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How WeightWatchers embraces AI to engage members with empathy, at scale, with Sierra.

Discover how WeightWatchers delivers the next generation of customer care with Sierra

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WeightWatchers is on a mission to be the global leader in weight health and to create a worldwide community connected by healthy habits. As a leader in the space for over 60 years, WW has evolved to provide new solutions across the health spectrum - all underpinned by a deep and respected heritage in behavior change.

As the company continues its transformation journey, it continues to remain loyal to the heart of its mission: caring for its members and meeting them where they are. “Customers have high expectations: they want the right answer, the first time, with empathy,” says Maureen Martin, VP of Customer Care. “My job is to deliver a fabulous experience for our members, while creating an attractive place for our talent to join, grow and thrive.”

Making AI your own

Most Customer Care teams have to balance delivering a positive customer experience with driving operational efficiency, often finding ways to improve both simultaneously. The Customer Care team at WeightWatchers was no exception. They had invested in up-leveling their knowledge management system and self-service chatbots, and were continuing to look for ways to optimize operations. “In the past, if there was a policy change, our Customer Care team had 30 days to update the contact center. This included training, experimentation, practicing,” reflects Maureen. “Those days are long gone. We are embracing technology to move faster.”

In 2023, WeightWatcher CEO, Sima Sistani encouraged the organization to explore what was possible with AI. “In today’s environment, the companies that succeed will be the ones that transform,” says Sistani. “My priority was ensuring the right leaders were on the project: doing, testing, seeing what was possible.”

Sima Sistani, CEO of WeightWatchers
Sima Sistani, CEO of WeightWatchers
We're going to grow in ways that resonate with a more digitally forward consumer, and a key part of that will be embracing AI to help improve the member experience.
Sima Sistani
CEO, WeightWatchers

Maureen and her customer care team partnered with Sierra to build their first AI customer care Agent. A Sierra agent is AI-powered software that acts like an AI-version of your company, having conversations with your customers on behalf of your organization. Agents communicate using natural language, and are broadly capable. They are grounded in the knowledge of your company, adhere to your brand guidelines, and are able to access your systems in a secure and trusted way in order to take action on behalf of your customers.

Maureen was excited to see that Sierra agents were flexible, quickly adapting to the distinctive characteristics of the business. “Every company has a unique vocabulary and language,” says Maureen. “For most companies, the word 'budget' has to do with finance. For us, it relates to how many Points in a day you can have for the foods you're selecting.”

The agent was imbued with WeightWatchers' information, knowledge base, policies, and brand guidelines, alongside guardrails defined by the team. Next, the technical team provisioned access to key systems, empowering the AI to take fast action. Effectively, the AI agent became an extended member of the WeightWatchers team.


Engaging Members with Empathy

Before deploying broadly, WeightWatchers planned to test the AI agent within their mobile app on a small percentage of traffic, with the agent handling a hundred or so inbound inquiries at a time, to a small set of use cases. The team then planned to pause the agent after the trial in order to evaluate, recalibrate, and test again. After the first test, however, the work group was impressed. 

“I knew the AI agent would answer questions quickly, but I didn’t expect the responses to be so genuine and empathetic,” says Maureen. “I was reading chat transcripts with members exchanging heart emojis with the AI agent, or seeing the AI agent wish people good luck, or explain that it would be here if someone had to leave.”

Rather than pausing after their initial test as they had planned, WeightWatchers deployed their AI agent, and quickly expanded the breadth of use cases that it was assigned to solve. Soon after, they began planning to deploy the AI agent across all WeightWatchers customer touch points. “When I went to a recent leadership team meeting, I shared a few conversations. It’s not even something you can explain - you have to read the threads to feel their impact. Seeing is believing,” explains Maureen.

Maureen Martin
Maureen Martin, VP of Customer Care at WeightWatchers
I knew the AI agent would answer questions quickly, but I didn’t expect the responses to be so genuine and empathetic. I was reading chat transcripts with members exchanging heart emojis with the AI agent, or seeing AI wish people good luck.
Maureen Martin
VP of Customer Care, WeightWatchers

Scaling success across every channel

To evaluate the performance of their self-service tools, WeightWatchers has historically measured customer satisfaction and containment rate, which is the rate at which a chatbot can address queries and issues without the need for human intervention. With Sierra, WeightWatchers AI agent was able to contain nearly 70% of all cases within the first week, while continuing to deliver a greater than 4.5/5 score in customer satisfaction.

Trust is paramount

As much as the customer care and operations workgroup leads were focused on making sure customers were getting the right answers and that the AI agent was staying on brand, their IT and security counterparts were fiercely focused on trust.

“Our technology team has been playing the part of Devil's Advocate, writing in questions to trip the AI agent up,” Maureen explains. “And it is great to look at those examples and recognize that the AI has understood, identified, and caught the misuse."

Beyond stress testing how the agent responds to unusual requests, the WeightWatchers technology team was committed to security and protecting customer data and private information. Sierra agents are built with best-in-class access controls, data governance, audit logs, inspection tools, and continuous quality assurance, and were able to meet the comprehensive trust and security requirements of the WeightWatchers team.

What’s Next for Customer Care?

Beyond the tremendous increase in containment rate and continued customer satisfaction, WeightWatchers began to see the AI agent make impact on other areas of Customer Care.

The drop in average handle time was notable: “You always think about average handle time from the internal perspective, related to cost,” says Maureen. “What I began to realize was that the agent was also giving a tremendous amount of time back to the customer.”

Maureen is optimistic about what lies ahead. “Essentially, AI helps us keep up with the changing demands, making it easier to deliver a high-quality responses as we grow across channels.”

Essentially, AI helps us keep up with the changing demands, making it easier to deliver a high-quality response as we grow across channels.
Maureen Martin
VP of Customer Care, WeightWatchers

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