Indian Railways may deploy Chatbots to improve Customer Service

According to the action plan being actively considered by the national transporter, the Chatbots would address queries on schedules, ticket availability, trains for particular destinations and other such rail travel-related issues.

NEW DELHI: Indian Railways is exploring the use automated Chatbots, a first for the rail sector, so as to respond faster to train-related queries and enhance customer experience.

The possibility of use of Chatbots was showcased at a recent railway conference on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a high-level committee is being constituted to take it forward — in close coordination with one of the software giants — Microsoft or Oracle.

Chatbot, short for chatterbot, is a computer programme that simulates human conversation through voice commands or text chats, or both, using AI.

According to the action plan being actively considered by the national transporter, the chatbots would address queries on schedules, ticket availability, trains for particular destinations and other such rail travel-related issues.

Currently, the system relies on manual or SMS/IVRS technology for addressing passengers queries.

The existing customer service over phone needs one to pick up the phone, dial the number and, finally, the response is some pre-fed text which is read by the customer representative from a screen.

“Now there is a plan to use the advancement of AI technology for customer service, as the idea is ubiquitous,” said a senior Railway Ministry official.

“The application can be deployed on a smartphone or laptop and can be used through voice chat or text chat,” he added.

Chatbots cannot be human, but they can think and respond to queries like humans do — and devoid of human bias. Their use is emerging as the next big platform for information exchange for today’s smartphone-carrying generation.

Either Microsoft or Oracle to help Indian Railways with Chatbots

World’s fourth largest railway network, Indian Railways deals with about 13 lakh ticket bookings daily on IRCTC’s website. Another 10 lakh people visit it each day just to check ticket status.

The idea of using chatbots to better deal with passenger traffic was discussed at a recent Railway conference on artificial intelligence. Railways is likely to pursue it further with either Microsoft or Oracle.

Chatbots can also significantly improve consumer interaction in various regional languages.

Other than chatbots, AI can also help Indian Railways with better asset and crowd management.

MADAD: Say goodbye to grievances passengers – Indian Railways set to launch new App!

The national transporter is going to launch a dedicated mobile application — rather appropriately named ‘MADAD’ (Mobile Application for Desired Assistance During travel) — later this month to enable its passengers to lodge complaints, be it over food quality or dirty toilets. They can also requests emergency services through the app. The complaint lodged through the app will directly reach the relevant officials of the divisions concerned and the action taken can be relayed onine, thus fasttracking the entire process of registration and redressal of grievances.

Passengers will also be able to track the status of their complaints and be notified about any action taken in the case. The proposed app would integrate all passenger grievance and redressal mechanisms in the railways. “As of now, we have 14 channels through which passengers can register their grievances. Each has its own response time and even standards of response. While some are active, others are not. We wanted to have one transparent, standardised grievance redressal process. This app is likely to be launched this month,” a senior official said. Passengers can register their grievances simply by keying in their PNRs and they will receive a complaint ID through SMS at the time of registration.

This will be followed by personalised SMS regarding the action taken by the department concerned. The app would also display total monthly complaints received and resolved by the Indian Railways and show ranking of top five and bottom five railway stations and Rajdhani, Shatabdi trains of each zone in terms of faster complaint resolutions to encourage transparency and accountability, the official said. “The introduction of this system does not mean that we will not respond to complaints on the other forums. But eventually, we want to use this one integrated system. This will also represent a holistic picture of weak, deficient areas and will enable focused corrective action by officials concerned,” the official said.

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