Optus 'doubling down' on customer experience through the cloud

The Australian telco has turned to Google for help with boosting its customer experience.

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Image: Optus

A little over a year ago, Optus turned to Google for help with boosting its experience and serving up something customers would be "blown away" by.

According to Optus VP of digital Chris Smith, investing in the search engine giant's cloud platform has allowed the company, among a handful of other things, to deploy a virtual agent -- one that is learning to deliver personalised conversations to customers.

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"At Optus we deal with millions and millions of customers a day. For many years we often thought of our customers as very traditional; they value the brands, they value price, and they weren't so fussed about service," he said, speaking at Google Cloud Summit in Sydney on Wednesday.

"However, our customers have changed, they've changed dramatically in fact that they actually rely now a lot on their peer network. They value, often, experience over price. And they want instant resolution."

See also: Google Cloud Platform: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)  

As a result, Smith said the telco had to "pivot" and ask itself what needed to change to address new customer needs. Optus narrowed it to four principles -- dubbing them as its "North Star".

"Firstly, it has to work ... whatever we give our customers, so we want to be proud that anything we bring to life meets those needs of our customers and actually works, simple," he explained. "Speaking of simple, that's the next one, it has to be simple, especially in this day and age in the digital industries that we are in. We need to have things that are fast, effortless in our interactions with customers."

However, Smith said, it also needs to be personal.

"When I contact Optus, I don't want generic information. I want it specific to me. I want you to know my information, even before I get there -- it has to be personable," he continued. "And then lastly .... it has to be exciting. It's got to actually engage -- what can we do that is so good that customers say, 'Wow, I choose Optus, they're just amazing'."

Smith said Optus has applied its North Star principles to its My Optus app.

"[We're] seeing some amazing results. It's simple, it works, it's personable ... and there's some very amazing things that are going in there," he said. "Whether it's case management in the app, whether it's actually messaging -- which is like WhatsApp in the app -- or what we're doing with Google Cloud Platform around virtual agents.

"Google Cloud Platform is an area where we're really doubling down on the future of the customer experience."

He said Optus' virtual agent provides millisecond response times, 24/7 availability, and offers personalised conversations with customers. He said it was like having a one-to-one relationship with a virtual agent.

"We're doing some next-generation things with the Google Cloud Platform that really, for me, blows me away, things like vision AI, empathy AI, voice AI -- the next generation will be working with the contact centres," Smith said. "How do we actually deliver a solution that's just impressive and blows away our customer base?"

Optus is also compiling all of its data from its network and CRM database to create what Smith called the "next-generation experience".

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