Anticipating User Intentions in Customer Care Dialogue Systems

In this article, we investigate the case of human-machine dialogues in the specific domain of commercial customer care. We built a corpus of conversations between users and a customer-care chatbot of an Italian Telecom Company, focusing on a sample of conversations where users contact the service asking for explanations about billing issues or overcharges. We observed that users’ requests are often vague, generic or incomprehensible. In such cases, commercial dialogue systems typically ask for clarifications or further details to fully understand users’ specific requests. However, from the corpus analysis it appeared that chatbot's clarifying requests may result in ineffective interactions, with users eventually giving up the conversation or switching to a human agent for a faster query resolution. A recovery strategy is thus needed to anticipate users’ information needs, or intentions. We address this issue resorting to GEN-DS, a dialogue system based on symbolic data-to-text generation. GEN-DS analyzes the user-company contextual relational knowledge, with the aim to generate more relevant answers to unclear questions. In this article, we describe the GEN-DS architecture along with the experiments we carried out to evaluate its output. Results from an offline human evaluation show significant improvements of GEN-DS compared to the original system. These improvements concern properties such as utility, necessity, understandability, and quickness of the information communicated in the dialogue. We believe that GEN-DS techniques may find application in all the dialogue systems that need to manage vague requests and must rely on relational knowledge.
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