Artificial Intelligence: DigitalGenius At KLM Airlines


KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is the first airline and probably the first enterprise worldwide to test how artificial intelligence could assist customer service agents in managing the increasing volume of interactions with customers over social media channels.

DigitalGenius, an artificial intelligence startup, has been working with KLM since April 2016 to deploy its deep learning and natural language processing-based application. It aims to help companies seamlessly combine the best of human and machine intelligence so they can provide high-quality customer service. DigitalGenius is a member of the Salesforce App Exchange and is integrated with Salesforce Service Cloud Lightning. Salesforce is throwing  a Dreamforce party for 170,000 people in San Francisco, with Einstein, an artificial intelligence platform, as its guest of honor.

KLM has been using Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, and Chatter for a number of years to manage and constantly improve its customer service. In today’s online world, an ever-increasing portion of customer service interactions takes place on social media. A tipping point for KLM came in 2010, when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted, causing the biggest disruption to European air traffic since WWII. As stranded travelers rushed to social networks in search of help, KLM used the same social channels to respond and assist in a timely fashion. That event made social media the center of KLM’s customer service efforts.

“We have 100,000 mentions a week on social media,” says Tjalling Smit, senior vice president of Digital at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. “We handle around 15,000 customer service cases a week and we answer our customers 24/7 in 10 different languages.” As social channels proliferate, KLM makes sure it is present where its customers live online. “We were the first airline to allow customers to get their boarding passes and flight confirmation through Facebook Messenger,” says Smit.

To handle the increasing volume of interactions with customers as it adds new social media channels to their portfolio, KLM is testing the DigitalGenius artificial intelligence application. “We believe that we should be where our customers are,” says Smit. “They spend hours daily on their mobile phones but not necessarily on our website. Many travel with us once or twice a year so the likelihood that they have downloaded our app is limited. They spend a lot of time on messaging platforms—WeChat in China, for instance. So that’s where we want to provide our service and we need to use artificial intelligence to facilitate the dialog with our customers. It’s a facilitator for the continued human interaction between our brand and our customers. We don’t replace human agents with technology—we use technology to facilitate the dialog with our customers.”

The DigitalGenius application proposes an answer to a customer inquiry or interaction and the customer service agent decides whether to use it or not. Initially, the application has been trained on 60,000 previous customer-agent interactions and it continues to learn by observing the actions of the agents, specifically when the agent decides not to use the proposed answer. “The next time, the suggested answer is better,” says Smit, reporting that the percentage of correct suggestions by the AI application is increasing.

In the future, says Smit, “we will expand the use of AI to create a personalized and relevant experience for an individual customer. But human interaction will always be key.” DigitalGenius agrees with this vision of AI as Augmented Intelligence or what it calls “Human+AI.” Its president and chief strategy officer, Mikhail Naumov, said in a statement “the deployment of DigitalGenius [by KLM] is a prime example of what companies can do to take the next step in customer service and empower their human agents with practical AI.”

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