The Co-operative Banking Group has implemented a new call centre help assistant to enable staff to deal with customer call queries faster.

The Co-op's Mia (My Interactive Adviser) system is said to be helping staff answer calls up to 65 percent faster, and is built on natural language technology from Artificial Solutions.

Using Artificial Solutions' Teneo platform, Mia is an intelligent interface that is able to hold two-way, "human-like" interactions with the Co-op's contact centre employees. It is designed to quickly provide them with the correct answers to a wide range of banking and insurance questions asked of them by customers.

This reduces the need for staff to confer with team leaders over complex questions, or refer to colleagues or other paper based reference material. To date, Mia has delivered on average a thirty-five second saving in every call in which she assists, the Co-op said.

Peter Rowbottom, function leader within the Co-op's banking group, said: "Mia's natural language technology has enabled us not to just improve the customer experience. It's also having a positive effect on call centre staff with the extra assistance helping them achieve their own targets, and giving them confidence in providing a consistently accurate message to customers."

Mia ensures that call centre colleagues are fully briefed on new products, services and changes in policy, such as the introduction of new regulations from the Financial Services Authority (FSA). Call centre staff can ask Mia questions using everyday language, with Mia updating the information given as the call progresses.

Mia dynamically reassesses a question to provide the right answer or to prompt the advisor to ask for further information where necessary. The Co-op envisages rolling out Mia to branch staff and other internal customer facing departments. It could also be used as an external-facing virtual assistant to assist customers directly.