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Villeroy & Boch: Getting customers the right support with voicebot Anna and Google Cloud

About Villeroy & Boch

Time-honored tradition meets timeless style in the products of Villeroy & Boch, a leading ceramics manufacturer and one of Europe’s most longstanding brands, active in 125 countries.

Industries: Manufacturing
Location: Germany

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About BOTfriends

With its conversational AI platform, BOTfriends enables companies to develop chat and voicebots, which they can train and operate themselves, even without programming skills.

Villeroy & Boch launches voicebot Anna with BOTfriends and Google Cloud to streamline call center operations by automating call routing in three languages, forwarding 15,000 calls per quarter.

Google Cloud results

  • Streamlines call center operations, enabling fully automated call routing with voicebot in three languages
  • Improves customer experience, achieving average waiting times of just 1.3 minutes
  • Frees up resources, enabling one employee to maintain voicebot replacing three-person call center team
  • Helps handle increased call volumes with ease, avoiding queues by scaling up and down voicebot as needed

15,000 calls processed per quarter

The luxuries of a modern home were a long way away in 1748, when François Boch and his three sons put their skills to work to produce ceramic tableware. Their items were a hit, and the budding entrepreneurs soon began serial production of their first international evergreens. More than 270 years later, Villeroy & Boch products are a staple in bathrooms and kitchens around the world, ranging from eye-catching avant-garde dinnerware to timeless porcelain sinks.

“Our customers expect the highest quality, not just from our products, but from their entire Villeroy & Boch experience. That’s why we’ve invested heavily in our web presence and ordering platforms and work with technology partners such as Google Cloud to improve the customer experience.”

Andreas Schlender, Head of Application Lifecycle Management, Villeroy & Boch

At Villeroy & Boch, the quality of the products speaks for itself, but the family-owned business hasn’t conquered the world by resting on its laurels. Combining tradition with modernity is in the company’s DNA. That’s why Villeroy & Boch has long embraced new ways of working and IT innovations.

“Our customers expect the highest quality, not just from our products, but from their entire Villeroy & Boch experience,” explains Andreas Schlender, Head of Application Lifecycle Management at Villeroy & Boch. “That’s why we’ve invested heavily in our web presence and ordering platforms and work with technology partners such as Google Cloud to improve the customer experience.”

“We now store information about our bot referable service areas, such as their phone number and department affiliation, on BigQuery. This information is updated automatically from the back end on a daily basis. This data basis is the internal phone book for the voicebot Anna."

Andreas Schlender, Head of Application Lifecycle Management, Villeroy & Boch

Leveraging the Google Cloud-powered data lake

Customer support is a major area where Villeroy & Boch’s dedication to excellence has raised customer expectations over the years. When customers pick up the phone, they expect to receive help immediately, but during peak business hours queues are sometimes unavoidable. That’s why Schlender and his team decided to streamline the company’s call center operations with a smart voicebot.

Villeroy & Boch consists of multiple service areas, each forming small call centers that can be scaled up or down depending on employee availability. Ideally, customer calls should be routed to the correct person at the desired service area as quickly as possible. To make that a reality, Villeroy & Boch first needed data. ​And since the company already had internal expertise in running a data lake in Google Cloud, this scenario was quickly set up.

"We now store information about our bot referable service areas, such as their phone number and department affiliation, on BigQuery," explains Schlender. "This information is updated automatically from the back end on a daily basis. This data basis is the internal phone book for the voicebot Anna."

Introducing Anna, Villeroy & Boch’s newest employee

Anna is the brainchild of BOTfriends, a full solution provider for conversational AI platforms. What made BOTfriends stand out to Villeroy & Boch was the company’s philosophy of enabling customers to operate AI platforms themselves: “We want to be as self-sufficient as possible,” says Schlender. “BOTfriends won us over with its conversational AI platform BOTfriends X, an intuitive toolbox that can be used efficiently, even by non-IT-specialists.”

“We really want to empower companies and their departments to be able to train and maintain their own bots,” explains Smina Jamil, Key Account and Project Manager at BOTfriends. “That’s why we’ve developed our platform to be so user friendly that it can be operated by anyone, with a bit of training.”

For six months, Villeroy & Boch and BOTfriends worked closely together to create Anna’s general personality, build dialog trees, and iron out initial problems with constant user testing. “There’s so much more to bear in mind when designing a voicebot than I’d ever thought,” says Schlender. “From the pitch of Anna’s voice and her understanding of different accents and dialects, to her general rights and capabilities, BOTfriends really helped us bring our bot to life the right way.”

Automating 15,000 calls per quarter

Voicebot Anna, who is trilingual, went live in November 2020. Today, when customers call Villeroy & Boch’s main service line, Anna’s friendly voice greets them in English, French, and German. Callers can then let Anna know which service area they’d like to connect with, or even ask her to put them through to specific employees. Anna then thanks the customer, and leaves them in the right hands.

And here’s how it works on a tech level: First, incoming calls are forwarded to the cloud phone provider Tenios, which seamlessly integrates with Dialogflow via API. Callers’ requests are then transcribed via Speech-to-Text, and compared with data stored in BigQuery. Finally, the information is converted back into natural-sounding speech with Text-to-Speech. All these processes are orchestrated through the conversational AI platform BOTfriends X, which enables Villeroy & Boch’s employees to easily monitor, train, and optimize voicebot Anna’s interactions.

Since her time with Villeroy & Boch, Anna has accepted more than 15,000 calls per quarter. The majority of calls have been successfully automated, meaning that callers were put through to the correct person or service area. Anna can scale up and down as needed, handling increased call volumes with ease.

“In the past, the Villeroy & Boch support hotline could accept at most three calls at once, often less, leaving many callers waiting in queues, especially during peaks” says Jamil. “Today, customers just wait an average of 1.3 minutes to be put through to the right person or service area, resulting in a better customer experience.”

And, while Anna is still learning, she’s already handling the bulk of support line calls at Villeroy & Boch. “Our voice has accepted more than 43,000 calls so far,” says Schlender. “We’ve already reached an automation rate of 60%, and we’re confident that we’ll be able to increase it a further 10 to 15% with more training and content enhancements.”

Boosting productivity, putting internal resources to work

Thanks to BOTfriends X’s intuitive user interface, Anna’s training can be done in house with existing Villeroy & Boch talent. With the conversational middleware platform, an employee who formerly worked in the company’s call center can train, monitor, and adapt Anna’s capabilities on her own.

“We’ve designed our solution to be intuitive even for non tech specialists,” explains Jamil. “For example, calls that aren’t successfully placed are collected in a color-coded dashboard, where employees can see what went wrong and can assign the right action to the unsuccessful request with a few clicks. This way, Anna will be able to handle the query correctly in the future."

“Working with BOTfriends has been a wonderful experience. With their conversational AI expertise and our Google Cloud-powered data lake providing the data, we can explore many new ways to improve our customer experience and make better use of our time. We’re excited to make these next steps together.”

Andreas Schlender, Head of Application Lifecycle Management, Villeroy & Boch

Combining tradition with modernity

Anna has now become a full Villeroy & Boch member, and like any good employee, she’s ready to grow, build experience, and take on more responsibilities. Next, she might learn a few new languages and start taking calls from other regions. Because the data fetched from the Google Cloud data lake can be used on other channels as well, Anna might also get a chatbot companion to help connect customers with best-fit support agents without an initial phone call.

With the right technology partners at its side, Villeroy & Boch is all set to keep doing what has made the brand so beloved around the world: combining craft and tradition with innovation. “Working with BOTfriends has been a wonderful experience,” says Schlender. “With their conversational AI expertise and our Google Cloud-powered data lake providing the data, we can explore many new ways to improve our customer experience and make better use of our time. We’re excited to make these next steps together.”

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Villeroy & Boch

Time-honored tradition meets timeless style in the products of Villeroy & Boch, a leading ceramics manufacturer and one of Europe’s most longstanding brands, active in 125 countries.

Industries: Manufacturing
Location: Germany

About BOTfriends

With its conversational AI platform, BOTfriends enables companies to develop chat and voicebots, which they can train and operate themselves, even without programming skills.