Developing a game-changing Virtual Agent for eCabs

Developing a game-changing Virtual Agent for eCabs

The bespoke Virtual Agent (VA) for eCabs introduced a game-changing advantage to the company. EBO integrated the VA into eCabs’ Facebook Messenger, giving customers the ability to book a cab directly via Facebook.
AI in transport | EBO

About eCabs

Since its inception, just a decade ago, eCabs has become Malta’s largest private transport organisation, offering a 24/7 mobility service. The company seeks to relentlessly raise the benchmark, adopting smart technology and innovation to drive efficiency and sustainability in all its operations.  

Virtual Agent (VA) Name
VA Conversations / Month
Recognition Rate

What Goals Did eCabs Have?

AI in transport | eCabs | EBO
Stay ahead of the competition

eCabs was seeking to stay ahead of the curve in an increasingly commoditised and competitive market whilst upkeeping its quality standards in customer experience.

Achieve cost-efficient scalability

The company's high dependency on 24/7 manual customer support and need for immediate scalability, was resulting in staff overload and an increased rate of abandoned calls.



Reduce On-hold time

eCabs wanted to meet its customers' expectations and their needs for for immediate customer service. The company needed a fast, scalable system to automate the repetitive processes that were slowing it down.

The Challenge

Cab services have become increasingly commoditized in this day and age. With the onset of sharing economy and peer-to-peer ridesharing, the cab industry has transformed and flourished, increasing in competition and customer expectations. For this reason, the eCabs management team was seeking a means to remain ahead of the curve and its competitors whilst upkeeping its quality standards in customer experience.

High dependency on Customer Support Service

eCab’s mobile App and telephone channels were the predominant booking options within the company's omnichannel mix. eCabs was entirely dependent on 24/7 manual customer support. This caused an overload on staff during peak seasons which led to an opportunity to increase efficiency, shorten customer on-hold time and decrease the rate of abandoned calls and sales. This was essential considering today's increasing demand for immediate customer service. The company needed a fast, scalable system to automate the repetitive processes that were slowing down the company throughout.  EBO was approached to deliver an AI solution through conversational systems.

The Solution

A strong differentiator for mobility industry

EBO knew that the customer journey is as important to a taxi service company as the cab journey itself. Enhancing its customer experience using AI automation would offer eCabs the ability to build a strong differentiator.

Through a number of discovery workshops with the client as well as extensive research and data mining, EBO’s data scientists discovered that 74% of all customer requests received by the CS team were cab bookings.

In light of this, EBO’s NLP engineers developed a bespoke Virtual Agent (VA) for eCabs, which introduced a game-changing advantage to the company. EBO integrated the VA into eCabs’ Facebook Messenger, giving customers the ability to book a cab directly via Facebook, in a few simple clicks and conversational flow. On clicking ‘message’ on eCab’s Facebook page, the user is introduced to Sam, eCabs' own Virtual Agent, via friendly human-like conversation. Sam asks the customer the necessary questions and proceeds to booking a cab instantly. 

Customers can also choose to book a cab for a later date and time. Thanks to the use of an API, such bookings are handled immediately by the VA and directly booked into eCabs' booking system, without the need for a CS agent to manually book or revert back to customers with a booking confirmation.  This further  increases efficiency by reducing customer wait-time and CS workload. 

This VA not only serves as an FAQ agent able to automate conversation on a 24/7 basis but it has also eradicated any unnecessary customer journey hurdles involved in the booking process. Contrary to many cab companies, customers now have an alternative to App downloads, thus avoiding both the excessive use of mobile data and verification processes that require cross channel integration such as SMS or email.  Rather, the VA uses the ubiquity of the Facebook Messenger app to enable customers to communicate and directly book their mobility needs within the eCabs booking engine. 

This initiative has started to shift a majority of eCabs' workload from the customer service agent call centre to automated service, reducing customer wait-time, abandoned calls and repetitive manual tasks. eCabs’ customer support team can now focus on more complex customer requests and business opportunities.

The VA puts convenience and efficiency first, leveraging the strength of Facebook Messenger, a familiar app for many customers. With app downloads on the decline and push notifications often on mute, using such a channel increases brand awareness and accessibility, and ultimately, the likelihood of conversions.

Finally, this AI project has tapped into a lucrative target market for the company – foreigners arriving in Malta. The usual customer experience, once landing in Malta, involves searching for a taxi service online, downloading an app, providing personal details and going through a verification process. This is often costly, time-consuming and does not always guarantee success.

A dynamic full-body intelligent service

EBO deeply and securely integrated its AI technology into eCabs' back office booking. This access to the company’s data, maps, cab availability and drivers, allowed the VA to offer an immediate dynamic full-body service on a 24/7 basis. Today the VA can search for and provide users with cab availability, cost of journey and estimated time of arrival. It can further perform intelligent actions such as booking a cab or locating a cab for the customer as it’s on its way.

Conversational design and machine learning

EBO believes that conversation is the glue in effective customer service and therefore holds Natural Language Processing (NLP) at the centre of its product. For this reason, EBO did not only deliver the technology but its team of NLP experts also built and designed the conversation to create intelligent workflows. This was done by carrying out intent, utterance and entity training which involved developing a training model using existing customer utterances and use cases taken from past data.

Once in use, the VA’s machine learning capabilities would then apply self-learning techniques to keep its language library updated and learn as it goes along. This allows it to adapt, understand and handle a wider range of complex tasks and customer requests.

Emulating Human Conversation

eCabs’ Virtual Agent is designed to emulate human conversation. Thanks to its AI context and sentiment awareness, Sam can identify customers’ emotions and adjust the conversation accordingly. This gives the VA an element of agility in its response to customers. Its NLP training also allows it the capability to recognise a large variety of requests, regardless of conversation intricacies or changes in context.

Furthermore, the VA can personalize conversations with customers and remember customer preferences, after its first conversation. This helps to increase customer loyalty and customer lifetime value.

Continuous improvement

Unlike a large AI company, EBO works very closely with its customer. Whilst EBO's VAs are continuously updated via frequent software updates, the NLP team regularly monitors the VA’s performance, carrying out gap analysis and analyzing the VA’s rate of customer request recognition. These iterations allow the VA to continuously adapt to eCabs’ business needs and market trends.

Reducing Exorbitant Costs

Thanks to conversation automation, the cost per eCabs’ customer interaction decreases significantly making the VA a minimum viable product and an extremely cost-effective solution. eCabs can now upscale without increasing staff and cost. 

Introducing New Data Points and Customer Intelligence

Prior to introducing AI into eCabs' sale process, the company's customer data was fragmented with no ticket management system in place. Integrating the VA into eCabs' system, provided the opportunity for eCabs to capture all customer data into one user-friendly channel. Today, Sam can store all conversation data into one channel, providing the company with analytical customer data, including sentiment analysis. This has enriched the company with customer intelligence, helping it to predict revenue growth, profitability and gain informed strategic advantage.

Through this same backend, eCabs has full control over conversational workflows and can manage, build or improve current conversation flows. Support agents can also take over the chat, should the conversation require human intervention.

This is just the start

The future of eCabs is looking bright. Launching the VA has set the stage for eCabs to grow and advance in its services and customer experience. With future ancillary services and projects in the pipeline, these are just the first stages to unleashing the power of AI in the taxi service industry.

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Here’s what the companies we work with say about us.
“AI creates endless opportunities in customer experience optimisation. Our ongoing investment in technology is a strong differentiator within the mobility industry. This implementation lifts workload off our customer service centre, reduces the customer wait-time and provides a new touch-point with our clients. Booking a cab has never been easier, let alone more efficient.”
Matthew Bezzina
CEO at eCabs

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