A new virtual employee at Desjardins

He is able to deal with thousands of customers every day in one sentence instead of four or five automatic choices. He can replace a lost credit card, apply for a personal loan or an RRSP, change an address, or reset a password. And he understands Quebec French.

Posted at 7:00 am

Karim Benesaih

Karim Benesaih
The press

This little revolution, which has been going on in Desjardins without much fanfare since last December, is the implementation of a new virtual assistant, designed in collaboration with Google, based on the analysis of 5,000 hours of anonymous conversations. Desjardins is one of the members who communicates with customer service by telephone, AccèsD service, this virtual assistant, who has not yet inherited a nickname. It accurately indicates or carries the four requests mentioned above, which The press This has been confirmed by testing, but stopping before the final step. For more complex or unusual requests, there is no miracle: he sends you to an adviser, sometimes without further details for those he does not understand.

The Quebec Challenge

In Desjardins, it is estimated that this assistant understands 96.8% of the spoken word, not French to French, but Quebec to the natural language, as was the case with the old system which includes only 40% of the statements.

Although it takes an average of 140 seconds and sometimes tedious navigation between four or five numbered choices, we left “in a matter of seconds” for the most popular operations, said Annie-Claude Jutras, senior director of customer relations change at Desjardin.

“It started with a big annoyance that our members were feeling: a huge number of options on our telephone menu,” he explained in an interview. We asked ourselves: How can we remove this burden? How can we create a virtual assistant who understands members’ requests? A

The Quebec accent can be “complicated,” he notes, and the virtual assistants available on the market in general do not understand its subtleties. That’s where Google came in, applying its in-depth learning models of voice recognition for 5,000 hours of recorded conversations with willing customers, from which all personally identifiable information was corrected. Google made a major start in this regard, its voice assistant was, in 2017, Quebec acquired the first proficiency in French. The operation, which began 18 months ago, involved four more partners and a hundred employees.

“When we talked about this project, Virtual Assistants was nothing new,” said Johann Duheim, Senior Vice-President, Information Technologies, Desjardins.

What’s new is a virtual assistant whose artificial intelligence is based on the Quebec language. We are among the first.

Johann Duhaim, Senior Vice-President, Information Technologies

This tool could be offered by Google to other Quebec companies, he says.

No terms have been abolished

The first indication of the effectiveness of the virtual assistant: a marked reduction in the annoying transition from one service to another. “Members sometimes do not select the correct menu”, note mMe Jutras. The comments from members who came to this assistant were “very positive,” he reported. “People think it’s easy to use, user-friendly,” he added.Me Duhaime. I wanted to try it myself, and it works fine. A

But why not just go back to the good old ways where real people took customer calls? The vice-president recalled that financial services in Desjardin, like other institutions, have changed dramatically in recent decades. “This is a project to improve the service of our members. We want to use technology to liberate our people […]. We want to use our advisors and agents to bring extra value. A

None of the 8,500 positions of “front-line employees” will be allocated primarily for customer service, he assured. “Our agents will be there, their work will be prosperous. A

Learn more

  • 7.5 million
    Number of members and clients at Desjardins

    Source: Desjardins.com

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