Entering its centenary year in 2020, Qantas has undoubtedly faced many challenges in its 100-year history as Australia’s largest and oldest airline. Yet the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic brought a new level of disruption and chaos across the globe, impacting major industries, none more so than domestic and international travel.
The COVID-19 crisis resulted in heavy travel restrictions, with Qantas facing a precipitous reduction in operations for an unknown period. As Qantas’ strategic delivery partner for over five years, Kinetic IT needed to ensure Qantas remained confident and supported in their response to the challenge.
Working together, both Qantas and Kinetic IT recognised the need to be adaptive, lean and unified in an approach to its new-world managed ICT service delivery engagement while remaining sensitive to the unique situation faced by both organisation’s employees.
Key areas to be addressed included a reduction in service hours from 24/7 to standard business hours, sustainment of critical IT and communication systems, as well achieving overall cost reductions. Maintaining exceptional employee and customer experience was a priority for Qantas and Kinetic IT, so the solution needed to deliver the same quality of service as a human Service Centre agent while being user-friendly and ensuring a high level of security.
Prior to COVID-19, simple requests such as password resets and account unlock requests accounted for over half of the 18,000 calls per month received by the Qantas Service Centre. During the early implementation phase of reduced Service Centre hours, high call volumes persisted due to the changing nature of Qantas’ operations and its supporting systems, and the reduced agent capacity was driving longer wait times.
Kinetic IT identified these high volume, low value demands as an effective and viable improvement opportunity and proposed a Virtual Agent service solution that would deliver immediate service and cost efficiency benefits for Qantas.
‘AVA’ joined the Qantas Service Centre Team as an Automated Virtual Agent, taking over-identify verification and fulfilling simple requests such as password resets. This allowed human Service Centre agents to perform more complex and high-value services such as escalations, process activities and incident management.
AVA is a cloud-native, serverless solution developed using Amazon Web Services and secure integrations with Qantas on-premise systems and ServiceNow. When AVA went live, the caller would first speak to a human agent who would brief them on the change in service before transferring to AVA to complete their interaction. Upon completion, the caller was returned to the human agent to discuss their experience.
This soft launch approach enabled Qantas employees to be slowly introduced to AVA and allowed the solution team to monitor and tune the Natural Language capability to best suit the Qantas environment. Caller feedback was actively sought during the soft launch as it allowed Qantas employees to be part of the process, improving acceptance of AVA’s future position in the Service Centre team.
Following this period of active training, AVA was promoted to the Service Centre as a virtual agent, allowing employees to engage with her directly at any time of the day and receive the same service they would from a human agent.
- ~40% of contacts to the Service Centre have had call wait times eliminated due to AVA handling password reset and account unlock calls
- 200+ hours saved per month for Qantas staff through the elimination of wait times
- 99.89% conversational success rate when the caller provides the correct proof of identity
- +60% of monthly call volumes during reduced services being handled by AVA
- +85% Service Experience score. Feedback for AVA has been favourable (examples provided below)
- Reduction in costs, with the automation agent costing less than a human agent
- Improvement in staff engagement through the removal of repeatable tasks and working on more meaningful activities
AVA has remained a key enabler for Qantas employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following AVA’s implementation, the Qantas Service Centre doubled its call handling capacity, with human agents free to spend more time on what they do best – supporting customers on complex and valuable calls.
A primary driver of AVA was to return time to Qantas employees so they could focus on providing a premium service to their customers. Prior to AVA’s go-live, Service Centre call wait times averaged 1 – 2 minutes. With AVA, there is no wait time for simple requests such as password resets and account unlocks. Users can get their password immediately after answering their security questions and swiftly get back to work. With password reset volumes averaging 8,000 each month, this single use-case eliminated more than 200 hours a month in wait time.
AVA’s arrival has been strongly welcomed by Qantas employees, with the majority of feedback indicating service quality is the same or better than before she joined the Service Centre. Below are some of the many survey responses from end-users praising AVA:
- “When I got off the phone to AVA, I told my colleagues it was the best IT experience I have had in the 10 years I have worked here. Well done. Great use of technology to automate a process. And would allow IT experts to focus on more complex questions.”
– Head of External Communications
- “Probably the best-automated system that I have ever had the pleasure to use. Congratulations”
– Ground Handler
- “Very amazed at how easy and fast the whole process of unlocking my account was”
– Engineer Cabin Systems
- “Best thing you have invented, now I can reset my password after hours”
– Customer Journey Lead
- “This is the best way moving forward. AVA is efficient. It’s better than calling and waiting in the que to be answered. Thank you AVA”
– First and Business Class Flight Attendant
- “Saves me time waiting on the phone for someone just to reset my password. this auto service is great”
– Accounts Receivable Coordinator