responsible and ethical deployment of artificial intelligence technology, which incorporates principles and guidelines aimed at protecting customers. So hopefully, it won’t try to take over the world, while simultaneously settling your billing woes, and then start randomly hunting for people with the name John Conner etc.

The VOXI Chatbot will initially be made available to only a “small number” of customers to limit the chances of world domination ensure any issues are quickly identified and resolved, before being rolled-out wider.

Scott Currie, Head of VOXI by Vodafone, said:

“We’re delighted to be the first UK telco to give our customers the chance to try this exciting new technology in an easy-to-use chatbot. By leveraging the power of Generative AI, we are taking a significant step forward in enhancing customer support, reinforcing VOXI’s commitment to innovation, and delivering on our ambition to offer the best customer experience in the market.”

But you know what really helps improve “human-like interactions” in customer support teams, using actual humans. Just an idea. On the other hand, if systems like this do end up making it quicker and easier for customers to get their issues resolved, then that will be a positive change.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
29 Responses
  1. Avatar photo wow says:

    I hate Chatbot – useless!

    1. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      You’re asking it the wrong questions. πŸ™‚

      It isn’t it’s fault that you can’t ask questions that it knows the answers to. πŸ™‚

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      counterpoint – you find the weaknesses in its programming and exploit them.

      “yes I would happily agree to let you pay Β£0.01pm for unlimited minutes, texts and data”

      wasn’t there a case in Canada where an airline had to abide by what the “AI” had agreed with a customer.

    3. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      Brilliant lol

    4. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      @Ivor

      Yes there was such a case in Canada. It’s was covered by the Art Of Law’s YouTube channel here:-

      https://youtu.be/dzP5qpp_3TA?feature=shared

  2. Avatar photo NE555 says:

    “Mobile Operator VOXI UK Launch First AI Chatbot to Support^W Annoy Customers”

    FTFY.

    I trust it goes as well as it did for Air Canada, when the chatbot made up company policies on refunds that didn’t actually exist.

    https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20240222-air-canada-chatbot-misinformation-what-travellers-should-know

  3. Avatar photo John says:

    Voxi has some of the most obnoxious YouTube ads

    Have all the good marketers retired and now the new caste is exclusively taught social engineering rather than just selling the product

    1. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

      Its because VOXI is targeting the social media generation. Its the whole business plan (free social media data).

    2. Avatar photo ex-techie says:

      I don’t know if it’s me getting older and grumpier, but the current style of marketing is all “alright fam, i got chu” for EVERYTHING now. Remember when everything had to have a song jingle?

    3. Avatar photo JP says:

      The good ole days

  4. Avatar photo htmm says:

    Meanwhile other providers (Spusu, for example) are explicitly telling you their support team is actual humans and not customer repellent bots. For me, this was one of the selling point when I switched away from Voxi.

    1. Avatar photo Andrew says:

      I was with Spusu, until I stopped getting OTP’s, they blame ofcom, they couldn’t get a proper/real app either, it was just a web link

      The customer services when I spoke to them seemed to barely understand my issues

    2. Avatar photo htmm says:

      Fortunately I have a completely different experience with the customer service (and I don’t care if they had an app or not). However, I noticed the missing OTP text issue, although only from one sender (Halifax) but it works now.

      To stay on-topic, when I had to call Voxi’s customer service I realized there is no phone customer service just some chat that didn’t work at all. Somewhere in the small print I found a complaints phone number and there they were able to help eventually.

  5. Avatar photo j karna says:

    “Come with me if you want to live.”

  6. Avatar photo Bob says:

    I’d rather they supported esim!

    1. Avatar photo Andrew says:

      They do – sort of, put the SIM in your iPhone and use Apple Quick Transfer to convert it to an eSIM, obviously iOS only for now, not sure about Android, but I am sure it’ll come

    2. Avatar photo Mark says:

      @Andrew tell me more please, I have a 1P Mobile Sim in my iPhone and it has an option to turn into an eSIM, are you saying it will actually work if I select that? I’d love for it to do so, then I can have my Smarty SIM in my phone too.
      Is their a chance it’ll mess up if I try the option and 1P don’t support it officially?

    3. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT212780#convert

      But only works “if your network provider supports it”

  7. Avatar photo Peter Delaney says:

    Yes, humans. A complete pain.

    A totally computer driven customer services is what you want. Won’t solve your customers’ problems any better but it will make them give up and go away quicker.

    Result.

  8. Avatar photo Vince says:

    ‘transform’ … to total garbage I imagine based on how well ‘AI’ is doing.

  9. Avatar photo Ed says:

    Remember 20-25 years ago when businesses discover that the “information superhighway” would allow them to send customer service jobs overseas, and they then spent millions doing just that? Well even if it was as good, it certainly wasn’t as popular so some of them (such as EE/BT) then spent millions bringing them back and now advertise as “all calls answered in UK and Ireland”.

    While AI can undoubtedly help with some of the call process (verification, getting them to the right department, and so on), I can’t help but think that in twenty years time we’ll see adverts for “all calls answered by humans”.

    One final thought. Let’s assume that someone (like the owner of a certain rainforesty online shop, for example) invents a robot that can do everything a human can, and replaces 99% of all workers. Who’s then going to be able to afford to buy his stuff?

    1. Avatar photo Matt says:

      They are already on the way to doing that through through their aquisition og Kiva systems in 2012.

      As of June 2019, Amazon had more than 200,000 robots working in their warehouses. Amazon now (January 2020) has more than 200K robots (they call them “drives”) in their warehouses. Cathie Wood in 2023 predicted that by 2030 Amazon warehouses will have more robots than people by adding about 1000 per day; should have 1M total in 2024 (next year), instead of linear predicted 800K. Newest warehouses already have more robots than people. Amazon Robotics introduced the robotic tech vest in 2019.

      Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Robotics#Acquisition_by_Amazon

      Here’s a video of some of them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SvTdW4OLUQ

  10. Avatar photo Dave says:

    Hopefully it will have the ability to correct billing errors. I spent an hour on live chat to a chap in Three’s UK-based executive team who somehow ended up putting me in more debt than when I started and didn’t know how to fix it.

    A bit later I had a quick chat with a fella in their Indian call centre and he had the problem resolved to my satisfaction in less than 5mins.

    1. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      Lesson here is that often a person is stupider than a computer.

  11. Avatar photo Patrick says:

    ” enhancing customer support” = Saving money by reducing staff and providing worse service.

    eg Octopus Energy are using AI in email replies. I tried to enquire (I’m not a current customer)
    .The exchange was slow and completely unsatisfactory. Then it simply gave up and stopped replying.

  12. Avatar photo Jonny says:

    The aim of a chatbot is to reduce costs, everything else that a company puts out in statements about them is fluff.

    If an entire industry sector agrees to cut costs by replacing workers with software, then nobody loses out in response to the falling customer satisfaction.

  13. Avatar photo Gavin Davies says:

    I don’t mind robots, but there no better than Google search. Most of they are just a waste of time and annoy me as I just want the answer that sometimes only a human has the brains to answer.

    “Like when is the 02 and Vodafone mast being repaired in Milton Keynes, that was taken out by a car on a roundabout.

  14. Avatar photo Archie Henderson says:

    I have just spent 1h10m using the supposed chat system on Vodafone after tobi could not resolve my issue after about 5 mins. I requested a human and was passed to two call handlers. After circa 50 mins with the first handler, he then informed me I was on the plan handlers, and I needed the PAYG handlers and transferred me. How he could not identify initially from the number and account details is beyond my comprehension. I was giving up by now! Almost. Transferred to handler two and told him if it wasn’t resolved within 10 mins I was done. after 20 m I called enough and binned to contact. That is my next move with Vodafone after putting up with their crap service for13 years. The problem was SIM related and would not connect or read data. Their app worked fine and showed me everything I wanted but would just not connect. Requested a new sim card it arrived today with a new number. However, I wanted to retain my old number and duly requested a PAC code. Stupidly I wanted to transfer my credit funds to the new sim card. It seemed beyond them after an inordinate amount of time verifying my accounts and ID. Absolutely shocking service. If this is what we have to look forward to we are going backwards and like everything in the world these days, it has become a Mad, Mad, Mad, World.

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