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Yorkshire team at forefront of Sky innovation

Sky@LeedsDock is at the centre of Sky's digital development
Sky@LeedsDock is at the centre of Sky's digital development
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The Yorkshire-based team at broadcaster Sky is preparing to launch a high tech solution to help solve customers' broadband issues.

Sky’s team in Leeds is now looking at using Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence to solve customer queries.

Sky has set its Leeds team to work on innovative technology to help provide better customer service.

The team is responsible for the My Sky app and the development of bots and AI. Working with global software firm IBM Watson, last December Sky launched a “concierge bot” with asynchronous (time lag) messaging to manage customer queries within the My Sky app, Facebook Messenger and SMS.

The concierge bot (an application that performs an automated task) greets customers who message Sky and is able to use AI (Artificial intelligence) to understand their query and provide the best solution to solve their problem.

Stephen van Rooyen, Sky's CEO UK and Ireland, said: “Sky@LeedsDock is at the centre of our digital development. We opened our first office here in late 2015 with a plan to recruit 400 tech roles, but just over a year later we actually exceeded that target and now have 650 people working at our tech hub at Leeds Dock.

“TechNation estimates that there are 35,000 digital and tech jobs in Leeds. We certainly find that there is a lot of digital talent in the city and we are committed to continue being a part of that growth story. Through programmes like Get into Tech we aim to widen access and opportunity in to careers in tech.”

The Leeds team works right across Sky's business and have been involved in the launch of Sky Q, the broadcaster's next generation TV platform, as well as Sky Mobile. The team also leads on the firm's app development including the My Sky app which allows customers to access information about bills, services and products.

Sky’s digital team in Leeds recently created a feature in the Sky News app – called Who’s Who Live - that allowed viewers of the Royal Wedding to identify wedding guests using facial recognition.

Seven months on for the launch of the concierge bot, Sky’s team in Leeds is now looking at how Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence could also help solve customer queries.

The team are looking at how Augmented Reality and image recognition could help customers better use their Sky Hardware, by helping them understand what the different buttons on their set-top box or broadband router do.

Using their own phones and tablets, Sky customers can already take pictures of faults/messages displayed on their Sky TV products and use AI technology, called Optical Character Recognition in the My Sky app to scan the images to recognise faults.

Once faults are identified, customers are automatically redirected to the correct Sky help page. This allows customers to solve problems quickly and conveniently, without the need to contact Sky or browse the web for information.

Sky said that all of this work is being driven out of its Leeds base.

Mr van Rooyen said: “In order to give customers a brilliant, convenient and quick service, one of the things we have done is start to build bots in to some of our customer contact channels. If you are a customer and you contact us through the My Sky app, Facebook Messenger or SMS you will be greeted by a concierge bot who will understand what your problem is and take you through to the right team to solve the query.

“We’ve trained the bot to understand the different problems a customer might have and all the different ways customers can express the problems they’ve got via messaging.

“The clever bit is something called Natural Language Processing. So a customer might say ‘I want to pay some money off my account’, and someone else might say ‘I want to settle my bill’ – different words but meaning the same thing. The bot learns over time after hundreds and thousands of conversations."

Mr van Rooyen said bots are very useful for customers, but they are also really helpful for Sky's customer service agents.

"Sometimes customers will mistakenly contact us on SMS numbers that send customers to a specific team, but often their query is related to something else," he said.

"That’s an annoying agent experience as they are having to figure out the issue and then reroute the customers, and more importantly it’s a frustrating customer experience because customers don’t want to be bounced around from agent to agent. The concierge bot is helping take that hassle away.”

In April, Ofcom published a report on complaints across each of the TV, broadband and telephone providers. Sky received the lowest number of complaints for the eighth consecutive quarter.