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National Express train operator One Railway has welcomed a new high-tech member of staff to the team - a virtual on-line customer services assistant who will provide customers with help and information 24 hours a day from the company's web site.

The 'Lingubot' can be found on the Contacts and Feedback Pages and is already answering thousands of customers' questions about train services.

She has been designed and animated by web design specialist Fortune Cookie and programmed by Creative Virtual. The service provides on-line assistance to customers on a wide of range of topics from timetables to job vacancies as well as even helping people out with lost property. She will also help people to navigate the web site by linking them automatically to relevant web pages in response to the questions they ask and the more questions she's asked, the more she can learn!

Fortune Cookie modeled the 'Lingubot' on One Railway catering team member, Dionne Mobbs, using photographs of Dionne with different facial expressions - such as happy, polite, serious and confused - to help the team to create realistic facial expressions.

The underlying technology is based on a sophisticated word and phrase pattern recognition system that matches pre-programmed responses in the Lingubot's knowledge base with questions typed in by users.

For users it means the sensation of communicating with a 'real' person able not only to answer their questions, but also to understand the context of those questions and even hold conversations. For web users - particularly of content-rich web sites - Lingubots can deliver important information far more quickly and efficiently than conventional channels like phone, email or telephone.

Chris Ezekiel, managing director of Creative Virtual said, "These days, it's every customer's right to abandon a web journey and use other channels like email, phone and SMS, to contact businesses instead. Employing a Lingubot is a way of automating - yet humanising - the internet in a way that delivers excellent customer service."

One Railway is currently running a staff competition to come up with a name for the Lingubot.

One Railway Lingubot
http://www.onerailway.com/contact.asp

Fortune Cookie
http://www.fortune-cookie.com

Published on: 12:00AM on 6th June 2005