Vodafone becomes world's first telco with a digital human

Debuting with help from New Zealand company FaceMe.
Vodafone, FaceMe, Tech, AI, Artificial intelligence, Machine learning, New Zealand, Innovation, Telecommunications, Business, Soul Machines, Air New Zealand, ANZ, Sophie, Customer service

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The digital humans are here.

“Digital humans” are seemingly all the rage these days. There’s Air New Zealand’s Sophie, brought to life thanks to Soul Machines, who can interact with customers online with facial expressions far beyond anything a chatbot or the likes of Siri, Cortana or Alexa could ever hope to achieve.

But as innovative as Sophie is (and, admittedly, she’s far more lifelike than the CGI recreation of the late Peter Cushing in the 2016 Star Wars movie “Rogue One”), “she” is also far from alone. For instance, the bank ANZ has Jamie, who looks eerily similar to Sophie (possibly because Soul Machines also created “her”).

And now we can add a telco employee to the digital human population.

Vodafone has announced it will be the first global telecommunications company to launch an “intelligent digital human,” powered by New Zealand company (and Soul Machines rival) FaceMe.

According to the company, the launch is another example of “how Vodafone is working to transform customer service at every touch point and offer engaging, personalised digital experiences.”

Vodafone’s digital human, whose identity will be revealed in the coming months, will enable customers to benefit from self-service options and free up time for staff to address more complex customer needs.

Vodafone is working with FaceMe to design, build and deliver the digital human and to learn how this could meet the needs of customers today and in the future.

Vodafone director of customer operations Helen van Orton explains: “Great customer experience happens through meaningful conversations. FaceMe has evolved AI technology to create intelligent digital humans that are human-like in their appearance and interaction. Thanks to machine learning, they are capable of continuously learning how to anticipate our customers’ needs and better serve them.”

Van Orton adds the digital human will support frontline staff in delivering exceptional customer interactions.

“Great AI should be designed to enhance what humans do. We’re leveraging technology as a tool to support and empower our staff, by removing repetitive tasks through automation while still maintaining the element of human interaction and to solve customer pain points with digital innovation.

“With the help of our digital assistant, our staff will have the time to help our customers with more complex issues. We are not using our digital assistant to replace frontline staff.”

FaceMe CEO Danny Tomsett says that emotional connection is key for emerging technology. “Research across hundreds of brands in dozens of categories shows the most effective way to maximise customer value is to move beyond customer satisfaction and connect with customers at an emotional level.”

Tomsett says more. “Digital humans combine the best customer experience influencers from both person and machine, embodying the brand of an organisation and creating significant value through emotional connection, personalisation and consistency.”

Vodafone’s digital human journey will begin at select retail stores in Auckland later this year, and will be the first AI-powered digital human in a retail store in New Zealand.

But will Vodafone be bringing digital humans to the Middle East? Only time will tell – but perhaps sooner rather than later.


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