At T-Mobile, AI plays supporting role for customer service reps

Artificial intelligence (AI) as intermediary is among the most popular tools in support, with businesses frequently dispatching software bots instead of humans to serve customers.

You’ve likely experienced this trend firsthand when you’ve called a customer service number and an interactive voice response (IVR) system routed you to the right information funnel (if you’re lucky). Or maybe you’ve navigated a website and a bot with a human name asked, via a blinking chat window, how they can help you.

T-Mobile is taking a different tack, using AI to augment the customer experience rather than intercept the caller on the way to the human helper, according to CIO Cody Sanford, who has spent the past few years transforming the telco company’s operations. T-Mobile has built an AI solution, based on proprietary algorithms and commercial tools, that helps support call center representatives assist customers.

Ostensibly, the company is helping the humans who take care of humans. “A lot of companies use AI for intercepts,” Sanford tells CIO.com. “We use the technology to bring closer to our customers.”

Beyond the pseudo-novelty of deflecting calls with AI, T-Mobile’s approach is refreshing because it belongs in the bucket of AI augmenting humans, rather than AI replacing humans. That’s a critical distinction for corporate workers, many of whom are concerned that automation is swallowing their jobs.

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