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Vodafone NZ’s Automation Journey with Tech Mahindra

 

Humble beginnings

Tech Mahindra and Vodafone New Zealand began their partnership in 2017 with a proof of concept for leveraging RPA in billing for one customer segment. Following its success, it evolved to a complete revamp of the telecom’s CX operating model using automation.

The two companies created a shared team to discover, perform RPA feasibility checks, justify, and implement automation interventions targeting repetitive manual tasks. Within Vodafone, the dedicated technical delivery unit sits outside the technology practice with the goal to build business cases and prioritize bots. It has specialized team members consisting of process and product experts with different domain knowledge such as billing and payments, provisioning, and collections. The Vodafone experts are paired with a Tech Mahindra business transformation team of engineers and RPA consultants.

The joint team has deployed ~100 bots, currently processing ~1.5m transactions annually for Vodafone NZ. Typically, these implementations take between two and three weeks and sit on top of existing systems without a need for platform modifications. The decision process involves the impacted business owner who advocates for the resulting cost savings to the organization. The team runs ongoing assessments of the automation outcomes with a dedicated automation framework to measure uptime, utilization, and resolution time; for example, on bots with a restricted time of operation. The team also evaluates the resulting new opportunities.

At the beginning of 2019, the team expanded in size and scope to address new back-office processes, handling additional transactions, and moving into more customer-facing processes such as technical support. It broadened its remit to other departments such as Wholesale and Infrastructure, Experience and Commercial, Enterprise, Finance, HR, and Legal.

Tackling the biggest customer pain points

One of Vodafone’s biggest call drivers is unplanned network outages for broadband consumer customers. Historically, the telecom relied on the customers to notify it about disruptions in their area, and it then coordinated with local internet provider Chorus, amending its IVR messages and communication. The Vodafone Automation team invented and implemented a solution (named UNO – Unplanned Network Outage) Notification Automation to direct monitoring of the supplier’s event server with automated checks to measure the impact on Vodafone customers, triggers to the CRM to identify them, and then connections to the network for automated SMS notifications during and after the outage. It also noted on the billing system to issue compensations. As a result, after three weeks at the end of 2019, Vodafone saw an 80-85% call reduction during broadband outages (there were typically 10k of these calls per month).

In another example, the team is looking at migrating customer accounts between its four CRM systems. This highly manual process involves multiple parent and children accounts which the agent must move for every customer request manually. The team is now deploying RPA to capture and transfer account data between the systems. The company’s objective is to move all customers by Q1 2022.

For enterprise billing, Vodafone and Tech Mahindra built a bot to pull information across a hierarchy of dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of billing accounts across three billing systems and present a summary. Before the automation, an employee could take up to five days to create the summary using various formats. The automation shortened the period to one hour and enforced standardization of the output with a more user-friendly design. The summary is now used by both the customers and Vodafone employees such as account managers, enterprise helpdesk, and collections.

Automation roadmap

Today, Tech Mahindra has CX service employees for Vodafone NZ onshore in Christchurch and in India, as well as a separate business service center migrating ~200k clients of the telecom from a legacy system stack.

It also has an offshore RPA management team responsible for the design, deployment, and 24x7 maintenance of the existing automation. A big part of the maintenance is adjusting to the upcoming platform and system changes. For example, in the billing account migration, the IT department is making upgrades and changes in parallel. Vodafone is also on the path to implementing Amazon Connect, which will benefit from automation to make task requests easily visible and usable by the frontline staff.

Next, Tech Mahindra and Vodafone RPA teams are focusing on database and API solutions; for example, integrating customer requests captured over different channels such as the mobile app or the web self-service portal in an omnichannel environment, including the contact center and the IVR.

Also planned is enhancing self-service; for example, for requesting refunds, changes to direct payments, other planned outages, and providing access to this information in the retail stores.

RPA as a standard solution

Tech Mahindra is looking to position its RPA practice in a proactive approach accepting the potential cannibalization of managed CX operations and committing to an overall cost reduction of 30% for Vodafone over the next three years. It aims to evolve from a UI to API approach with RPA deployments having a longer uptake and wider applications. For example, it is creating an RPA prioritization forum with Vodafone to establish the financial benefit for selected workstreams from a backlog of opportunities.

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