Vodafone keeps customers connected during COVID-19 by using TechSee

In Silico
Vodafone Group is keeping its customers and technicians safe by using TechSee's Remote Visual Assistance technology. (Pixabay)

For years, service providers have diligently worked to cut down expensive truck rolls to customers' homes to fix issues, but with the coronavirus pandemic in play reducing the number of times that a technician needs to step inside a home is vital.

Vodafone Group has been using TechSee's Remote Visual Assistance technology, which it has branded as Vodafone Visual Support, since 2016 and has it deployed across 10 markets. While remote assistance for service provider technicians isn't new—Cox Communications announced this week it was providing virtual assistance by working with Help Lightning—TechSee has pushed its solutions into the realm of augmented reality and artificial intelligence (AI) to help solve issues remotely and quickly.

Unlike some remote virtual assistants, TechSee doesn’t require the customer to download an application to their smartphone or tablet. With TechSee, a Vodafone customer agent can send an SMS to the broadband subscriber that is experiencing a broadband issue. The subscribers click on the link that turns on their smartphone cameras to show the agent a broadband router our set-top box. TechSee supports Android and IoS devices, and also works on tablets.

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By viewing the video stream, a customer agent can find issues, such as incorrect cabling, and direct users on how to fix their problems. Using augmented reality and an algorithm, TechSee is able to diagnose the type of device, the correct cabling and the correct sequencing of the LED lights on a router, among other items.

"As part of the product, we also offer computer vision AI, which means we have a machine that has the capability to look at the physical world of the consumer, understand what it's looking at, identify the target device, like a set of box or router, and then understand the status of the device based on the different cables connected or not connected," said TechSee's Ziv Orr, vice president of business development. "There's a layer on top of it that uses augmented reality to guide the customer to resolve the issue.

"This is like an autonomous self service virtual connection or we can do the same thing with a support agent, which means when the video screen session reaches the agent, we then tell the agents what they're looking at, or the status of the router."

TechSee is a cloud-based solution that runs on Amazon Web Services. Since there are no downloads or sign-ins, the service can be up and running in days. Orr said TechSee implemented 10,00 technician licenses over the weekend for a large U.S. service provider.

In addition to Vodafone Group, TechSee has previously announced customer wins with Sky, Vodafone, Orange, and Virgin Media. For the first time, Verizon has also been announced as a customer in an interview with FierceTelecom, as well as Liberty Global.

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On average, Vodafone, which has a group license with TechSee, has seen a 10% reduction in the number of truck rolls since it started using TechSee, but the number could actually be higher over the past two months due to COVID-19. On average, service providers see about a 22% reduction in truck rolls when they deploy the TechSee solutions.

"We're only sending engineers on site in really important or critical situations or where there's real risk of isolation," said Vodafone Group's Paresh Modi, group head of business development and innovation. "As a result of that, we are seeing a multiple-fold increase in the user sessions. We are finding that we can resolve a number of faults relatively easily. We already had the benefits before, but now with more and more usage of the system we expect to see the truck rolls reduce significantly.

"We're keeping our people safe, and we're keeping critical businesses connected because a lot of businesses are working from home now. So there are a lot of really good benefits that we never thought about when we first deployed these solutions."

Vodafone has also seen a 5% spike in successful first call resolutions using TechSee, and a 15% increase in its net promoter score (NSP.) NSP is used to gauge the loyalty of a firm's customer relationships.

Tel Aviv, Israel-based TechSee was founded in 2015 and has raised $23.5 million to date. In addition to service providers, privately-held TechSee also offers solutions across other verticals such as consumer electronics, retail, insurance, utilities and retail.

Orr said TechSee has several new products on its roadmap, some of which it expects to announce over the coming weeks.

"So instead of the customer agent looking at the video stream, and kind of figuring out what's going on, the plan is to automate this process for the agent," Orr said. "I don't want to get into too many details, but these is kind of ensuring people are using digital tools based on computer vision AI.

"With the coronavirus, the customer is stuck at home. He has a problem. He can simply point the phone at his router and our virtual technician will tell the customer 'This is your device. This is the issue that we're seeing on the device, and using augmented reality, this is how you can fix your device.'"

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