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Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, bots —a passing trend or much more?

Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, bots —a passing trend or much more?

Artificial intelligence is taking over the world whether we want it or not, so we can either make it work for us or against us. I choose the former. But how? That’s one of the things we talked about with some fellow startuppers last week.

The wonders of the SaaS startup community

It’s good to experience the startup community firsthand from time to time. It helps you keep your finger on the pulse much more effectively than just gathering data online or talking to people on Facebook and Twitter. That’s exactly why we decided to go to the SaaS Meetup, to see what the perceived trends in the startup world are, and to talk to some founders to find out whether these trends actually mean something. We also wanted to introduce some of our ideas and get feedback on how to best develop, launch, and promote our project.

So, we got into a few discussions on AI, NLP, machine learning bots taking over the world and all that. But… before I go on to talking about the outcomes, maybe I should start by telling you what it is we’re doing at Lekta :).

Lekta – the voice interface of the future

Well, in a nutshell, we’re doing some really awesome stuff. I’m not saying that simply because it’s my job to put Lekta in the best light possible but because I’m honestly and extremely excited about the possibilities that lie ahead of us. And by us, I don’t just mean the Lekta team, I mean the entire world; the world of everything connected: connected customers, connected devices, connected businesses.

But anyway, I’m starting to babble and you probably just want to finally find out what Lekta is. Right?

Lekta is an advanced spoken and written Dialogue System Framework. It redefines the way people communicate with businesses. Lekta’s cutting edge technology can automatically manage millions of conversations with customers, users, and devices.

And what exactly does that mean? It basically means that you can use Lekta as a voice (and also text) interface for anything you want. It can be a 24/7 virtual agent in a contact center, e-commerce store or a doctor’s office. It can add voice control to any app. It can enable your IoT devices to have a real conversation with you. It can help you to easily connect apps to each other, apps to devices, and more.

I call it „Siri on steroids”, but Lekta is so much more than that. I’m not going to go into too many technical details because I’m not the one who should do it, the creator of Lekta, Jose Quesada, and our Lead Developer, Daniel Slavetskiy, are way more qualified to do that. And don’t worry, they will. Soon. On this blog.

In the meantime, let me go back to our SaaS Meetup discussions.

Are AI and NLP the way to go?

We mainly discussed AI and NLP and specifically tried to answer the question whether the two actually make our lives easier. Do people prefer touchscreens and clicking a couple of buttons instead of using voice commands? And do they prefer talking to a human instead of a virtual assistant? Well, the opinions vary but we did come to some conclusions*:

  1. Some people just don’t want to talk to robots however, most people don’t mind talking to a robot, as long as doing so actually speeds up the process of, say, ordering a pizza or scheduling a medical appointment. So, as long as talking to a bot makes things easier and faster, the users won’t mind not being able to talk to a customer support agent, a secretary or a sales assistant.
  2. People don’t want to be tricked into thinking they’re talking to a real human. They actually prefer knowing they’re talking to a robot from the very beginning, as opposed to discovering the fact after engaging in the conversation.
  3. There might be an issue with the security of ASR-enabled solutions. When you allow a device to detect your voice at any point in time, the sensible assumption would be that it’s always listening. Take Amazon’s Echo, for example. You put it on a table in your living room and when you want to have a private conversation… are you sure Amazon doesn’t hear you? We obviously don’t want to get paranoid and, personally, I try not to care about stuff like that but, a lot of people can get freaked out if you tell them that the reason why they can voice-control everything around them is that every single device is listening to them. All. The. Time.

So those are the main things we managed to discuss between keynotes and lunch :).

The future of AI

The keynotes though! The speakers only assured us in thinking that we’re right in the eye of the AI storm. The predictions are that basically everything will be AI-enabled sooner or later. Starting with healthcare, marketing and business intelligence.

According to Nick Franklin‚s (CEO of ChartMogul) keynote, AI will also be crucial in customer service, sales, and bookkeeping. The UI paradigm also shifts toward more natural language in both text and voice communication.

AI-heat-map-featured-June2016
„Artificial Intelligence: Sub-Industry Heatmap” by CBInsights
nick-franklin-saas-meetup-krakow
Nick Franklin’s keynote at SaaS Meetup in June 2016 in Krakow, Poland

Since Lekta is all about AI and NLP, I’d say we have a great chance of becoming part of something big – bigger than just a passing trend and temporary hype. AI is here to stay, so let’s use its full potential to make our lives… even more enjoyable!


*Remember, these are just conclusions from a bunch of startuppers, based on what they heard, read, saw, and experienced – so not exactly a sample representative of our entire society. But still, I think we managed to touch on some important issues that can be a base for further discussion. So… is there anything AI/NLP-related that you would like to discuss?

Anna Rys

Business Developer at Lekta.ai
A startup lover with a need to continuously improve and challenge herself. She admires amazing ideas and people who create and bring them to life with passion. She thrive to be one of them.

Anna Rys

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Recent posts

NLP market is growing
Natural Language Processing is worth it—the market size of one of the biggest AI components

Before we go into why it’s worth investing in NLP from a company’s point of view, let’s take a look at whether all this artificial intelligence talk could be just a passing trend that your business can do without. One way to think about it: If the market is growing, there must be something in it.

So how does the AI/NLP market look? Well, it’s a little complicated to define what exactly constitutes artificial intelligence but if you think of the all-encompassing robots and artificial intelligence market, like Bank of America Merrill Lynch did, you can be looking at a market worth $70bn by 2020 for just the AI part of it. WOW, right?

Global AI and robots market

Now, according to Tractica, natural language processing is “emerging as one of the most highly utilized technologies in the broader field of AI”. This is due mostly to the increasingly recognized value of data and the fact that a lot of it comes from naturally spoken and written words. Because a lot of data is simply human.

Natural language processing is already used to some extent in healthcare, e-commerce, and IT and telecom industries. Those are also the NLP market segments to grow the most over the next few years.

The overall NLP market size is predicted to arrive at a whopping $16.07bln by 2021, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 16.1%. This will be caused mainly by increasing demand for better customer experience, as well as increasing usage of smart devices. The fastest market growth will be experienced in Asia and North America.

In that prediction, a very broad definition of NLP is used, and it includes information retrieval, information extraction, automatic summarization, machine translation and dialogue systems. So, it can mean anything from a virtual assistant to tools for extracting data from huge amounts of spoken and written words, numbers, phrases and sentences.

At Lekta, we chose to concentrate on conversational interfaces and just that has a whole lot of usage possibilities. But obviously, since Lekta is a framework that is not rigidly defined, it can have other applications as well. And we plan to enable developers to use Lekta to create all sorts of amazing things in the near future.

But let’s get back to the topic at hand. Natural language processing is a great technology for automating human tasks without losing the human touch. And yes, that also means that people who did those jobs will have to move on to doing something else. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.

As one Oxford study predicts, “low-skill workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerisation – i.e., tasks requiring creative and social intelligence. For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills.”

We’ll cover the topic of NLP’s influence on the future of employment in one of our future posts, so please do let me know your thoughts on the topic, in the comments section or in a direct e-mail!

Anna Rys

Business Developer at Lekta.ai
A startup lover with a need to continuously improve and challenge herself. She admires amazing ideas and people who create and bring them to life with passion. She thrive to be one of them.
Contact centers (yesterday, now, tomorrow)

Not everyone feels confident that they are getting the best possible help when they call a contact center for assistance. This skepticism often extends to the technology being used when a customer calls with a question. This is important since the technology that the person handling the call can determine how well they do their jobs as well as the kind and amount of information they have about the caller. Technology that provides context about the customer is still a rarity.

Let’s take a look at how contact centers have changed over the years and the technology, information and tools they have put in the hands of employees.

Contact centers yesterday

Not so long ago, contact centers weren’t that different from a secretary’s office. Agents working there had a telephone and email. Some of them had an IVR system that could be programmed to route certain calls to certain agents.

It’s safe to assume that agents had very little information about callers – who they were or why they were calling. They had to find out everything during the course of the call, which of course made it last much longer than it had to.

Contact centers today

Today, contact centers have more advanced technology that lets them significantly raise the level of customer service they deliver. Apart from telephones, text messages, email and IVR there are chat capabilities and basic bots that can take care of simple questions or set up appointments.

Agents in call centers get help from ACD (automatic call distribution), IVR (automatic voice service connections) and CTI (integration of telecommunications and information technology). These three tech solutions allow calls to be connected to specific agents thanks to ACD, basic verification of the nature of the call with IVR and quick verification of the caller with CTI.

In addition to these tools, agents also have access to video connections that significantly improve service, especially in IT. The ability to see the caller on a video screen makes setting up the parameters of the situation and solving problems much easier.

Contact centers tomorrow

Some technologies of tomorrow can be found today in certain companies even though not all of them see the full potential of those technologies yet. It’s worth noting though that even the most cutting edge technology has its pluses.

Imagine a situation when you call your bank and you hear “Welcome, how can I help you?” It’s just like when you walk into the local branch, except… you’re not talking to a human. It’s an advanced information system that is able to have a conversation with you just like the friendly agent in the bank would.

The advantages of such a system are obvious:

  • A customer service center, available day and night, with the ability to carry on voice contact and resolve problems over the phone.
  • Callers can ask to speak with an actual representative at any time but most inquiries can be solved with just the human-machine interaction.

How is this possible?

The Lekta NLP system is making its debut. It implements the logic of leading dialogue and easily adapts to the specific topic of a conversation and takes the conversation in the right direction. Callers have control over the conversation – Lekta just shares information or asks for necessary details.

dialog interface

Lekta can reliably identify problems and deliver relevant information or direct the conversation to the right person along with all the data gathered from the caller.

It may sound like science fiction but this is simply very advanced technology that makes it possible to talk with machines in a conversation that’s no different than a chat between two people. Lekta is the dialogue interface of the future and is available today.

Support, not competition

Implementing new technologies often causes anxiety among employees since it raises questions about their future. But not every tech solution means reducing staff. More and more systems are being created to support and help the work of employees and that’s the case with Lekta.

The system is able to handle about 80% of the conversations that usually go to call center agents. From a business point of view, this is a huge help and takes small matters out of the hands of agents, letting them concentrate on more complex matters and customer issues.

Lekta frees up the time of not only employees of call centers but the management team as well. It doesn’t require a hiring process or training and it works all day, every day. It also offers continuous insight into the course of any conversation and makes it possible to optimize offers that are better matched to the needs and expectations of customers.

These features make it worth trusting this technology and integrating it into the customer relations in your business. After all, if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving back.

Feel free to contact us if you want to talk about the Lekta.

Anna Rys

Business Developer at Lekta.ai
A startup lover with a need to continuously improve and challenge herself. She admires amazing ideas and people who create and bring them to life with passion. She thrive to be one of them.
Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, bots —a passing trend or much more?

Artificial intelligence is taking over the world whether we want it or not, so we can either make it work for us or against us. I choose the former. But how? That’s one of the things we talked about with some fellow startuppers last week.

The wonders of the SaaS startup community

It’s good to experience the startup community firsthand from time to time. It helps you keep your finger on the pulse much more effectively than just gathering data online or talking to people on Facebook and Twitter. That’s exactly why we decided to go to the SaaS Meetup, to see what the perceived trends in the startup world are, and to talk to some founders to find out whether these trends actually mean something. We also wanted to introduce some of our ideas and get feedback on how to best develop, launch, and promote our project.

So, we got into a few discussions on AI, NLP, machine learning bots taking over the world and all that. But… before I go on to talking about the outcomes, maybe I should start by telling you what it is we’re doing at Lekta :).

Lekta – the voice interface of the future

Well, in a nutshell, we’re doing some really awesome stuff. I’m not saying that simply because it’s my job to put Lekta in the best light possible but because I’m honestly and extremely excited about the possibilities that lie ahead of us. And by us, I don’t just mean the Lekta team, I mean the entire world; the world of everything connected: connected customers, connected devices, connected businesses.

But anyway, I’m starting to babble and you probably just want to finally find out what Lekta is. Right?

Lekta is an advanced spoken and written Dialogue System Framework. It redefines the way people communicate with businesses. Lekta’s cutting edge technology can automatically manage millions of conversations with customers, users, and devices.

And what exactly does that mean? It basically means that you can use Lekta as a voice (and also text) interface for anything you want. It can be a 24/7 virtual agent in a contact center, e-commerce store or a doctor’s office. It can add voice control to any app. It can enable your IoT devices to have a real conversation with you. It can help you to easily connect apps to each other, apps to devices, and more.

I call it „Siri on steroids”, but Lekta is so much more than that. I’m not going to go into too many technical details because I’m not the one who should do it, the creator of Lekta, Jose Quesada, and our Lead Developer, Daniel Slavetskiy, are way more qualified to do that. And don’t worry, they will. Soon. On this blog.

In the meantime, let me go back to our SaaS Meetup discussions.

Are AI and NLP the way to go?

We mainly discussed AI and NLP and specifically tried to answer the question whether the two actually make our lives easier. Do people prefer touchscreens and clicking a couple of buttons instead of using voice commands? And do they prefer talking to a human instead of a virtual assistant? Well, the opinions vary but we did come to some conclusions*:

  1. Some people just don’t want to talk to robots however, most people don’t mind talking to a robot, as long as doing so actually speeds up the process of, say, ordering a pizza or scheduling a medical appointment. So, as long as talking to a bot makes things easier and faster, the users won’t mind not being able to talk to a customer support agent, a secretary or a sales assistant.
  2. People don’t want to be tricked into thinking they’re talking to a real human. They actually prefer knowing they’re talking to a robot from the very beginning, as opposed to discovering the fact after engaging in the conversation.
  3. There might be an issue with the security of ASR-enabled solutions. When you allow a device to detect your voice at any point in time, the sensible assumption would be that it’s always listening. Take Amazon’s Echo, for example. You put it on a table in your living room and when you want to have a private conversation… are you sure Amazon doesn’t hear you? We obviously don’t want to get paranoid and, personally, I try not to care about stuff like that but, a lot of people can get freaked out if you tell them that the reason why they can voice-control everything around them is that every single device is listening to them. All. The. Time.

So those are the main things we managed to discuss between keynotes and lunch :).

The future of AI

The keynotes though! The speakers only assured us in thinking that we’re right in the eye of the AI storm. The predictions are that basically everything will be AI-enabled sooner or later. Starting with healthcare, marketing and business intelligence.

According to Nick Franklin‚s (CEO of ChartMogul) keynote, AI will also be crucial in customer service, sales, and bookkeeping. The UI paradigm also shifts toward more natural language in both text and voice communication.

AI-heat-map-featured-June2016
„Artificial Intelligence: Sub-Industry Heatmap” by CBInsights
nick-franklin-saas-meetup-krakow
Nick Franklin’s keynote at SaaS Meetup in June 2016 in Krakow, Poland

Since Lekta is all about AI and NLP, I’d say we have a great chance of becoming part of something big – bigger than just a passing trend and temporary hype. AI is here to stay, so let’s use its full potential to make our lives… even more enjoyable!


*Remember, these are just conclusions from a bunch of startuppers, based on what they heard, read, saw, and experienced – so not exactly a sample representative of our entire society. But still, I think we managed to touch on some important issues that can be a base for further discussion. So… is there anything AI/NLP-related that you would like to discuss?

Anna Rys

Business Developer at Lekta.ai
A startup lover with a need to continuously improve and challenge herself. She admires amazing ideas and people who create and bring them to life with passion. She thrive to be one of them.
3 ways NLP Dialog Systems are changing B2C communication – An infographic

NLP Dialog Systems are changing the rules of B2C communication

Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over the world, and intelligent B2C communications are no exception. State of the art Spoken Dialogue Systems are here to stay and they will become smarter and smarter every year.

Here are the 3 ways that NLP Dialog Systems are moving the needle today:

 

3-ways

Anna Rys

Business Developer at Lekta.ai
A startup lover with a need to continuously improve and challenge herself. She admires amazing ideas and people who create and bring them to life with passion. She thrive to be one of them.
I want it all and I want it now—what (hyper)connected customers are all about

You’re probably familiar with Queen’s song „I Want It All„. You’ve probably also heard the expression „connected customer” or „hyper-connected consumer” (used to describe people who are almost constantly connected to the internet in some way via computers, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, IoT devices, etc.). But do you know what these two things have in common?

Yeah, you guessed it – it’s mostly the fact that some of the lyrics very nicely describe the idea of connected customer:

So much to do in one lifetime (people do you hear me)
Not a man for compromise and ‚wheres’ and ‚whys’ and living lies
So I’m living it all, yes I’m living it all
And I’m giving it all, and I’m giving it all
It ain’t much I’m asking, if you want the truth
Here’s to the future, hear the cry of youth
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now

So, let’s break those lyrics down and analyze their meaning for businesses that want to stay close to their customers it the era of Everything Connected.

So much to do in one lifetime

We’re all very busy, and it almost seems like the more life-enhancing technologies there are, the busier we become. We don’t have time to overanalyze every single purchase (although, personally, I’m often guilty of doing just that – and then I realize that I really shouldn’t have wasted several hours on deciding which external hard drive to buy). We turn to people we trust for their advice and when they’re unable to help, we search for reviews online.

Only in the final stage of the buying decision process do we maybe have the need to contact a sales rep or customer support agent. And when we do, we want them to answer our query as quickly and efficiently as possible. „Do you have it in blue? No? OK, what color would you recommend? Great, sold.” And what happens if the person on the other side of the phone or chat isn’t able to help? We probably just move on to a different store.

Not having enough time also means that we use many devices simultaneously, like when we browse Facebook on our smartphones while watching a movie on Netflix. We also spend more and more time on mobile devices – while commuting, exercising, cooking, just before going to sleep, etc. They’ve become a standard part of our lives. Instead of reading a book on a bus, we take out our smartphones, tablets, smartwatches or e-readers. Those are the moments when we can look at product reviews, browse other products and services online and even actually buy something.

We often finish the buying process on a different device than the one we started on. We want this experience being truly omnichannel – a seamless transition from mobile to desktop website, for example, without losing the content of our cart. Or, being able to start a chat with a customer support agent on the computer while browsing the same e-commerce store on our tablet. And yes, we expect those agents to know the context in which we’re contacting them. The same goes for communicating with businesses via social media, phone or any other channel.

digital-connected-customers
Consumers go Digital and Connected – Flytxt on SlideShare

We have so much to do in one lifetime that we don’t want to waste our time on talking to agents who not only don’t know who we are but also have no idea what we’re contacting them about or how to answer our question quickly.

Not a man for compromise

If you don’t have it, I’ll get it somewhere else. That’s today’s customer’s approach these days.

As Brian Solis put it in his e-book Digital Darwinism and the Dawn of Generation C, „digital natives are connected, discerning, informed and elusive.” But, „they’re among the most loyal customers you could hope to attract”. Because, once customers are treated in a friendly and highly personalized manner in one place, they have no reason to go anywhere else. Connected consumers expect instant gratification and highly individualized treatment. And they know when you’re only pretending to be friendly.

An amazing customer experience is paramount not the price or product. It has to be hyper-personalized, timely (even on weekends) and right to the point. It doesn’t mean that all customer support agents have to be available 24/7, though. The clients are very willing to answer their own questions as long as they’re enabled to do so. According to Forrester, web self-service was the communication channel most often used for customer service in 2014 – more even than phone contact.

It’s easy to find everything online and customers know it. Make sure that once they get to your website or app that they don’t have to look any further.

So I’m living it all

No matter if it’s Snapchat, web chat or phone – customers want to be able to contact all businesses wherever and whenever it is most convenient for them. It’s important to build brand presence at every possible touchpoint and to deliver excellent customer experience everywhere.

These days it’s more about interacting with customers wherever and whenever they feel like interacting, as opposed to bothering them with content they don’t want to see. This means that you have to be ready to interact at any given point in any given channel without ever losing the context or history of that interaction. If someone has been your customer for a couple of years already, they want you to remember that they always buy a pack of socks in January in June. And they’ll be glad if you remind them about it at the right time.

And I’m giving it all

Today customers are willing to share more information with businesses than ever before but they do it only because they want to get a personalized experience. If they don’t get it, they’ll feel like they’ve been cheated. You can’t afford to let that happen because – as you already know – customers are fickle. And they will take offense. And probably never come back to you.

So, gather only the data you really need and make good use of it. Don’t require customers to provide you with weird information „just in case”. Believe me, it will pay off. Need some stats to prove it?

  • 40% of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize the shopping experience across channels
  • 73% prefer to do business with retailers who use personal information to make their shopping experience more relevant
  • 79% of consumers state that their relationships with brands are more personal than ever before
  • over 50% of adults under 34 are willing to share their location for more relevant content

 Anatomy Of A Connected Consumer [Infographic]

It ain’t much I’m asking

If you think about it, connected customers don’t ask for much – they just want to be treated like humans. OK, more than just humans. They want businesses to be like good friends they can trust. And all they ask is that trust to never be broken.

As in every friendship, it can have its ups and downs. And that’s OK (really!), as long as you, as a business or brand, are always honest with your customers.

Trust, honesty, transparency, humility and a willingness to learn from the customer – those are the five things connected customers expect. In other words, the same things you would expect from a good friend. But let’s add two more things – accessibility and timeliness. Because customers want to be your friends but they don’t want to have to wait for you.

Bear in mind that you have to adjust to how each of your customers wants to interact with you. Don’t try to be best buds with someone who only wants to ask about their order status and really doesn’t want to build any further relationship with you. You can try to talk to that person at a more convenient time and slowly build their profile.

Most customers will be very open with you if you give them a reason for that openness. But people are different and in business, as in life, you can’t make someone like if they don’t want to. And as long as you know you’ve done everything you could, and you weren’t too bothersome while doing it, it’s fine. Focus on the customers who do appreciate the relationship they have with you.

Hear the cry of youth

The digital customer revolution is just starting. If you think you’ve planned everything ahead and are good to go for another five or ten years, then think again. The connected customers of today are nothing compared to the connected customers of tomorrow.

Generation C, as some like to call the connected consumers, are not defined by age but by their connectedness. They use multiple devices, they multitask and they expect an omnichannel experience.

But you should pay attention to the younger group of consumers, who are not only connected but hyper-connected: Generation Y (or: Millennials; born between 1980 and 2000). They adopt the newest technologies quicker than any consumers before them. They know everything about being constantly online, the Internet of Things and Virtual Reality. They’re often driven by a sudden need to own something and their buying decisions tend to be quick and guided by emotion rather than reason.

They expect to get a seamless, hyper-personalized, meaningful customer experience across all channels, in both the old and newly emerging ones, and they feel deprived if they don’t get it. They’re not afraid to voice their opinions. And since they’re hyperconnected to people and things around them, those opinions are always heard loud and clear. I guess I don’t have to explain what implications that might have for your business.

I want it all, and I want it now

Connected customers, especially the Millennials, are impatient. If they want something, they need to get it right away. That means you have to constantly tend to their needs and be around when they want you. At the very least, you have to be on their mental radar. Otherwise, they’ll quickly find another store or another provider of services.

According to the Huffington Post, 2016 is the Year of the Connected Customer. This is only the beginning and now is the time to get ahead of this trend.

Build trust, build loyalty and use your customers’ data wisely to show them you care – wherever and whenever they need you.

And yes, if you need any help, Lekta is here for you. And so is Ratel (our context-driven business communications platform/operator that integrates perfectly with Lekta). But that’s a topic for another day :).

Feel free to contact me if you want to talk about the right tools for your business to make sure you stay connected to your customers easily and cost-effectively.

And now, to bring everything full circle, let’s listen to some Queen:

Anna Rys

Business Developer at Lekta.ai
A startup lover with a need to continuously improve and challenge herself. She admires amazing ideas and people who create and bring them to life with passion. She thrive to be one of them.

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