In this Tech Talk Interview with Toolbox, Lars SelsÃ¥s, the CEO & Co-Founder of Boost.ai, talks about how conversational AI is changing the way tech experts interact with computers. Lars has a deep understanding of high-performance code, big data, machine learning and databasesOpens a new window . He has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley working for some of the world’s leading artificial intelligence and natural language processing companies before returning to Norway to found Boost.ai.
At Boost.ai, Lars and his team have dedicated their resources to machine learning. This has helped them develop a complete software for building, implementing and operating digital advisors powered by conversational AI. Talking to Toolbox, Lars explains how conversational AI can become an invaluable assetOpens a new window for the organization’s day-to-day tasks.
With the rise of conversational AI, large enterprises and tech companies are either looking at buying the services or the conversational AI platform provider itself. Amidst this buzz around conversational AI, Lars answers imminent questions for tech experts to take note of:
- How has conversational AI evolved over the years?
- How can CTOs ascertain the need of enterprises with conversational AI?
- How can conversational AI facilitate a new workplace reality?
Key takeaways from this Tech Talk interview:
- Understand how conversational AI works
- Learn how to measure the ROI of conversational AI
- Stay updated on the trends to follow for 2020
Here’s what Lars muses on how conversational AI has facilitated the new ways in which techies can view technology:
Lars, to set the context, what is conversational ai, and how has it evolved over the last few years?
Conversational AI is a technology which enables people to talk to machines with natural language. It has many applications, but the most common is to interact with customers through a chat window. Chatbots, which are simpler versions of conversational AI have been around for many years, these are rules based and contain no real AI/Ml. The emergence of cloud services and heavy machine power through graphic processing units (GPUs) have made it possible to train the deep learning algorithms, which a true AI-based virtual agent relies on. If you want to ensure good customer experience and ROI, you need to use conversational AI.
With increased uncertainty about where the technology is headed, where will chatbot technology go from here?
What are the three key things tech leaders need to understand when considering investing in a conversational product?
- You need to undertake proper due diligence of the technology but, unfortunately, this is not always done. There is so much technology available in the market but most of it is not appropriate for enterprise, due to lack of scalability, bad language understanding or lack of transactional capabilities.
- Determine your success criteria and goals as early as possible. If you want to automate 80% of your customer interactions or increase your CSAT score, this is something you need to hold your vendor accountable to and for. We often see many projects drifting without higher purpose and low ROI.
- Think both short term and long term. Make sure that you get early success to gain internal approval and buy-in, but also make sure you have resources in the long term to develop a virtual agent. It is a continuous journey â€“ like a human appointment to your team.
How can technology â€“ specifically AI â€“ help CTOs understand the needs of their enterprises? What are some of the best practices to keep in mind when it comes to building conversational AI interfaces at the workplace?
Find a vendor which provides training material and online certification, without the need of engineers, so you can build in-house expertise. A conversational AI project should be maintained and developed by non-technical people. We have seen many successful projects that have been led by existing personnel in customer support, who have been retrained as AI trainers. Their expertise has been invaluable and, for many of our clients, they are responsible for maintaining and developing the virtual agent project after launch.
What are the challenges that tech managers face when it comes to evaluating the performance of conversational ai tools?
Tech managers need to look beyond the spreadsheet. What is the most important capability of a virtual agent? Above all else, it needs to understand what you are saying. You cannot take any shortcuts here since this is the most important foundation of a fit for purpose virtual agent. Of course, having integration with the right system is a good thing but I recommend getting your hands dirty and start testing and evaluating the vendors live virtual agents.
A diverse workforce â€“ from remote workers to contractual ones, is the new workplace reality. In what ways can conversational AI help facilitate this new reality?
Which are the upcoming projects at Boost.ai you are excited about and would like to share with us?
We have many on-going, super interesting projects, but Topdanmark (the leading insurance company in the Nordics) is currently building personalized capabilities for their virtual agent, which means that their agent has access to customer data. So, when a customer asks Topdanmark if they are covered by a certain insurance policy, our AI will go into the CRM and look at which insurance policies the specific customer has. It will then go into the company policies to see how they are covered. Once that analysis is completed, an informed answer will be given to the customer together with a recommendation for next steps.
Which trends are you tracking in this space as we approach 2020?
Businesses will expect to see a return on their investment in AI. All bots are not created equal. In 2018, there were several examples of businesses transitioning from their existing, ineffective chatbot solution to a new vendor with true conversational AI. What this showed is that it’s easy enough to produce a small proof of concept that many technologies can support, but the real test lies in scalability. You need a scalable solution to properly handle thousands of intents or the possibility of integrating human chat in the backend.
On that note, there will also be a smoother handover between machine and human, significantly improving the customer experience by giving each part the grounds to excel. Robots will handle large-scale front-line support and forward them to the right human advisor when they deem it necessary, while humans will deliver that delicate touch that (still) only us mortals can provide.
The market is flooded with chatbot vendors, making it a difficult landscape to navigate. And it’s only when you scale up that you can begin identifying the winners from the losers. There’s a huge impact on both user experience, potential savings and future revenue in being able to handle 80% of incoming inquiries, as opposed to 40%. I believe we will see many companies evaluating their existing technology and either choosing to opt out entirely or find a more profitable replacement.
Neha: Thank you, Lars for sharing insights on conversational AI and its impact on the future of technology. We hope to talk to you again soon.
About Lars SelsÃ¥sOpens a new window :
Lars is the technical powerhouse behind boost.ai. His ground-breaking code is the basis on which the company’s conversational AI is founded â€“ so much so that Lars left his university course so he wouldn’t be forced to publish his code before he was ready to use it commercially.
About Boost.aiOpens a new window :
Boost.ai is a Scandinavian software company that specializes in conversational artificial intelligence (AI).
Taking advantage of robust natural language technology, unlimited scalability, enterprise-level security and best-in-class privacy features, Boost.ai’s clients receive the level of service their customers of the future expect â€“ today.
About Tech Talk:
Tech Talk is a Toolbox Interview Series with notable CTOs from around the world. Join us to share your insights and research on where technology and data are heading in the future. This interview series focuses on integrated solutions, research and best practices found day-to-day work of the tech world.
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