You log into AT&T's Web site with a question about pro-rated charges on your U-verse bill. But, instead of having to hunt for the information or call the contact center , you view a personalized video about the subject.
That vision of media-based answers customized for you has been taking place at AT&T since April for customers who view their bill online. The telecommunications giant said it has reduced the number and length of contact-center calls because of the videos, which are created by SundaySky in New York City.
The videos assemble themselves on-the-fly from pre-built backgrounds, music and pre-recorded audio segments, merged with the user's specific data on a pre-built video template. The viewed video addresses the customer by name, notes recent account activity, and discusses the most relevant billing subjects.
The service, which is delivered to new customers and those who have recently changed their service, has proven to be so popular that AT&T said it is considering extending it to wireless subscribers -- and, eventually, to TVs connected to AT&T's U-verse.
Deno Harrison, AT&T director of digital experience marketing, told news media that, before launching the videos, the company did a "pretty detailed and in-depth analysis of our different customer types," and then conducted an analysis of the kinds of calls received from those customer types. Those questions were then referenced to specific answers that the videos could provide.
Subjects include the status of a payment, when a given bill is due, how much the subscriber owes, and why the payment due is different from what the subscriber believes is due.
'Wean Us Off from Humans'
The video is offered to the customer online during the first two monthly billing cycles, when a service change has recently occurred, or at log-in on the AT&T Web site. At viewing, data is delivered from the billing system about that customer, and is used to generate video graphics depicting the same information.
A tree structure presents the material in an order that makes sense. According to AT&T, 90 percent of customers who take a survey at the end of the video say that it is providing the information they need.
On its Web site, SundaySky said its platform generates "hundreds of thousands of SmartVideos daily that attract traffic , retarget prospects, convert prospects to customers, support customers and enhance customer relationships." In addition to AT&T, SundaySky clients include Office Depot, AOL and Tiger Direct.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, said that more of these kinds of customized, on-the-fly media responses to customer inquiries "are definitely coming in the future."
She added that, increasingly, "companies are trying to wean us off from humans" in their customer service operations. But DiDio raised questions about the security of the customer's data being used by third party companies like SundaySky, and she said it "remains to be seen" if customers are actually satisfied by this kind of service.