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Giving customers the confidence to interact with your business during Covid and beyond is mission critical. The new challenge is to ensure the highest levels of safety whilst maximising ease of engagement and business productivity.

Customers are worried and their expectations are high – they want not just frictionless interaction, convenient outcomes and a pleasant and intuitive exchange, they want to know that their safety is your biggest priority.

“Post Covid-19, this long-running issue in customer management has become more important than ever,” says Paul Egan, at Comdata. “Why? Because more businesses than ever need to schedule high volumes of safe customer appointments, with some sectors doing it for the first time. Doing this effectively can be critical to their customer relationships, revenues and reputation.”


Some sectors have long been familiar with the challenge of making appointment management and scheduling efficient and effective – primarily, sectors that regularly conduct site and home visits, from utilities and telecoms companies, to health and care workers, to professionals such as surveyors and insurance assessors. Now, with the pandemic, the challenge is also relevant to sectors that have rarely or never considered it before, including:

  • retail, especially smaller shops with limited space 
  • restaurants and bars
  • gyms, spas and pools
  • banks

These sectors, that were previously walk-in, may now need to schedule customer visits. And there’s a lot at stake here: not just keeping customers safe and limiting queues and crowding, but optimizing productivity and capacity, and strengthening customer confidence and loyalty.


In appointment scheduling, and in other high-volume contacts, a strong, ‘human-style’ automated solution with a real human back-up can greatly improve customer relationships, while also controlling costs. That natural style is key to the engagement, as Gartner has shown, soft features such as tone of voice are critical to success. Comdata Group, with its expertise in conversational UX and well-designed automation, has exactly such a solution: a Smart Scheduler service ideally suited to the ‘new normal’. 

Earlier this year, Comdata was recognised by research and analyst firm NelsonHall as a leader in Cognitive Consumer Experience (CCX), the science of meeting customers’ needs by orchestrating a smart mix of empathetic expert human agents with AI, automation and data analysis. This is the approach taken with the Smart Schedule service.


The Smart Scheduler service is an automated, multilingual scheduling service that uses AI-driven chatbots, conversational NLP (natural language processing) and intuitive self-service workflows, blended with human intervention if needed. Comdata describes it as a “human-robot scheduling system”, and it provides clients and their customers with the best of both approaches – automation with the human element. 

It’s designed for any business that sends specialists or agents out to customers or conducts site visits; now in lockdown exit, it’s also ideal for companies that want to schedule visits to business premises. 

“With Smart Scheduler, we’ve looked at what businesses always want – to optimize customer relationships, productivity and costs. Then we’ve looked at their specific current circumstances – such as the priority to schedule large numbers of appointments safely and in a style that makes customers feel good. And then we’ve used our technology and BPO expertise to deliver the service they need now. It’s a great example of how we operate – both in ‘crisis’ times and ‘normal’ times”, explains Paul Egan.


The experience of a major telecoms provider illustrates the benefits that can be achieved through “human robot” scheduling. The provider has adopted Smart Scheduler to manage engineer visits for business and home telephone and internet activation and repair. The system manages over 15,000 calls a day for appointments and rescheduled appointments. 

Before adopting Comdata’s system, the company could not adequately demonstrate to regulators that it was meeting its legal obligations on customer service time targets, exposing it to large fines as well as customer dissatisfaction. 

With the adoption of Smart Scheduler, the picture changed. The provider:

  • successfully met over 98% of regulatory targets 
  • made significant cost savings, and avoided regulatory fines
  • achieved 90% automated customer contact success rate
  • reduced appointment processing time by 45%
  • managed 50% of appointments entirely digitally and self-service, requiring no human interaction (resulting in a 50% cost saving against traditional human agents)
  • saw a 45% customer satisfaction increase.


Smart Scheduler offers businesses the efficiency of a conversational chatbot but recognises the value of having a human step in when needed. Features include smart self-service automation, UX designed for intuitive customer experience, multilingual chatbots employing latest advances in NLP, and an intelligent workforce scheduling algorithm and a process that seamlessly interjects an expert agent when required. The solution is ready-to-go with quick set-up and interface with existing scheduling systems.

The contact starts with a SMS or message inviting the customer to schedule an appointment, using a weblink. When they follow the link, they chat with the smart appointment bot, in almost any language and in a natural conversational style. Although the aim is to maximise automated contact and complete the scheduling online, AI within the system alerts if a human agent is needed to step in and resolve an issue.

There are automatic appointment reminders, and options for rescheduling and customer feedback, and for customers who don’t respond to the initial invitation within a specified time period, there are automated outbound calls. 

In this way, Comdata is offering a solution designed for today’s world where some customers are familiar with online or in-app scheduling and expect multi- or omni-channel options, but other customer segments are still not comfortable with using digital tools. Both types of customer benefit from faster and easier appointments and a feel-good customer experience.

Meanwhile, clients in different sectors can use the Smart Scheduler to embrace two important lessons of the new normal - the need for flexibility and digitalisation. They also have an option to reduce their costs and improve customer satisfaction levels – as the telecoms provider did.


The experience of the Covid-19 pandemic has been entirely new for much of the world. However, many of the truths it highlighted were old ones: that things change; that successful organisations are agile and expert enough to adapt; and that technology, in combination with human inventiveness, provides answers.

And that's what Comdata does. It understands change. It anticipates and adapts. And it uses its in-house capabilities on BPO, technology and consulting to create solutions.

“That’s what we have done with Smart Scheduler,” says Paul Egan.  “We’ve used our insight and capabilities to meet the needs of the moment, and provide for businesses in different sectors. And then tomorrow, when there may be a different need, opportunity or challenge, we will do so again. That’s why we’re here.”

Human-robot solutions could solve many of your customer contact challenges – in addition to appointment-scheduling. Tell us about your needs and challenges, and we will explore solutions for your business.

About the contributor: Paul Egan is an International Partnerships Director in Comdata and recognized expert in customer management BPO solutions.

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