In August, Vodafone launched a Skill on Amazon’s Alexa designed to let its customers check their data balances and bills using a simple query.
“This all started when one of our developers got hold of an Amazon Echo and started playing around with it,” Duncan Smith, head of digital product at Vodafone UK and Ireland, explains. “He then said, ‘Hey, it would be pretty cool if we, as Vodafone, created some ideas around what we could offer through this channel.’”
So the team at Vodafone brainstormed and came up with a series of ideas, one of which (around billing and resolving commonly asked
queries) was selected because it was both useful and could be executed.
“We got a small group of people to help develop this, just informally and doing it because they were really keen. Once we got a test case to show what we could do, we took it to senior management and they got pretty excited about it. So that’s when we got more formal governance in on it and proper project management,” Smith says.
Vodafone wanted to make sure it wouldn’t end up rolling out multiple Skills for each country in which it operates. “We have a group in Germany that created a master global
Skill. The UK one fits inside. We also worked closely with Amazon to review the voice Skill’s user experience,” Smith adds.
The Skill then went through a period of testing and the team at Vodafone is now coming up with ideas for what it can do beyond this first phase. So what’s in this for Vodafone? Beyond being seen as innovative by its customer base, this early-mover advantage could benefit Vodafone in the long run.
“Alexa, as it is now, won’t be anywhere near what it will be in two years’ time. With this launch, we gain an early-mover advantage,” says Smith.
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