Tuesday, August 29, 2023

PLDT keen on exploring AI tech for intelligent network, customer service

Leading integrated telco network PLDT Inc (PLDT) and its wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc (Smart) are optimistic about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in making their network operations more efficient, elevating customer experience and future-proofing their business.

"We cannot navigate the new world with an old map. Things are changing, technology is developing, and we need to leapfrog in terms of our plans and strategies," said Alfredo S. Panlilio, PLDT and Smart President and CEO, during the recent PLDT first half 2023 earnings media briefing. "We have been looking into AI and studying how it can help us grow our business, be more efficient, and be more customer-centric," he said, adding that the challenge for the telco industry is finding the 'next big thing'. "We have to think beyond what we are doing today and innovate. The challenge for us is finding the next big idea, and possible growth areas."

Currently, PLDT and Smart are employing AI and machine learning on their self-optimizing network, joining global operators in the rapid adoption of the technology. "AI and machine learning enable us to have a more predictive--and later on, prescriptive--way of operating our network," said Eric Santiago, PLDT and Smart Network Head.

Meanwhile, Victor S. Genuino, President and CEO of PLDT's ICT arm ePLDT, emphasized the value of a "strong governance model" and human oversight at the start when employing AI even in conventional use cases such as chatbots for customer service.

"These chatbots may speak English, understand Taglish and be able to negotiate with customers on an assigned date of payment, but overall, the AI application has to be driven by a very strong governance model. You cannot just load a lot of information onto AI and expect it to run by itself. There needs to be human supervision at the onset to ensure that the right information is being delivered. However, as the AI bot self-learns, it will become a very effective customer service tool," he said.

PLDT Chief Transformation & Customer Officer Emmanuel C. Lorenzana, on the other hand, believes AI will enable telcos to know their customers better. "As this develops, we will see that even more complex and highly personalized interactions will be driven by AI. Another use case for AI is Customer Value Management or CVM, where we can push offers that are tailor-fit to our subscribers' needs," he said.

PLDT and Smart's foray into AI and other new technologies is tied in with the Group's aspirational multi-year transformation, which has elevated customer experience and enhancing operational excellence as among the key priorities. It is also aligned with the Group's industry leadership as one of the founding members of the government-mandated Presidential Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) under the Digital Infrastructure Pillar, and in support of the Government's nationwide digitalization thrust.

This also contributes to the Group’s endeavors to provide connectivity to all and to anchor initiatives on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG), particularly on SDG No. 9 – Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.

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