Circle K Develops Multilingual Conversational AI Assistant with Teneo


In what has anecdotally been described as one of the quickest projects in Circle K, AI assistant Kay is already reducing call volumes, while delivering 24/7 customer support, having been developed in only a few months with Teneo from Artificial Solutions.

Circle K is one of the world’s leading convenience and fuel retail businesses. The company offers a wide range of products to people on the go in 16100 stores across the globe.

Customer service is crucial to the business and Circle K wanted to develop an intelligent, conversational digital assistant that was capable of answering a diverse number of questions in multiple languages. At the same time the company was looking to reduce call volumes into its B2B and B2C support teams and enable them to focus on more complex tasks.

After considering other vendors in the marketplace, Teneo from Artificial Solutions was chosen because it easily met Circle K’s main criteria of a conversational AI development platform that would provide corporate consistency across content, languages and technology.

Choosing Teneo wasn’t just a decision made by the IT department. Circle K’s conversational AI strategy and AI assistant is managed by a cross function team, which means that business users are as much involved as tech experts. As part of the selection process, Circle K held a working group to allow business users to try Teneo and see for themselves if it was something they could use, or purely an IT project.

Teneo delivers capability

“When we first looked at Teneo we were impressed how much it could do compared with other development platforms we were considering. It was important to us that the platform was user friendly so we could accelerate our plans to involve business users in the development and to deliver one of our core goals — corporate consistency,” says Maija Tērmane, Senior Quality Responsible – Digital Solutions of Circle K. “No other vendor could elaborate on how an enterprise could utilize resources from Europe to deliver a conversational system running in North America.”

Teneo is built to allow developers and business users to collaborate. It automatically does a lot of the heavy lifting that can make other development platforms so complex. Teneo’s easy to use graphical interface with drag and drop style features makes it straightforward to understand and manage dialogue flows.

Within a few short months, Circle K built Kay, a conversational assistant who resides on the company’s Scandinavian websites, with plans of expanding into other countries and channels such as Facebook Messenger. Kay already speaks Swedish, Norwegian and Danish and Circle K is currently considering other language options.

Because Circle K offers such a wide range of goods and services often specific to a country or region, Kay needs to be capable of handling both informational and transactional processing over a vast number of intents. For example, in Sweden questions frequently relate to car and trailer rental, whereas in Norway questions are often asked about the company’s main loyalty driver, a yearly coffee cup campaign. There are also areas of common ground, such as the business and private label fuel cards and the loyalty accounts Circle K offers.

Teneo enables Kay to handle customer queries with ease. Advanced conversational understanding allows customers to ask for what they want to achieve using their own words, phrases and terminology. Teneo then assimilates all the information considering other factors such as context, user preferences and back-end data sources to deliver the right response. Kay also caters for escalations to human agents. In cases where a query is outside of its expertise, Teneo will seamlessly hand the conversation over complete with the transcript to provide pivotal visibility into the user journey up to the point of handover.

ROI increased through language expansion

As Kay expands into new regions and new languages are introduced Circle K expect there to be challenges because each region has different processes that need to be accommodated by Kay. However, one of the reasons Circle K chose to work with Teneo was because of its master/local approach to languages that allows for a conversational AI application to be built in one language and easily ported to another. Teneo typical allows for 80% of the original build to be used. This helps to significantly increase ROI because less resources are required, and rapid expansion of the conversational application is possible.

Kay is proving so successful that Circle K has already started a pilot of another conversational AI application in North America where American English as well as Canadian French is required. This pilot is exploring the benefits of integrating back-end systems even further using Teneo Connectors that allows chatbots to harness the power of back-office technology to deliver even greater intelligence and capabilities.

It’s early days but already Kay is well on its way to reaching Circle K’s unofficial target of deflecting 25% of calls this year. The company expects this to rise to 40% next year when they start to promote the availability of the AI assistant more heavily.

“While there is a learning curve at the beginning with Teneo and with developing an AI assistant, we recognised that this was worth the effort, because of what it enables us to achieve in terms of adding languages, porting to new channels and integrating into back-end systems. This type of flexibility allows us to scale up easily as the business demands,” concludes Maija Tērmane

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