China Unicom faced huge challenges in operating a centralised customer contact centre serving users in 31 provinces across China. The centre handles the largest number of users (420 million) and the highest traffic volume (100 million calls/month) in China.
Processing this volume of user queries, complaints, and issues was an uphill battle. Even with the help of chatbot and service agent, customer satisfaction was relatively low. The centre’s chatbot could not answer questions correctly due to issues with voice recognition; the correct semantic recognition rate sat at around 85%, preventing users from resolving problems without assistance.
Agent efficiency was also an issue. Products and services vary across the 31 provinces the center serves, requiring agents to have in-depth knowledge of specifications and processes. Customer issues were typically resolved manually by agents - a less efficient approach. The level of knowledge needed by agents meant that training new employees was also time-consuming, and this level of specialisation meant that proficient agents needed to be on standby, resulting in high labour and operational costs.
To meet these challenges, China Unicom Contact Centre 10010 has creatively implemented AI technologies – especially GenAI – to improve customer experience and agent efficiency.
The first in the industry, a unified dialect foundation model is deployed to effectively identify various dialects within Mandarin, with the overall recognition rate being 92%. With high accuracy in dialect recognition, the model can serve 6 million users daily, pushing the service satisfaction rate to 98%. The innovative intent recognition technology that integrates few-shot learning and deep learning significantly improves the upper limit of dialog understanding and effectively resolves intent entanglement issues. The accuracy of FAQ and intent recognition can reach 98.9% and 98.4%, respectively.
By providing a highly humanized AI voice interaction and then switching to manual agents in a timely manner based on emotion recognition, the centre has delivered a much-improved customer experience.
During the self-service process, calls can be connected to manual agents in a timely manner through emotion recognition. The manual call connection rate reaches 96.8%, and the manual call connection rate within 15 seconds is 85% or higher.
To facilitate customer communication, the voice labelling mechanism has been standardised to ensure recognition of elements such as accent, pitch, volume, and speed in the voice dataset. The incremental learning mechanism then gradually optimises the voice recognition model to reduce the error rate, providing all end users with a consistent voice recognition experience. The customer’s emotional status can be predicted using converged data, and phoneme data with no related information can be used to increase the quantity of training data for emotion status recognition, improving the efficiency and accuracy of emotion status recognition.
More importantly, the data is categorised by level and handled according to security regulations, compliance requirements, and technical specifications for the entire lifecycle – from collection, transmission, storage, use, transfer, and destruction. The solutions specify the responsible departments and processing processes at each stage and establish routine monitoring, warning, audit, and emergency handling mechanisms to ensure data security. Service switchover and recovery can be completed within minutes with the help of the active-active DR architecture based on the data centres located in Xi’an-Xianyang and Wuxi.
To assist the contact center agents, the dialog data between agents and users is used to build an industry dictionary library. Coupled with a new word discovery algorithm, they can automatically generate core dialog content and critical information based on the post-trained foundation model of the communications industry to recommend communication corpuses to agents in real time. Service data is used to continuously iterate models to improve the dialog abstract capability of the platform, helping agents by standardising and improving the efficiency of order creation.
Additionally, agents are assisted by a LLM-based heuristic human-machine interaction software, which can help to build application services such as intelligent service request recommendation, intelligent case recommendation, intelligent intent identification, and intelligent knowledge recommendation. The average call duration of agents is reduced by 28 seconds, and the number of repeated calls within 2 hours is reduced by 2.85%.
In addition, the technology offers auxiliary tools such as intent recognition, knowledge recommendation, and automatic case filling to improve service efficiency. The user experience is, therefore, enhanced through AI solutions.
Not limited to telecommunication use cases, China Unicom has provided efficient and convenient services and emergency relief for users in various major events and incidents such as the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and the flood in Zhengzhou. During the flood event caused by heavy rains in Zhengzhou, China Unicom 10010 responded quickly. The user self-service portal and agents took over millions of emergency help and consultation requests within a short period of time. Assisted by Gen AI, the agents quickly found out about the flood and provided immediate emergency relief.
In a nutshell, the contact centre is delivering innovation with Gen AI. Huawei Pangu Model and other LLM are used for training and content generation; the centre’s foundation model is trained using 57 million hours of communication data between users and agents to quickly improve the accuracy of voice and semantic recognition, which helps to enhance its humanization level and boost the relevance of generated content.
In addition to the excellent experience for users, the implementation of AI has also reduced costs for the contact centre as it requires fewer agents, providing China Unicom a total benefit worth CNY600 million.
In addition to its main customer service function, the centre also provides IoT, public cloud, online digital services, and terminal services.
China Unicom Contact Centre 10010 is a systematic and intelligent contact centre that can help services in thousands of industries go digital. Currently, the centre serves enterprises in more than 20 industries, such as retail, transportation, and manufacturing. As a result, the Gen AI-enabled Smart Contact Center is not only a capability center but also a value generation center for China Unicom. It helps China Unicom to enter the billion-dollar enterprise customer service market of billions CNY and create the opportunity to generate even more revenue.