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Artificial intelligence and the people behind the machine

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This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of CIO Review magazine.  It highlights Wysdom Studio, and how AI optimization and ongoing management is the key to a successful conversational AI deployment.

 

Technology has come a long way since people first started interacting with artificial intelligence. From the first computer, to the Furby—the first artificial intelligence (AI) to reach a domestic environment—humans-AI interactions are everywhere. And as AI applications expand, we’re witnessing the rise of a new type of user interface—the conversational user interface—which promises people the easiest way to interact with machines and usher in the ‘era of conversational AI’.

Today’s market for conversational AI applications is in the billions and growing. People can stay connected to brands 24/7 and sometimes, without lifting a finger. Businesses can be omnipresent, offering their customer lightning-fast support, instant access to personalized information, and answers to questions over voice or text, anytime, anywhere.

AI is now in our cars, homes, and our pockets, and as it becomes more universal, it’s starting to radically alter how work gets done, and who does it. This creates a huge opportunity for businesses to embrace conversational interfaces and offer their customers more personal and engaging experiences.

But as more companies foray in the world of conversational AI, many are failing to provide the high-quality experience customers expect. If you’ve ever chatted with a virtual assistant, you’ve probably noticed major differences in the abilities of some vs. others. Where one virtual assistant can answer any question, or do something complex like find you a hotel, another might not even be able to do a simple task. Why are some virtual assistants great, and others so terrible? We reached out to Ian Collins, CEO of Wysdom.AI, a Canadian leader in conversational AI to find out.

“It’s most likely the difference in performance is due to the quality of their ongoing AI training, and the tools they use,” says Collins. “It’s the people behind the machine who can ensure an AI delivers a good experience. Many companies want to build virtual assistants, but few have the ability or the desire to optimize them daily. We focus on the optimization of conversational AI rather than its creation and have built out a suite of tools and an AI optimization practice to support our clients.”

No business wants their customers to leave unhappy, so when customers are not satisfied with a conversational AI interaction, you need a way to find out what went wrong. Was the speech not understood, and the AI needs to be optimized? Was the conversation not structured in the right order, and the journey needs updating? Or maybe the dialogue itself was bad, or the content provided was no good.

Collins points out that success comes down to daily optimization, continuously training the AI, analyzing conversations, uncovering behavioural insights, predicting and exploring satisfied vs. unsatisfied interactions, performing root-cause analysis, and prioritizing improvements. “It’s really a first in the industry, having Wysdom Studio, our set of tools that help understand the finer points of a customer’s engagement with AI.”

To highlight the benefit of tools that analyze similarities across conversations, generate titles for topics, predict satisfaction when feedback isn’t given, review the top issues the AI has, and see how important it is to fix certain issues, Collins gives an example.

“We work with a large bank whose internal IT organization had set up a virtual assistant using a third-party toolkit. After finding over a hundred thousand customer interactions within a few months and a huge amount of negative feedback, the company was drowning to try and understand what to fix first, so it sought our help in understanding them. Wysdom Studio was used to ingest historical interactions and apply our models to prioritize improvements. After taking over the bank’s virtual assistant and optimizing it based on the historical data, the performance metrics improved, and containment rates outperformed even their most optimistic goals.”

As the demand for conversational AI increases, Wysdom has big plans to grow and serve a wider variety of large and mid-sized businesses. “We will continue adding customer channels as new technologies become viable and focus on building the best optimization tools in the market,” Collins concludes.

With the realization that AI optimization is crucial to any conversational AI deployment, it’s clear that it’s important to closely monitor customer activity to recognize possible weak points in the content, user experience, or underlying AI, and modify the same to increase end-user satisfaction.

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Artiom Kreimer

VP, Product & Analytics

Artiom has spent 10 years in software and mobile engineering, specializing in quality assurance and customer service. He has worked in testing and QA at both startups and in enterprises such as Clickfree, TELUS, and Freescale Semiconductor.

Michel Benitah

VP, Optimization & Delivery

Michel has 20 years of experience in leading the successful delivery of Conversational AI and Natural Language Customer Care solutions to some of the largest financial, telco, healthcare, utilities, and retail enterprises throughout North America. 

 

Prior to joining Wysdom, Michel spent 20 years at Nuance Communications, holding senior management and leadership positions within the enterprise division, most recently as director of the Toronto office and professional services team.

Frederic Lam

SVP, Sales

Fred brings in 25 years of international experience in sales and business development across North America, the Caribbean, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle-East.

 

Prior to Wysdom.AI, he held sales leadership positions at Oracle, Redknee, and Movius/Glenayre, successfully growing revenues in both large and small organizations. Fred has also been involved in the start-up community in the earlier stages of his career as an Investment Manager with SP Capital and was an alternate director on a few investee companies.

Karen Chan

Chief Engineering Officer, Co-Founder

With 20 years of experience in software and mobile, Karen has held senior technical roles at 5 startups, including Wysdom.AI, Clickfree, Mobile Diagnostix (HP), Teamatic, and Virtualthere.

Karthik Balakrishnan

Chief Technology Officer

Karthik has over a decade of hands-on, proven global expertise in emerging technologies and implementing intricate platforms and solutions for telecommunications and enterprise during his time at Amdocs, with senior positions in their India, Cyprus, America, and Canada offices.

Nitin Singhal

Chief Operating Officer

Nitin has over 20 years of success in global executions of business technology, driving operational efficiency and digital scalability for some of the world’s largest enterprise clients. 

 

Nitin spent 16 years at Redknee holding executive positions in Research and Development, Customer Operations, Partner Alliances, and most recently as COO.

Jeff Brunet​

President, Co-Founder

Jeff has more than 20 years of experience in the startup world, founding and growing 4 software companies: AracNet, Mobile Diagnostix (HP), ClickFree, and Wysdom.AI. 

 

His in-depth understanding of software development and the challenges in making new technologies successful in the startup world prove invaluable as he serves on the boards of XMG, SurfEasy (Opera), Locationary (Apple), Groupie, and as an advisor to Pushlife (Google), LogMeIn (IPO) and HP. 

 

Jeff holds 23 issued patents in the wireless and consumer electronics spaces and is the lead inventor on 30+ pending patents.

Ian Collins​

CEO, Co-Founder

Ian has founded and grown 6 technology companies over the past 20 years, primarily in the enterprise software space including Wyrex, Mobile Diagnostix (HP), Clickfree, and most recently Wysdom.AI. 

 

Ian invests, mentors, and sits on the boards of several startups in the Toronto area.