Conversational AI has no secrets for LivePerson's CTO, as the tech demands constant evolution. Before joining LivePerson, Alan fulfilled several roles at Amazon over the course of 8 years.
Nowadays, it’s hard to find a business or agency website without a chatbot to welcome visitors or customers. It’s a specific artificial intelligence technology that has seen impressive developments in the last decade or so, with several companies now dedicated to further developing conversational AI.
LivePerson is one such company, providing chatbot technology to several types of businesses and needs.
Looking to learn more about conversational AI, the current state of the technology and how it may develop in the near future, we reached out to Alan Gilchrest, LivePerson’s CTO, to elaborate on the matter.
Spotlight: Most online shops and even company websites use chatbots, but to someone who might not be entirely familiar with how they work, could you please tell us what they do and how they evolved over time?
Alan Gilchrest: In the 90’s, web chat started to become a part of our everyday lives, with people messaging one another from their desktop computers. At the beginning, companies didn’t have a presence here. In fact, our founder and CEO Rob LoCascio invented web chat for brands — that’s where LivePerson got its start!
From there, it became clear that to scale up to meet consumer demand, companies would have to use a combination of bots and people to have conversations with everyone reaching out to them via chat.
As the technology progressed and as people began to text and message on mobile devices all day, every day, customer service and shopping chatbots have evolved so that they can handle asynchronous (not tied to one session) conversations, as well as feel much more natural and helpful than they did in the early days.
Today, you might […] work with a bot to customize a burrito order, book a flight, upgrade your phone or find the perfect Christmas gift. It’s all about having a two-way conversation that gets you what you need.
What about conversational artificial intelligence? What exactly is it and where does it fit within the chatbot infrastructure?
Conversational AI is the technology that lets bots communicate with humans through natural-feeling conversations. Whether through voice-based or text-based interaction, it recognizes your intent, then takes action to resolve that intent. Old-school chatbots were rules-based programs that provided appropriate responses for very particular scenarios.
They would be triggered by defined keywords rather than true conversations. In contrast, Conversational AI combines natural language understanding (NLU), natural language processing (NLP) and machine-learning models to emulate human cognition and engagement.
What makes LivePerson’s Conversational AI “anything but artificial?” Can you tell us more about the advanced technology behind it?
Unlike more generalist AIs that aren’t specialized to handle any one thing, we are laser focused on AI for customer engagement. Our AI is powered by over 20 years of conversation data we’ve accumulated helping thousands of clients, including the world’s largest brands [that] message with consumers at scale. In fact, we now power about a billion conversational interactions a month, which gives us a unique dataset for creating AI.
All of this runs through our Conversational Cloud platform, which has tools for easily building and optimizing bots, analyzing customer intent and sentiment, giving human agents AI-powered recommendations for how to best serve customers and much more. From the data underpinning it to our tools [in which it’s based on] to the outcomes it drives for our customers, we’re creating world-class AI. Fun fact: Fast Company named us the #1 Most Innovative AI Company in the world this year!
Different businesses have different needs and concerns. How do you ensure the quality of the conversations with each client and how do you measure its success?
When it comes to customer engagement, we’ve found that working against a simple framework can help create great experiences. Based on our deep well of data and years of experience measuring and improving conversations, we came up with the LivePerson 4E Framework. This methodology combines 22 different metrics into a set of four easily understandable ideas.
On the consumer side:
Effort: how much effort did it take to get what I need?
Emotion: how do I feel about this interaction?
And on the brand side:
Efficiency: how efficiently did we handle this?
Effectiveness: how well did we handle this?
These four E’s are represented in easy-to-understand formats within our platform and they are paired with recommendations on how to improve against each to make conversations better. Using this framework, you can tell at a glance how conversations are performing and how to improve them going forward.