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Vodafone Invests £120m to Deploy New SuperTOBi AI Chatbot

Friday, Jul 5th, 2024 (8:23 am) - Score 1,600
Vodafone-UK-SuperTOBI-AI-Chatbot-image

Broadband ISP and mobile operator Vodafone UK has announced that they’ll invest around £120m (Euros 140m) this year to deploy and upgrade their existing AI chatbot system with SuperTOBi, which will support customers via Generative AI (GenAI) technologies from Microsoft Azure OpenAI.

Vodafone already has an existing chatbot system called TOBi, which is being used in 13 countries across Europe and Africa. But the new SuperTOBi system can “understand and respond faster to complex customer enquiries better than traditional chatbots“. SuperTOBI has already been introduced in Italy and Portugal and will start serving customers in Germany and Turkey from this month, with other markets to follow “later this year“.

NOTE: Vodafone sibling VOXI recently claimed to have become “the first telco in the UK” to develop and deploy a Large Language Model (LLM) based AI chatbot, using the popular ChatGPT framework from OpenAI (here).

SuperTOBi can also interpret entire sentences and phrases, overcoming the limitations of existing chatbot technologies (and some humans 🙂 ), which typically can answer only simple questions based on a few keywords. “It also engages in more natural conversation with customers for a more personalised experience, rather than one- or two-word answers, and it will automatically transfer a question it can’t answer to a person that can,” said the announcement.

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Vodafone claims that the use of SuperTOBi in Portugal is already being used for booking appointments. As a result, the first-time resolution rate has increased from 15% to 60% and Vodafone’s online net promoter scores (where respondents are asked to rate their experience) improved by 14 points to 64 points (above 50 points is considered a strong result), although booking appointments isn’t exactly the hardest of tasks.

However, consumer sentiment toward the use of AI chatbots tends to be quite mixed, with many viewing it as being more of a negative and just a way of reducing the number of actual humans that are available to provide support over the longer term. 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.

Speaking of staff, Vodafone’s own customer care employees will shortly be “complemented” by an enhanced bot assistant of their own, called SuperAgent, which is based on the same sort of technologies as SuperTOBi (i.e. Microsoft Azure OpenAI’s Agent Copilot solution). This should help human agents to “quickly search and locate answers to complex queries or multiple questions” (remember when humans could do that by themselves?).

In Ireland, SuperAgent is assisting agents by sending a summary of its online customer conversation to the agent, so customers don’t need to repeat themselves. So, it’s probably not going to try and take over the world just yet, while simultaneously settling your billing woes and randomly hunting for people with the name John Conner.

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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
14 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Name says:

    This can be true… except this is some kind of tax evasion.

  2. Avatar photo Michael V says:

    Previous experience with him has been good but when it came to asking about switching to esim recently, he couldn’t understand what I was asking & I ended up talking with a human.
    A lot of work is needed but I’m happy to embrace it.

  3. Avatar photo htmm says:

    I don’t mind a chatbot-based customer service if there is a clearly defined process how to get to a human agent immediately. I am yet to find a chatbot which can reliably solve even simple problems.

  4. Avatar photo Richard says:

    Hate chatbots. I want to chat with a real person, and one who can fix things

    1. Avatar photo Jimbo says:

      i agree,i hate chatbots rather speak to human.

      I tried to cancel a contract via toby,and it assume i want to go to a concert!!!!

  5. Avatar photo Toby says:

    toby is compleatley usless cant answer rquestions dosent understand compleate waste of time they should save the £120 million spend elswere

  6. Avatar photo Sam says:

    Invest that money in real agents answering chats. Preferably in the UK. You’ll get better results.

  7. Avatar photo carlconradw says:

    Having had a miserable recent experience first with their Bot and then with their foreign call centre on chat I was so unimpressed with Vodafone that I dropped them and have signed up with Plusnet. Full marks to their Sheffield office who were superbly efficient and courteous. I pay more with Plusnet but it’s worth it,

  8. Avatar photo Clearmind60 says:

    This is a cost cutting exercise, after the scam calls from india who have access to all the UK databases, then companies are going to put their customers through this!! Horrible mistake.

  9. Avatar photo Stop the the nonsense says:

    It’s probably better the current stupid unintelligent call centre. What happened to UK Based call centres

    1. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      Vodafone worked out that they’d make more money with crap offshore call centres, that’s what happened. Be under no illusions, big companies run continuous analysis of reasons customers state for leaving, for customer experience scores. They know full well that their web service is crap, they know that their chatbots are crap, they know that their AI is crap, they know that their offshore centres are crap-squared. But most see no reason to offer more costly UK based call centres because they don’t care about customers, other that that you keep paying them. Where would you take your mobile business for really good customer service? Won’t be Three, they’re dreadful, won’t be VMO2 who are world class appalling. BT/EE at least have UK call centres, but they’re a very costly provider (far more so than the UK call centres actually cost), and they’ve still not cracked giving really good service.

  10. Avatar photo Oliver says:

    Current chatbots are bloody awful and I usually try and get it to switch me to a person as my queries are usually more complex than ‘how can I pay my bill’.
    Gen-AI has huge potential in this space and the data in the article seems to show it is producing good results. In time, as the model training is improved, it should be able to provide better answers and also much better advice for 1st line CSRs.

  11. Avatar photo Tim says:

    I hate Chatbots. They annoy me as much as the voice activated menus when calling companies.
    I always want a way to bypass it and speak to someone. Quite ironic that a communications company is doing everything they can to not communicate with customers. I am sure the chatbots are useful in some situations but generally I feel it goes round in circles just like the automated systems when calling.

  12. Avatar photo SuperLegoTobAi says:

    That face looks familiar.. hes a Lego fireman

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