AT&T Turns to Video to Cut Call Volume
Videos explain bills to customers so call center agents don't have to.
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AT&T has rolled out a service that provides new customers of its U-verse TV, Voice, and Internet triple-play service with personalized video explanations of their bills. The video bills, using SmartVideo technology from SundaySky, are automatically generated, customized videos with computer animation and voice narration that explain all of the elements of monthly bills.

The bills are sent to new customers for the first two months after signing up for the service and to customers who request a change or upgrade in service that could affect their monthly charges. Customers can access the videos through links sent to them via email or through their online accounts. Each bill is dynamically generated once the customer clicks on the link provided.

The video bill serves as a line-by-line visual and audio tour of each user's individual bill. Via scripted segments and text-to-speech technology, the video addresses the user by name and goes into specific details about his account, usage, purchase history, and promotional offers. Only the most recent account status, offerings, pricing, and deals are featured. If, for example, a bill was paid one minute prior to watching the video, account information within the video would reflect that.

"All of the customer account profiles, rates, and services that he gets billed for are programmed into the video bill," explains Deno Hairston, director of channel marketing at AT&T."There are creative templates that we worked with SundaySky to create, and the technology brings all those things together to generate the video bill."

SundaySky has a number of security processes to protect personal and account-related information. All data is encrypted, used only for video generation, and then deleted immediately after the customer watches the video.

"The goal is to make your bill easier to understand so you can spend less time squinting over paperwork and more time enjoying your U-verse services," John Donovan, chief technology officer at AT&T, said in a statement.

"The positive feedback…shows we're getting it right, as ninety percent [of customers] said in a survey that they find the videos helpful. And among the U-verse customers receiving the video bills, we're seeing fewer phone calls about billing issues," Donovan continued.

"It's definitely influenced our call volumes," Hairston confirms.

Additionally, the calls that do come into the call center are typically shorter in duration. Furthermore, many of the customers who have received the video bills have signed up for other services, such as paperless billing, Hairston notes.

"The sweet spot of this is that it's all customized," Hairston says. "This personalization is helping us establish a relationship with our U-verse customers.

The concept for the video bills came to AT&T through its AT&T Foundry innovation center in Israel, where SundaySky pitched the technology to executives. SundaySky has offices in New York and Tel Aviv, Israel.

Before fielding the technology, AT&T piloted it to 90,000 customers in March 2011. "That trial proved very successful," Hairston says, and in less than 12 months, it started sending out the bills.

According to Hairston, AT&T will roll out video bills to other customers as well. "We're monitoring and assessing the results and looking at ways to move it to other AT&T products and services," he says.

"We're always looking [for new technologies] to make things simpler for our customers," he adds. "There are things that customers have questions about.... We want to answer those questions before they have to ask them."

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