Vodafone UK debuts AI chatbot, abolishes roaming in customer service push

Vodafone hopes a chatbot called TOBi and the lure of free roaming in 40 countries around the world will help it get back on track in the UK.

The operator unveiled the two new services as part of a wider customer campaign that also features improved device upgrade plans, simplified tariffs and new solutions for enterprise customers.

Vodafone said it had created artificial intelligence-based TOBi to handle a range of queries from phone troubleshooting to order tracking in a bid to speed up its web chat service.

It will become available through the My Vodafone app later this month.

TOBi can “seamlessly” hand over to a web chat advisor if needed, Vodafone said.

The operator announced plans to hire over 2,000 customer services staff in the UK last month.

Alongside TOBi, Vodafone is offering free roaming to 40 destinations.

Countries include those in the European Union, where roaming charges are being scrapped in June, as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the French West Indies.

Customers can access their account allowances in a further 60 destinations, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Russia and the US, for a flat fee of £5 per day.

On the device front, Vodafone customers can upgrade to a new smartphone six months into their contracts.

The operator has also moved to simplify its tariff structure into three “straight-forward” plans.

Essentials includes unlimited texts, up to 500 minutes and up to 500MB of data, Red Extra provides up to 40GB of data on top of unlimited calls and texts, while Red Entertainment offers up to 60GB of data, as well as a choice of sport, music or TV.

The company also promised to “make sure” that customers are alerted when they are close to nearing the limit of their allowance.

Vodafone was fined almost £5 million for “serious and sustained” breaches of consumer protection rules last year.

For small business customers, Vodafone has launched a new range of solutions that all feature Secure Net, which offers protection from malware.

[Read more: Brexit, BT-EE merger could be positive, says Vodafone UK Enterprise Chief]

Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK CEO said: “Customers have told us they want us and the rest of the industry to change.

“They want life to be simpler and for us to remove the things which make life stressful so they can live their lives, uninterrupted by these concerns.

“Our new programme will do that over the next few years and will prove our commitment to letting our customers talk, text or stream for a great price, wherever in the world they may be.”

UK revenues fell in the three months to December, Vodafone’s most recent financial results, on the back of enterprise and MVNO customer losses.

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