Artificial intelligence meets customer communications

20,000 queries per week are presorted automatically – everyone’s a winner.

Artificial intelligence - linked networks with over 100,000 nodes
Artificial intelligence - linked networks with over 100,000 nodes

Artificial intelligence is one of the great buzzwords of our time: machines and computer systems that can learn autonomously, automate intelligent processes and independently solve problems. Think of HAL 9000 from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the replicants from Blade Runner or Ava from Ex Machina. Is that all just science fiction? Not quite. In many areas, artificial intelligence is already an integral part of our lives: chess computers or Siri and Alexa are just two examples of this. 

What are the prospects for these technologies at innogy? Is our future a super-intelligent HAL 9000 that can do any kind of work? Probably not. Nevertheless, artificial intelligence is being used within the Group: 

In Retail, in the private and commercial customer segment, there are approximately 20,000 customer queries per week – over 1 million per year. These are presorted by an autonomously-learning AI system whose core comes from ITyX, a medium-sized company from Cologne. Emails and text messages are digitally recorded and analysed. Letters are scanned and analysed via OCR (optical character recognition), This has little to do with lists of keywords – linked networks with over 100,000 nodes develop during the AI learning process. 

The documents that are presorted using the artificial intelligence are then transferred into the customer relations management (CRM) system via an interface. This software is used by all the front- and back-office employees at the call centre. The right work tasks are automatically created here and assigned to the employees who have the right qualifications for this customer correspondence. For example, someone who is just starting out in the call centre would be assigned the task of updating a customer's bank account details, while a specialist with many years of experience would be assigned a complex task, even though nobody – except for the AI – has read anything up to that point. 

The system is operating productively in Retail, so it is now set to be used Westnetz to process their post. Westnetz receives about 500,000 customer letters per year, which is only about half the number received by Retail. However, their contents are quite different: they are more freely composed texts whose contents are often complex and also include many extensive forms.  Within the ongoing “eKuSS” project, the “OCR” subproject is tasked with automatically scanning, sorting, archiving and transferring Westnetz’s postal communications to the CRM system. Here too, the CRM system should also ensure that the right employee is assigned the right task.

Karin Hausdorf, who is overseeing this issue in both Retail and at Westnetz, sees artificial intelligence as crucial for the future: "I believe that artificial intelligence will play an important role in our private and professional futures. Self-driving vehicles and chatbots are two areas where the future has already begun. But I also believe that artificial intelligence will never replace the combination of a person's logical, social, and emotional intelligence – what we call ‘common sense’.”

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