LivePerson: Connecting Brands with Consumers Through AI-Powered Conversational Commerce

Robert LoCascio

Automation is at the forefront of digital transformation for enterprises across the world today. Intelligent automation, which combines artificial intelligence and automation, is growing in importance as one of the key ways the business world can better engage with customers.

Intelligent automation has been used increasingly to optimize and streamline business processes, remove the necessity for manual work, and further enhance predictability and relatability of automatically performed tasks. One of the major companies at the convergence of AI and automation that helps enterprises connect with their customers effectively is LivePerson.

LivePerson, based in New York City, is a leading provider of conversational commerce solutions. Conversational commerce gives consumers new ways to ask questions, purchase products and services, and get help through their favorite messaging apps or voice assistants. LivePerson believes that interacting with brands should be as easy as interacting with friends and family. For example, people should be able to text something to a brand — or shout it out in their living room — and get a response.

LivePerson’s mission is to make life easier by transforming how people communicate with brands. The company’s CEO, Rob LoCascio, invented webchat in 1995, and LivePerson has been transforming brand-to-consumer interaction ever since. In 2015, it introduced messaging, giving brands a way to interact with consumers in the channels they prefer, and in 2018, the company innovated again, making AI and automation a fundamental part of delivering messaging at scale.

 

A Transformational Business Leader

Robert LoCascio is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of LivePerson. He is the longest-serving Founder and CEO on the Nasdaq Stock Market. When LoCascio invented webchat in 1995, it transformed how consumers and brands interacted digitally, allowing for direct, real-time connections. This transformational spirit continues to permeate how LivePerson operates, especially as the company has pivoted to messaging. While webchat is session-based, messaging works continuously, on the consumer’s time, and happens on their favorite messaging channels. Using messaging in conjunction with automation and AI means that companies can now engage in conversational commerce, a new way of doing business that transforms how brands engage with customers, much like webchat did in the 90’s.

 

Leading the Way in Innovation

One of the company’s key drivers of innovation is its people. In 2018, Alex Spinelli joined LivePerson as Chief Technology Officer. Previously global head of Alexa OS for Amazon, Spinelli brought a wealth of AI, machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) expertise to LivePerson. Since joining LivePerson, he has built a technology center in Seattle and recruited over 200 developers that have already begun to deliver on a comprehensive roadmap of AI services.

In addition to this expertise, the company has an open platform that connects to a wide range of messaging applications, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, SMS, WeChat, and more; that integrate with Dialogflow, Watson, Luis, Lex, and other NLPs; plus integrate with Salesforce, other CRMs, and a wide range of back-end business systems. The open platform and the 40+ APIs and SDKs LivePerson offers give brands a high degree of customization and control over their conversational flows.

 

Making a Mark on the Industry

As more brands shift customer interactions from traditional channels — via phone, self-service on the web, or in their mobile app — to conversational interactions through messaging apps and voice assistants, the ability to handle millions of those interactions without impacting customer experience becomes critical. A recent Forrester study commissioned by LivePerson found that only about a third of enterprises feel they can react to consumers’ wants and needs in real-time.

LivePerson’s customers are able to leverage AI-powered technology to deliver personalized, high-impact conversational experiences at scale. Brands across all industries are using LivePerson’s Conversation Builder to speed the design and development of bots to handle a wide range of customer inquiries and use cases. Contact center agents are using dashboards and real-time sentiment indicators to oversee bots to ensure high-quality customer interactions. Business managers are able to use intent detection to fuel real-time decision-making. One of LivePerson’s customers — a major telco — was able to detect network issues before their Network Operations Center could simply by looking at customer inquiries coming in through messaging channels in real-time.

Underpinning the platform is an advanced AI engine — Maven — that works together with real-time intent detection to understand customer inquiries, route them to the right agent or bot, and use machine learning to update and improve algorithms.

 

Leveraging AI to Power Conversational Commerce

As more brands shift customer interactions to AI and automation, the company expects that traditional communications platforms will evolve. LivePerson is already seeing businesses taking steps to become fully conversational. Buddybank, for example, is the world’s first conversational bank. They don’t have a traditional website — instead, visitors are invited to start a messaging conversation. T-Mobile last year launched its Team of Experts, and its advertising campaign heavily featured the universal frustration of calling into interactive voice response (IVR) systems for robotic customer service taking place over the phone. Many of LivePerson’s customers are beginning to plan for significantly scaling back their IVR operations. The company believes that more businesses will become primarily conversational going forward, with contact centers filled with agents that are managing bots or handling multiple messaging conversations at once, not sitting on a phone, talking to one customer at a time.

 

Creating Value through Customer Insights

The value of conversational data is massive. “When customers interact via messaging apps and voice assistants, they indicate what they want to do — their intent — through utterances and text messages, and at each turn of the conversation, the company can see their reactions and decision-making. This provides a level of insight not possible through traditional marketing and care channels. As brands continue to shift more of their interactions to messaging, datasets will grow and machine learning will improve, unlocking new customer insights and potential use cases for brands,” says Spinelli.

For business decision makers, especially marketers, the level of insight available through conversational data and real-time intent detection is unparalleled. Even the most sophisticated web reporting tools can’t tell you why a consumer did or did not make a buying decision. Spinelli cites Aramark’s launch of Brew2U to replace beer hawkers during Philadelphia Phillies games as example. Aramark was able to see what type of beer their customers were asking for and make menu updates on the fly. This type of real-time, AI-powered decision-making is made possible, at scale, with conversational data.

 

Remarkable Achievements and Recognition

Most recently, LivePerson’s Maven conversational AI platform won “Best AI-Based Solution for Customer Service” from AI Breakthrough, which recognizes top companies, technologies, and products in the global artificial intelligence market. This is an important recognition of Maven’s ability to help brands create, manage, and improve their conversations with consumers. The company developed Maven using its conversational dataset of billions of brand-to-consumer interactions, and the AI is always improving.

LivePerson also received Frost & Sullivan’s Customer Value Leadership Award for conversational AI in financial services. The company was awarded this honor thanks to its focus on automation and messaging, which combines to create a highly customer-centric offering that adds clear value across consumer engagement and communication channels.

 

Thriving Beyond Challenges

Spinelli says the evolution of LivePerson from a chat-focused company to a messaging-focused company posed a massive challenge. The adjustments meant the company temporarily lost some clients, but now it sees them coming back in a bigger way because they’re catching up to LivePerson’s vision of a world where customer intents come first.

 

The Future of Enterprises with Intelligent Automation

LivePerson is just at the beginning of mass adoption of AI and automation for customer interactions. Spinelli believes that most of today’s automation use cases are relatively basic: an order status bot can tell people when their package shipped; a payment bot can help them pay their phone or cable bill; a bank bot can help determine if there’s been fraudulent activity on people’s credit card. These are all highly-valuable use cases that drive huge efficiencies for brands and high satisfaction for customers.

Brands that are further along with automation have implemented more complex use cases, like personalized shoppers and product finders, hotel concierge service, and travel rebooking. As LivePerson continues to see more brands embrace automation, the company believes they will unlock some truly unique applications.

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