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How Advania conquered the Icelandic market with conversational AI

Last updated 22 February 2024

Leading Nordic IT services firm holds a perfect track record for implementing the boost.ai platform across multiple verticals in its native Iceland

With a population of approximately 375,000 people, Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe. What makes it unique amongst even its most digitally-savvy Nordic neighbors, however, is that according to statistical data, 98% of Icelandic households are considered to be ‘online’ - holding the world record for the highest number of internet users per capita.

This incredible penetration of internet usage equates to understandably high customer service expectations from the average Icelander when interacting with companies and government institutions online. A demand that leading Nordic IT services firm, Advania, identified as an opportunity to meet with the potential of automation.

With roots in Reykjavik as far back as 1939, Advania operates throughout the Nordic region providing a range of IT services, platforms, cloud services and support to multinational enterprises, governments and businesses in both the public and private sectors.

“From the very beginning there has been a tight synergy between Advania and boost.ai. We collaborate on sales strategy and how to scope projects and it often feels like our boost representative is my closest co-worker.”

- Sigurður Óli Árnason, Product Manager, Advania

In Iceland, Advania’s software solutions team focuses on everything from processes to artificial intelligence with a wide range of available solutions including Salesforce CRM, OutSystems and boost.ai’s conversational AI platform.

“Companies in Iceland have among the highest salary costs in the world,” says Tómas Gunnar Thorsteinsson, a Sales Consultant at Advania who is directly responsible for the sales process of the boost.ai solution in Iceland. “Whether it's an insurance company in the aftermath of a storm or an airline during peak season, it is important for them to quickly scale up and down customer service as needed. Conversational AI presents a unique solution to this challenge.”

Benefits of a language-agnostic approach

Despite Iceland’s predilection for online communication, prior to Advania launching the country’s first virtual agent with boost.ai in 2019, chatbots and conversational AI were relatively unheard of. Thorsteinsson attributes this to the fact that people generally felt that artificial intelligence would struggle to competently handle the country’s notoriously complicated language.

“There was a lot of interest in conversational AI in the beginning because companies could see the benefits of it,” adds Thorsteinsson. “But no one really believed that a chatbot would work in Icelandic.”

“With boost.ai there’s no major risk compared to other enterprise technologies. You invest 8-12 weeks for implementation and the results are huge compared to expenditure.”

- Tómas Gunnar Thorsteinsson, Sales Consultant, Advania

This skepticism towards the technology necessitated that Advania partner with a conversational AI vendor whose Natural Language Processing (NLP) took a language-agnostic approach.

The boost.ai solution is designed in such a way that it requires minimal work to add a new language model - even one with the relative complexity of Icelandic.

“It really surprised me how easy it was to make the boost.ai solution work in Icelandic,” says Sigurður Óli Árnason, a Product Manager whose role it is to plan and implement Advania’s various conversational AI projects in Iceland. “It was an indispensable step in making this partnership so successful and what ultimately led us to choose boost.ai as the platform to go with.”

A close partnership from the start

Árnason led the implementation process for the first virtual agent to be launched between Advania and boost.ai - the Icelandic Student Loan Fund, Menntasjóður námsmanna - working closely with boost.ai’s dedicated Icelandic Strategic Partner Manager, Nói Björnsson. The government agency required the bot to be live on its website in time for its seasonal peak during January 2020, which gave the team only a matter of weeks to get it up and running.

“At that time, we hadn’t even created support for Icelandic yet and this would be a true test to see if we could launch quickly in a new market,” adds Árnason. “The boost.ai solution really lived up to the hype, and the chatbot was implemented in only three weeks. Even for an established market this is a short turnaround.”

The client was delighted with the outcome as the virtual agent allowed them to automate repetitive questions and handle traffic spikes during the peak season while also freeing up human agents to tackle more complex inquiries. Advania has since helped Menntasjóður expand the scope of the bot, enabling user authentication and integration with backend systems that allow users to query personal information such as outstanding loan amounts and more.

“From the very beginning there has been a tight synergy between Advania and boost.ai,” says Árnason. “We collaborate on sales strategy and how to scope projects, and it often feels like our boost representative is my closest co-worker.”

Bringing conversational AI to Iceland

As of spring 2022, Advania has helped develop and launch seven virtual agents on the boost.ai platform across the banking, insurance, tourism and public sector verticals, with four more scheduled to go live before the summer.

In each case, the virtual agent is either the first of its kind in that particular market in Iceland, or for the company itself. A unique situation that has helped Advania snowball its success with the boost.ai solution into securing even more clients.

“With boost.ai there’s no major risk compared to other enterprise technologies,” says Thorsteinsson about how ready his clients have been to take the leap into digital transformation. “You invest 8-12 weeks for implementation and build a team from within customer service. The results you get are huge compared to expenditure and that means a lot to our clients.”

“Advania’s role was huge - they created the entire implementation project with us and guided us throughout the journey. They provided a good bridge between us and boost.ai while offering their own insights and knowledge which was invaluable.”

- Hildur María Haarde, Service Director, PLAY Airlines

One such client that Advania singles out as a runaway success with conversational AI is Play, the upstart Icelandic airline that is not only disrupting low-cost air travel but also the customer experience paradigm.

“Play had a chatbot before they had airplanes,” says Thorsteinsson. “A big part of their strategy was to provide scalable customer service from the company’s inception and a chatbot enabled them to do this without needing to staff up an entire contact center.”

The tourism sector has exploded in Iceland over the last decade and Advania worked with savvy companies like Play and organizations like the Icelandic Tourism Board to identify the need to innovate and shift to digital channels to provide better service.

Play’s chatbot is the primary channel in which customers can interact with the airline, and has allowed the company to scale support to the level of an international airline while maintaining only a small core service team.

This ‘chat-first’ approach to customer service has similarly benefited Advania’s clients in the financial services industry, notes Árnason who adds: “Banking is one of the best business cases for conversational AI. The questions are simple and defined and they clearly map out their products which translates well into a chatbot.”

In the case of Islandsbanki, the leading Icelandic bank transformed its digital customer service within six months of launching its virtual agent Fróði. Developed in collaboration with Advania, Fróði was the first enterprise virtual agent to go live in Iceland and today the bot automates 50% of all online chat traffic for the bank, with a 97% resolution rate and 90% customer satisfaction.

“Islandsbanki has been incredibly dedicated to improving the model after launch,” notes Árnason. “If you ask their virtual agent a question and it doesn’t understand, within 48 hours there will be a valid response. This is the advantage of the boost.ai platform - the ability for total ownership without any technical expertise required.”

A perfect implementation record

What Advania has established with its wide portfolio of virtual agents is that the practical applications of customer service automation - 24/7 availability, instant response times and unlimited scalable support - are by no means restricted to a select industry or sector. The flexibility of the boost.ai platform has allowed for Advania to confidently enter new markets backed by class-leading technology and a faultless track record.

“Our chatbot is one of the most fun and successful projects I have participated in my 25-plus-year career. Advania and all participants came to the project with an open mind and willingness to resolve challenges in the best possible way.”

- Oskar Ingvarsson, Head of Business Development, TM tryggingar hf.

“We have been so successful with our implementations that it has got a lot of attention from other departments within the company,” says Árnason. “It’s never a given in software consultancy that your projects will succeed but we are about to finish our 11th deployment and are on track to keep a perfect record.”

Thorsteinsson agrees, citing the close partnership between boost.ai and Advania as a key factor to the team’s success in so many projects: “It can be daunting for a new client to come into a digital project and have to learn to build a chatbot from scratch. But thanks to boost’s well-designed platform and our expertise, by the end of the process they have everything they need and feel empowered by this new technology to reshape customer service for their organization.”

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