To his pleasant surprise, Greg discovered that his head of data science was already hard at work, figuring out how Octopus could harness ChatGPT’s power. “We had a big meeting with our global CEOs coming up, so I asked if he would be able to show us what he’d been doing. He demoed ChatGPT as a customer service assistant, and our jaws hit the floor.” Immediately, Octopus accelerated its efforts to implement AI to help with the deluge of customer queries it was faced with. “By January, I think about 5% of our customer emails were being answered with the help of AI”, Greg clarified. “By May, however, it was 45%, and now, it’s over 50%. That’s 50,000 emails per day, and about half of those are being answered in part, if not entirely, through generative AI.”
How Octopus’ AI Integration Evolved
Octopus Energy’s journey in embracing AI began with a simple, yet powerful application: using AI to draft replies to customer emails. “Agents would ask the AI to draft a response,” Greg explained, “and if they liked it, they would hit send; if they didn’t, they could simply edit it and then hit send.” This process developed over time, with the machine learning element of the AI picking up the writing style of each agent. If an agent liked to use emojis, for example, the AI started to use emojis, too, and the effect was incredible.
“The key metric that really emphasised the effectiveness of these responses came in February or March”, Greg revealed. “We saw that AI emails were getting 85% customer satisfaction ratings, whereas human-written emails were only getting 65%.” This proved that AI was not only helpful but had the potential to vastly improve Octopus’ customer service across the board.
The next leap in Octopus’ AI journey came from recognising that customer interactions are not isolated events, but part of an ongoing narrative. To create a response that truly satisfies a customer, the agent needs to understand the whole picture. Luckily, Octopus had been using a system, called Kraken, from the very beginning.
“Kraken records everything,” Greg explained. “It has recorded every phone call and transcribed it. It’s recorded every email, every click, every meter reading, every payment, even every failed payment; it’s got it all.”
Using the data collected by Kraken, Octopus could ask the AI to generate a summary of a customer’s entire journey with them. This innovative approach provided customer service agents with a comprehensive view of customers’ situations, enabling them to gauge how they would be feeling, and then craft well-informed and contextually rich responses capable of satisfying their needs. The success of this approach was so remarkable that it became standard practice for Octopus to auto-generate summaries for every interaction with every customer.
But Octopus didn’t stop there; one of the most useful applications of AI it has found so far is in dealing with complex cases. Greg explained, “It’s hard for humans to sift through extensive account histories to identify specific issues, like a misallocated payment.” By integrating traditional computing algorithms with AI, however, Octopus’ system now reviews a customer’s full statement, payment, meter reading, and communication history before formulating a response. “In these complex scenarios, our AI-driven approach consistently outperforms human efforts in delivering superior service,” Greg noted.
Currently, Octopus’ focus is on automating actions to streamline agents’ workflows even further with AI. “Consider a customer requesting a refund”, Greg suggested. “Previously, AI would determine the account’s status and draft a response, but a human would still need to manually process the refund. Now, however, while the AI is preparing the response, it’s simultaneously calculating the appropriate action to go with it.”
The upshot is that the only thing humans really need to do in this process is review the AI’s recommended response and actions, and authorise them. This advancement not only streamlines the process but significantly reduces the labour required, marking a new era in customer service efficiency.
Greg’s keynote was a fascinating way to begin our most successful summit yet. His account of Octopus’ AI journey provided us with so many insights and nuggets of advice, but below are three key takeaways that every business leader can benefit from.
Greg’s Three Things