June 4, 2018

How to thrive in B2B with Artificial Intelligence [Case Study]

Are you in a business that sells to other businesses? Then this is a must-read for all your Customer related positions (or at the very least, a must-bookmark).

Today, here's a growing interest in the B2B world, so I decided to examine a real live case with the hope of getting actionable insights.

Customer Service: why it matters more in B2B than in B2C

Everyone should go out of their way to provide good service to their customers, but if you are in B2B you need to be prepared to give AWESOME support. Here’s why:

  • Issues are bigger and harder to solve: B2B companies often sell products or services that handle complex situations (think of a CRM or a cloud service provider). When something goes wrong consequences go further than when a final consumer needs support. Or, if someone needs training, there’s a lot to take into account.
  • Problems are urgent and your support team should be very aware of this. Usually, stuff that comes up in a business takes longer to resolve and, like any other, the B2B customer doesn’t like to wait. Moreover, there’s a boss who doesn’t want to be let down or money or reputations in stake. Or all of them combined.
  • Relationships are key. Consumer purchases are often short-term and tend to be driven by personal wishes (think a new pair of shoes). Whereas business sales impact the whole company. They involve several departments, such as accounting, legal and software. Not to mention, there’s a huge aversion to change. If things work, they’ll most likely stay by your side, and if they don’t, there will be opportunities to get better. Therefore, building strong long-term relationships with these customers is very important.

Here at Aivo, we take this very seriously. In fact, we belive that:

Creating close bonds with customers should not only be a value in a company's culture but also a strategic decision.

Getting real

As I said before, I’ll take the travel industry as an example and tell the story of one of our latest and biggest customers, Amadeus.

Just imagine the impact of the quality of support in a travel agent’s day to day work. There’s a potential traveler on the other side of the phone. In other words, a big opportunity for the agency (and of course, a big commission for the agent). If the agent gives an instant answer with flight details along with hotel and car rental data, there’s a big chance to close the sale at the moment. But if there’s an issue and the traveler gets a “Let me call you back”, chances are he or she will go on and search for the next option. After all, unlike B2B, the vast majority of B2C purchases are emotional and highly impulsive.

Amadeus is a leading technology and innovation provider for the travel industry. The tourism giant sells products and services to travel providers so they can connect with their customers and sell to new ones. Amadeus helps them offer the best options, eases their management efforts and makes them more efficient. Basically, the company’s biggest asset is high quality, precise and clean content.

The company attends all kinds of customers: travel agencies, airlines, rail operators, hospitality properties, car rental companies, tour operators, insurance providers, cruise and ferry lines, and so on.

High-quality products are great but timing is everything

A 30-year trajectory goes a long way when it comes to supporting such quantity and variety of customers. Not to mention a worldwide team of 15.000 people.

However, by 2017 requests were piling up and customers were not always getting what they needed. First of all, travel agents using the Amadeus Selling Platform that had a question were forced to minimize the reservation window to contact human support. This slowed down their workflow terribly. On the other hand, when they actually got an Amadeus agent to assist them they customer had already been put on hold, so opportunities kept slipping by.

This all led to poor customer feedback and high costs to cover the number of resources needed. But still, the inability to give their hundreds of customers instant replies represented an enormous risk.

Adding a chatbot

Last year, the Customer Service team at Amadeus decided to double the bet and offer high-quality support as well as high-quality products.

For this, Amadeus implemented AgentBot, a virtual assistant that understands the users’ natural language as well as their intentions and responds automatically. This would allow Amadeus to guarantee their customers immediate and precise answers over time.

Related read: 10 questions to ask before your company adds a chatbot

The chatbot is equipped with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technology, which means that not only does it understand but it also learns from each interaction.

Amadeus’ system is so wide and has so many functionalities and possible scenarios that only AgentBot could handle that amount of queries.

Personality matters

Amanda - Amadeus AgentBot

Amanda was the name given to the virtual agent that now assists Amadeus’ users. Amanda solves their requests and clears their doubts as if she was a real human agent. Her technical responses and human-like dialogues create a personality of a friendly geek support agent. But unlike human support, Amanda is available to all travel agents that are logged in the platform from any device, 24/7, all year round.

What can you ask her

When an agent access the platform, Amanda is automatically displayed - located at the bottom right corner of the main and the command page.

Although Amadeus hosts training courses and has an extensive Q&A section (and will keep on offering them), Amanda now takes care of agents’ quick questions and doubts automatically.

When asked a question, Amanda detects topics related to the search and offers options for the user to choose from, thereby removing the need to call the helpdesk.

Travel agents get instant answers to their requests regarding:

  • Rates
  • Issuance
  • Reissue
  • Hotels
  • Cars
  • Payment methods
  • EMD
  • Other issues

Constant optimization

If Amanda can’t respond to a question, the conversation is transferred to a support agent that gets notified and answers over the phone or other traditional channels. In the meantime, the question is automatically added to an internal training section at the knowledge base. This generates a broader spectrum of information that later on the bot can provide.

The results

"AgentBot allows us to reduce operational costs and boost our brand as an innovator player in the travel industry."

Diego Bettini - Associate Director, Regional Customer Service - Latin America & Caribbean

Amanda, which is available in all Latin American markets, already solves more than 3.300 cases a month. The bot has had an exceptional degree of adoption and satisfaction among Amadeus’ staff and customers.

To date, of all customer requests 70% go to Amanda and her success rate is a whopping 78%. On one hand, this means that travel agents are leaning more towards automatic services. And on the other, that the virtual assistant can handle most inquiries by itself, without the need to transfer to an expert.

Read the Customer story: Amadeus achieves 70% deflection of traditional channels to automatic services after implementing AgentBot

The Customer Service team estimates this percentage will continue growing and reach at least 90%. Which is ok because there are some complex situations which are better off handled directly by a human agent. Agents now have more time to focus on specific requests and on offering other value-added services.

Using AgentBot, Amadeus now offers world-class support, available 24/7, easy to access, with personalized answers and human-like interactions.

In the near future, Amadeus plans to continue exploring the potential that Artificial Intelligence can bring to Customer Experience.

Watch the video

Quick highlights

  • B2B Customer Service is extremely important. So much so that I dare to affirm that it is even more critical than in B2C companies.
  • You don’t need to be a huge international company to have long-lasting successful relationships with your customers. But you can be inspired by them to achieve that.
  • Most managers still think that investing more time, money and efforts in Sales and Marketing is a good strategy. Focus on the long haul.
  • Start by offering great products or services but also on providing even better content and help. After all, we all just want our day to day work to be more efficient and go more smoothly.
  • Use smart technology to help you meet your goals.

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