Dale B. Danilewitz and Frederick E. Freiheit IV
cads (consumer appliance diagnostic system) is a diagnostic and advisory knowledge-based system that provides advice through call-taking representatives to consumers calling the Whirlpool Consumer Assistance Center (CAC). Even though this application is not an original AI application, valuable lessons can be learned from the process that was followed during its development and integration into a revolutionary support system for a customer service operation (the Consumer Assistance Center System [cacs]). Whirlpool cacs was developed and implemented over a 3-year period with a financial investment of over $20 million. Whirlpool recognized the necessity of pursuing an advanced technological solution to the problem of handling an ever-growing number of customer calls. Over 250 call-taking representatives are currently handling as many as 1.7 million calls annually, which is projected to grow to approximately 9 million calls by 1995. This chapter focuses on Cads and how it will strengthen Whirlpool’s ability to respond to customer requests as well as create a front-line source for quality information on Whirlpool products. cads plays a synergistic role in cacs by either accessing other components to enhance its decision-making ability or providing it with additional information from which to efficiently support the consumer. Cads is intended to support the call-taking representative when he/she responds to a variety of calls being taken through a toll-free telephone line. A call usually takes one of the following forms: asking for help with an appliance that seems to be malfunctioning, soliciting advice on using or installing an appliance, asking for information on an appliance, or requesting a technician to service the appliance. Two levels of representatives are dedicated to supporting these calls. The initial call takers, or front-end representatives, can respond to general calls about appliance information, schedule a service call for the consumer, order replacement or additional parts on request, or screen the consumer before transferring him/her to a more technically adept representative. The technical representative is on hand to guide the consumer through a diagnostic procedure that leads to a successful resolution to the consumer’s problem.