Out of its infancy – Smart TINKA goes live on t-mobile.at
For three years now, Tinka, T-Mobile Austria's digital service assistant, has been supporting customers and interested parties with questions about products, prices and contracts. Now, she is about to take the next big step in her development; Tinka will become "smart" with the help of Artificial Intelligence.
A beta version of smart Tinka has been in use since March 2017. But now the time has finally come! Tinka has learned enough and has outgrown this phase. Her Artificial Intelligence is now available to all of T-Mobile's website users.
We spoke with Tinka and her product manager at T-Mobile Austria, Daniel Krüger, about this important event.
Hello Tinka. One year has passed since your introduction on t-mobile.at. What did you do last year? Tell us about it ...
Indeed, last year I was very busy. On average, each of my conversational partners asked me around 2.4 questions per month. With approximately 50,000 conversations per month; that's roughly 120,000 questions. So I've had my work cut out. In addition, of course, I had to learn a lot to become more intelligent today than ever before.
That's remarkable, really! Why do you think, your help is well regarded?
I think visitors appreciate my support for several reasons:
- Although it is hard sometimes, I work 24/7, which means I'm available to users around the clock, at any time of the day or night and every day of the week including weekends.
- I can have any number of conversations at the same time - so no one has to be placed on hold. This way I can help my users quickly and efficiently.
- I save users from having to search for content on the website or in the FAQ, in turn saving them precious time and nerves.
Daniel, why did T-Mobile Austria decide to upgrade Tinka with Artificial Intelligence?
Basically, Tinka has always been very good at dealing with short, precisely formulated inquiries. An inquiry like "bill too high" for example, she always understood without any problems. However, if users wanted to talk to her in natural language and typed in very long sentences, she was stretched to her limits. There was definitely potential for improvement.
We want users to be able to talk to Tinka as naturally as possible. To achieve this, we counted on Artificial Intelligence, which in the future will not only react to keywords, but also analyse the user's intention.
Tinka, what did you learn during the last few months?
Since the introduction of my AI version in March 2017 a lot has happened. The most important aspect is certainly switching and continuously developing further in the field of natural language understanding (NLU) - more precisely using recurrent neural networks (RNN) with long short-term memory (LTSM).
In addition, I've learned a lot of T-Mobile-specific vocabulary over the years, which helps me in turn to better understand customer inquiries. It was also essential to select and prepare the right training data, because all my skills are based on this data.
In the meantime, six of the most important and complex use cases have been implemented with NLU. At the same time, I use a semantic search (based on Siamese Neural Network) to answer as many questions as possible about T-Mobile Austria. This way, my knowledge now includes an additional 1,000 niche specific FAQs.
Another improvement concerns my memory; I'm now able to remember some previous parts of the conversation. If a user tells me that they have a problem with the battery of their Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus and then ask me for the user manual, I conclude that it's the user manual for the Galaxy S8.
Daniel, what part will smart Tinka play at T-Mobile Austria?
Tinka should offer our customers and interested parties a central point of contact for questions or problems. In many cases she can provide the answer or solution. However Tinka doesn't have to solve all problems independently. It's just as important that Tinka knows when she needs human support - and that she can get it as easily as possible, e.g. by handing over to a live chat agent. The intention is to focus on helping our users as fast, as easy and as competently as possible.
Can customers expect purchase advice from Tinka in the future?
The first use case regarding purchase advice has already been implemented. As T-Mobile Austria has more and more internet products in its portfolio, we want to help potential customers to find the right product without having to click through lots of pages and technical details. Our experience so far shows that this service is highly appreciated.
We've heard that you solve customer problems even before they arise. Is that true Tinka?
Of course I'm not psychic (yet). :) However, in some cases I can answer frequent questions in advance. When the user is looking at their current invoice, for example, I can offer to explain the most common questions about the invoice.
Where will you be located in the future?
I will continue to assist visitors of t-mobile.at on almost every page, ready with help and advice. In addition, you can click on a link in the navigation to receive my advice on internet products immediately.
Daniel, what are T-Mobile's intentions for TINKA's future?
Of course we have projected ahead for 2018 and beyond already. We want to develop Tinka more and more into a really smart personal assistant in the future. Therefore the year 2018 will be highly influenced by personalisation. Ideally, Tinka should be able to provide users with tailor-made information, e.g. about their currently free units or why the individual bill may be higher than expected.
In addition, we will gradually connect her to T-Mobile Austria's Customer Relationship Management System to enable her to make certain changes, e.g. storing a customer's new billing address.
Tinka will also be a central contact point on Facebook in the future.
That sounds promising. We wish T-Mobile Austria and especially you, Tinka, the very best for the future and hope that you will continue to satisfy many users. Is there anything else you want to tell us?
Yes, I would like to thank everyone who worked so tirelessly to make me smarter!