Klöckner introduces artificial intelligence into customer service

Germany’s Klöckner & Co has launched an application that enables fully-automatic handling of orders and enquiries, based on artificial intelligence (AI).

The app, ‘Klöckner Assistant’ and is able to interpret orders coming in by mail, by fax, or even over the phone, ceo Gisbert Rühl explained at a press conference. “Now, a real-time response to unstructured requests is possible, so that we have the complete process digitalised,” Rühl said at the conference attended by Kallanish. The app will be rolled out in the course of the year, he added.

The German-based distribution group prides itself on having achieved sustainable progress with the digitalisation of its processes, with its Berlin-based think-tank subsidiary klöckner.i and its e-commerce marketplace Xom. A number of start-ups in this area have given up after a couple of years, most prominently Mapudo, netzwerk-stahl and steel.shop. Rühl believes that one major flaw of these start-ups was that they failed to integrate into the industry at a regional level.

“We are a very traditional industry, so you quickly hit limits where your customers and partners are unwilling to make changes,” Rühl said. Klöckner has learned that it needs to adjust to the customer, and that the logistics of steel follow a regional logic. The ceo claims that Klöckner has managed those challenges by means of AI.

Although the group made a loss in 2019, Rühl notes that “… there is good news” in that more than 30% of the company’s business is now carried out the digital way. It is aiming to increase this to 60% in the next 2 years.