Telefonica AI breakthrough may replace call centres

Telefonica AI breakthrough may replace call centres

Telefónica has presented at MWC its AI platform Aura, which ‘thanks to the application of cognitive capabilities will be the basis for a new relationship model with customers.’


Aura can be used as a phone app and also interacts with Amazon's smart speaker, Echo. It is due to be launched in markets including Spain, Britain and Germany in the coming 12 months, Telefónica said.


But there are fears that UK call centre staff could be made redundant after Telefónica  UK CEO, Mark Evans, said that ‘The UK could be one of the first countries to implement this'.


O2 call centres in the UK are managed by Capita, but Mobile was told be Evans that 'Both Capita and O2 have innovation clauses in the contracts', so a move to using the AURA system would not require termination of contract. With Capita already in a pay dispute with the CWU, it seems likely that any redundancies caused by the adoption of AURA would lead to further conflict.


Presenting the AURA system along with representatives of Facebook, Microsoft, and UNICEF, Telefónica’s Chairman and CEO, José María Álvarez-Pallete and Chema Alonso, the company’s Chief Data Officer, said ‘AURA will enable users to manage their digital experiences with the company and control the data generated by using Telefónica’s products and services in a transparent and secure manner. Telefónica becomes the first company in the industry to provide its customers with the possibility of managing their relationship with the company based on cognitive intelligence.’


Telefónica has invested approximately £40billion in the process of digitalization of its systems since 2012, and says that AURA will ‘facilitate the discovery of new value-added propositions based on the insights of (customer) data and will be available through multiple channels and devices.’


‘Cognitive intelligence will allow us to understand our customers better, so they can then relate to us in a more natural and easy way, and generate a new relationship of trust with them based on transparency and the control of their data’, said Álvarez-Pallete during the presentation event. ‘We are pioneers in this relationship model. Never before have the users of telecommunications services been able to talk with the networks in real time. We’re expanding the relationship with our customers, seeking to increase their satisfaction, and opening new possibilities for them so that they can enrich their digital lives with us’.


A demonstration showed that customers will be able to ask questions about the products and services they use; create and track a claim; manage and unblock device access to the Wi-Fi router provided by Telefónica; get information about their favourite shows and program their recording; or be alerted when their data consumption is greater than usual.


Each user will have a “personal data space”, the memory which will store the digital trace they leave when using Telefónica products and services, and which will allow the customers, if they so desire, to personalize their experience. AURA will also be able to make recommendations about offers of products and services that best adapt to the needs of the user, the contents that adapt to their preferences, the installation of security, or the detection of fraudulent apps.


CWU Assistant Secretary Sally Bridge told Mobile 'It is true to say that Telefonica has been transforming itself into a digital company for around five years or so, and in 2012 established Telefonica Digital. With any advancement in technology there are threats and opportunities, and the announcement by Telefonica of AURA in collaboration with Microsoft is a move into AI whereby the relationship with the customer will be electronic. This undoubtedly has the potential to reduce call centre jobs, and the CWU will need to closely monitor the impact that this may have on our members’ job security.'






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