Future innovation brings together natural language, machine learning and artificial intelligence
Becky Byrne is the head of product management at Brite:Bill. Here she tells George Malim, the managing editor of VanillaPlus, how the company is engaging in natural language, machine learning and artificial intelligence innovation to extend the capabilities of Brite:Bill to more parts of the customer journey.
This won’t be only for the telecoms industry in future but Brite:Bill will continue to focus on its expertise in design-led bill presentment and customer communications that focus on influencing customer behavior and improving the customer experience.
VanillaPlus: What do you see as the most important areas of innovation for Brite:Bill?
Becky Byrne: We’re really focused on reinventing the invoice and transforming it into a communications device for service providers to interact with their customers. Our innovation, therefore, focuses on how to improve that communication piece and extend the conversation with the customer across new channels and touchpoints.
One of our innovation objectives for 2018 is Brite:Bot, a natural language channel that enables us to extend our expertise in billing communications into a spoken exchange between the user and a bot such as Alexa, Siri or even a Facebook Messenger exchange. It’s a natural fit for us because we see it as just another way to talk to the customer. It uses the same data and customer information and offers another channel for customers to ask and get answers on how much they owe or why their bill appears high. As a company, Brite:Bill has the subject matter expertise in all things billing, this is a great addition to our multi-channel approach.
Another area we’re working on is how to improve communications with customers by utilizing machine learning. Our Brite:Now product takes machine learning on the back end to determine the best way to communicate with the customer to achieve a specified goal. This could be to promote sign-up to self-care in the first 30 days of a contract, for example, or to purchase value-added services.
Brite:Now will use machine learning algorithms to identify different groups and decide the best way and channel to communicate with them to achieve the highest rate of success.
VP: Are you seeing increased interest in chatbots?
BB: Yes, and with chatbots the interest is about convenience for customers. If you have Amazon Echos placed throughout your house and suddently think about when your bill is due, you can ask Alexa, or Siri on your iPhone, when is the payment due as well as check the total amount due. This gives customers the ability to get a response instantly without having to stop to look at the invoice or launch an app to do so. I don’t think this will replace detailed bill reading for customers that like to see that level of detail, but for getting a rapid response to a question in the moment you have it, bots are ideal because they provide instant information and gratification.
VP: Are service providers and their end customers ready for these technologies?
BB: 2017 has been about the R&D we’re putting into these products and we’ll be ready to put the fruits of that into customer lab environments during 2018. With Brite:Now and the machine learning aspects of the product, we’re not trying to solve issues with every customer journey on every customer touchpoint; we’re targeting specific painpoints for our customers and the end users. It’s no secret that there are pain points around telecoms customer billing.
Brite:Bill is unique in that we look beyond the constraints of legacy systems to create solutions that tackle these issues and dramatically improve the bill. We can now expand out our expertise and experience to other communications and other structured documents that cause frustration and confusion.
When onboarding a new customer for example, a number of steps in the first 90 or 120 days of new contract can be prioritized, and that is one area we’re focusing on addressing initially. We want to take the insights from machine learning and build on them but do keep in mind that these will be different from market to market and will need to take into account regional differences, the operators’ tone of voice and the different objectives of operators.
With Brite:Now there’s also a retention and contract renewal story that we can bring to our customers which can increase net promoter score or brand loyalty depending on the different priorities of operators and how cohorts of end customers respond to different channels.
We showcased Brite:Bot at Mobile World Congress earlier this year and it was received really well. We’ve had great interest from existing customers and we’re already discussing trials with a leading North American service provider.
VP: What opportunities do you see for Brite:Bill to extend beyond the industry formerly known as telecoms?
BB: Brite:Bill’s specialism is working with structured documents. From the early days of the company we have done this, and the concepts and expertise we have to improve the customer experience of telecoms operator customers can be applied to other industries that use structured documents as well.
Billing issues and other customer painpoints that Brite:Bill can address are not confined to telecoms. If you know more about users’ interests and how best to communicate with them, you can serve them better and that applies to a large number of use cases. We have the core functionality and power within the platform to do this, regardless of the industry it is applied to.
Other verticals that have similar painpoints include utilities, insurance and banking. There are a number of areas we’re evaluating and it’s more a question of when than if we’ll engage in these additional areas.
VP: How has becoming an Amdocs company helped Brite:Bill continue its approach to delivering innovation?
BB: The main thing is we now have the backing of Amdocs and the support to continue doing what we do best. Being part of Amdocs has already opened up the doors to winning further customers. We have the Amdocs customer base to work with now and we’re now part of a much larger organization which reduces the perceived risk of dealing with a smaller software company.
It’s a good relationship because we benefit from the support for our existing consumer and enterprise offerings, and continue to innovate new offerings in the natural language channel, and in machine learning with Brite:Now. Brite:Bill aligns to Amdocs digital strategy to enable service providers to meet their customers in their channel of choice and drive online channel adoption. The synergies deliver greater benefits for an omni-channel billing experience.
We are also expanding our B2B corporate offering with advanced analytics and improved reporting, as part of the joined strategy. Feedback from our customers is that there is a demand for a solution, specifically for midsize corporations.
Also, this has been good for Amdocs as it now possesses the leading bill presentment platform, with proven technology and happy customers. One year on, I think it’s worked well for both Brite:Bill and Amdocs.
VP: How do you maintain focus on the capabilities that make Brite:Bill a specialist?
BB: The main thing to emphasize is that all our initiatives, including the new Brite:Bot and Brite:Now, involve us doing what we do like no other. It’s about understanding the billing data, using our expertise in customer communications and behavioral science and tying these together so operators can achieve their end goals of enhancing the customer experience. We’ll keep it cohesive and continue to apply what we do best to different areas of the customer journey.