You know LivePerson.
Chances are you’ve spoken with LivePerson.
The technology company boasts a ‘who’s who’ list of customers across banking, finance, retail and telecommunications for its customer service software.
The purpose is simple: “to transform the way enterprise engage with consumers”, APAC general manager of LivePerson, Andrew Cannington tells Information Age.
“We do a lot of work with marketing departments to make sure the conversations [with the bots] are on brand,” Cannington says.
“As you can imagine, marketers love the fact that they can get on brand not just with visual cues now, but with tone of voice.”
What started as a webchat platform in 1995 (company founder Robert LoCascio is credited with inventing webchat) now offers AI-powered bots and messaging channels to help give customers and businesses an optimal customer service experience.
As any internet user could attest, chatbots are fast becoming the norm as businesses add automated solutions across SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and the company website.
The business case is clear – automated responses create a first filter for the human contact centre agents, allowing the agents to give a more focused and better response.
LivePerson believes its solutions deliver anything from two to four times improvements in efficiency.
But what is perhaps less obvious is the way in which bots are now being used to help build and maintain brands.
Who's joined the club
Among its 18,000 customers are Australia’s ‘big four’ banks.
Cannington highlights the subtleties that came with the recently concluded Royal Commission in terms of customer experience.
“They [the banks] were incredibly conscious of the governance and regulatory requirements around responses,” he says.
“They are incredibly focused on traceability and precision in the conversations that happen, so there’s a lot of governance that is wrapped around the answers that we can provide.”
But things lighten up as you move away from financial services towards more retail focused companies.
“As you get into some of the telcos [Telstra is a LiverPerson customer] and some of the retailers, we are finding their desire to build personality into those conversations, so they can be much lighter and engaging.
“You can start to build that brand presence into the conversation.
“This is one of those areas we’ve only scratched the surface of, we’ve been very customer care or sales oriented, I truly belief that we are going to see new jobs spring up around this.”
ACS’ Artificial Intelligence: A starter guide to the future of business, released last year, listed marketing as a noteworthy real world application for AI.
“AI will be able to better detect consumer sentiment, reflecting their current mood and better targeting advertisements,” the report states.
It also predicts “increasingly human-sounding AIs will be able to have voice conversations to perform telemarketing activities, polling and appointment scheduling”, similar to a bot.
Customer service trumps price
According to Cannington, these marketing-based solutions for AI fit into a wider shift in consumer preferences.
“Certainly in North America with our big clients, such as T-Mobile, or in highly competitive markets like the UK, companies are more and more differentiating through customer service, rather than through price,” he says.
“We’ve been through a large period of rationalisation and cost rationalisation, of competing on price.
“But as we become more and more time poor, as our brand loyalties start to reduce with younger generations, we are finding that enterprise is now trying to differentiate through customer service, through the ability to understand what consumers want – and very quickly and reliably respond.”
Building better bots
It’s no secret that bots are not perfect, nor are they meant to be.
Repetitive questions and bots getting ‘stuck’ at certain points in the conversation are among the most common qualms developers face.
This can be a result of developers not properly understanding the human journey and the “sharp and precise” language used among developers, Cannington explains.
“There’s a preference to make the bot without considering the customer journey,” he says.
To counter this, LivePerson has contact centre agents work on the development of the bots, to ensure a realistic experience.