Kore.ai: A Platform Facilitating Efficient Human-To-Human And Human-To-System Communications

10 Best Startup Companies to Watch 2022

What does Kore.ai do actually? What was your inspiration behind entering the AI based interface field?

Kore.ai is a global leader in enterprise conversational AI platform and solutions space and helps organizations automate voice and digital interactions to deliver extraordinary experiences for their customers, contact center agents and employees worldwide.

The company was founded in 2014 with a vision to build a platform that will facilitate efficient human-to-human and human-to-system communications.

Large enterprises, which is our target customer segment, were more interested in human-to- machine communications in natural language than a just plain old human-to-human communications for which there already existed messaging platforms of different kinds.

So, Kore.ai went about building various components to the platform, particularly through the three different natural language processing (NLP) engines that work simultaneously and accurately understand what a user says and enable a machine to respond in natural language to the user’s request.

Over the years, our vision and thought that humans can communicate with machines in natural language has come together in the form of the platform, which we call the Experience Optimization (XO) Platform.

We believe that the next UI is the conversational UI as it allows the humans to communicate in awaythey are most comfortable with and gives them the ability to be free like they were born to be. It is much more human-centric than the established models for human-computer interactions, at least for the next few decades.

Elucidate about SmartAssist? And in what ways is it helping in digitalization of businesses and AI user interface and assistance to businesses?

SmartAssist is an end-to-end AI-native contact center as a service (CCaaS) that delivers the next generation of contact center experience to the enterprise. AI drives the customer experience, routing experience and agent experience from start to finish, an innovative AI-native approach.

From automation to agent assistance to flexible deployment models, SmartAssist has everything you need to reimagine the contact center experience.

Antiquated technology, lackluster experiences and high costs have made contact centers a source of pain for both the enterprise and the customer, until now. Kore.ai has created the world’s first and only end-to-end AI-native contact center as a service, SmartAssist. Built from the ground up and working side-by-side with one of the most comprehensive conversational AI technologies on the planet, SmartAssist transforms the contact center experience from pain to gain. It provides delightful experiences to customers, scales automation and intelligence efficiently over time and drives impactful results to the bottom line.

Some of its key features are:

  • Instantly improve the customer experience by giving your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) the power to understand and respond in natural language in voice or chat.
  • Enables companies to intelligently automate, deflect to chat, or escalate to agents based on each unique use case through AI that understands the intents and sentiment of each customer.
  • As an AI-native solution it can answer questions and execute customer requests.
  • It empowers agents. Customer data and applications, session history and context, an agent virtual assistant, integrations and more are included in this workspace to optimize the agent experience.
  • Gives agents real time tips, next best action recommendations and empathetic response suggestions to drive speed and efficiency.
  • Supervisors can view agent activity, complete interactions or even monitor and join live conversations. They can also glean insights, understand the incoming customer queue and identify opportunities to optimize performance.
  • It enables flexible deployment as companies can protect existing investments by deploying complementary SmartAssist components with the current solution or transform their contact center with the end-to-end AI-native solution.
  • Gives customers the freedom to choose from 35+ channels to start a conversation and let them move freely across them while maintaining context.

How do you think technological advancement has helped automation and science- tech companies develop and stand in the ever-growing world?

In general, companies that have implemented conversational AI technology have improved the speed of their business and experienced increase in employee productivity, reduction in support costs and time-to-market.

From answering simple questions to completing complex transactions, conversational AI-enabled intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) have to a great extent removed the problems of onerous waits and human errors or complex self-service navigation and frustration.This has enhanced customer and employee experience leading to better customer satisfaction (CSAT) and employee engagement.

Customers, who typically spend more than 40 days of their life on hold, are instantly served by IVAs rather than waiting for a live representative. This, in turn, frees up customer service employees to handle more complex issues.

Going forward, companies should try to leverage conversational AI to further strengthen their omnichannel presence, multilingual support, knowledge management, and insights engines.

In a world where products or services offer little differentiation, designing effortless omnichannel customer engagement will become an absolute must if companies want to retain their competitive edge. The rise of social media and mobile technologies has meant that the number of touchpoints a customer has with a company has increased manifold. Enterprises are now challenged with the task of balancing customer expectations on every possible channel, in the way they prefer to interact with the business and deliver an effortless experience. The only way forward to win loyalty in this context is by making it super easy for customers to do business with them.

Customer studies show that the companies providing product information or support in local language see more adoption. Customers feel comfortable and confident in interacting in their local language. Hence, most large national organizations will invest in technologies that will help them provide support in multiple languages and the ability to switch languages seamlessly.

Contact centers will deepen their AI investments to enable better smart routing, call deflection or automation capabilities with real-time assistance. Agent-assist tools can monitor incoming calls or conversations and provide recommendations on next best action or present relevant information or documents to the agent. They also monitor and evaluate the call performance and provide guidance on improving customer experience.

As for improvements, companies should strive to make their AI programs more transparent in nature. Especially in highly regulated industries like banking, financial services, healthcare, life sciences and insurance, explainable AI helps make decision algorithms transparent to business and technical users. This enables customers to quickly trace how interactions are processed, identify drop-off points, and continually optimize NLU, context management, and fulfillment.

Tell us about the challenges the company faced at its early stage of entering the market.

When we started Kore.ai in 2014, messaging was on the upswing. In the consumer world, it was Whatsapp, Telegram, Line and WeChat and in the enterprise world, Slack and Skype for Business, were dominant players.

But on the bot side of things, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and IBM were readying their frameworks and deployment models. But the space was unclear for most part.

The various players were still figuring out how to enable a bot to understand a user and be able to process that input and be able to get data from the backend systems and construct a message.

While that presented an opportunity, it was still unclear on how to define it in the enterprise context. For example, for an enterprise to enable this capability in a way by which they could deliver an experience like this in an easy way without having to write a ton of code and make it easy to train the machine to understand the natural language commands of a user was a far cry.

As a consequence, when Kore.ai first came out with the early versions of the platform in 2016, most enterprises were not yet ready to consume it. Thankfully, all of it started to change from 2018 onwards, when enterprise spending in conversational AI began in earnest. That was when enterprises started buying into the concept of having a bot sit in the messaging channel and communicate to enterprise systems so that they can automate a lot of requests for users whether it is on the consumer side or employee side.

How the recent COVID-19 pandemic affected your goals and vision associated with the digital disruption? What do you think will be the future of the Smart Assist and AI based conversational interface post-COVID-19?

Since the pandemic’s start, companies have recognized their customers’ need for more personalized and human interaction, especially in a digital space.

This surge of expectations is forcing them to look at improving fulfilment experiences for their customers, agents or employees. Many are moving away from the first generation of pre- programmed chatbots, which while they could reduce the waiting time for customers or employees lacked intelligence or the ability to execute or were limited in capability to a few commands.

Instead, there’s a growing demand for conversational-AI enabled solutions that support aspects such as omnichannel multi-experience, intelligent self-service, proactive assistance, and voice- enabled personalized interactions.

Customers find it more convenient and elegant to interact with brands that offer voice-enabled conversational assistants. Similarly, cognitive-powered conversational search is changing the dynamics of search experiences for many consumer-focused businesses.

Financial institutions are adopting virtual assistants to leverage customer history, spending, and saving patterns to deliver hyper-personalized offerings in real time for individuals.

To support remote working employees, organizations are investing into AI-powered virtual assistants to support enterprise support functions such as HR, IT, Legal, procurement, or knowledge-based support activities.

Conversational AI is proving to be the next best thing for companies to improve users’ online experiences as well as individualize their interactions with increasing acceptance from both customers and the employees who utilize this technology.

Specifically, with regard to Kore.ai, we have seen a lot of adoption from pharmaceutical and healthcare companies in the recent past. One of the large US-based insurance companies is automating 100 million voice calls using Kore.ai’s technology and deploying it across for both provider and patient interactions. Similarly, for another leading diagnostics company, we are automating a lot of functionalities for various use cases on the customer side.

One of the world’s leading pharmaceutical giants has leveraged Kore.ai’s platform to come out with a vaccine bot, which is used by physicians to report issues with the vaccine and get questions answered. They are currently extending this capability for different vaccines across various age groups and furiously using conversational AI to make it simple for dissemination of the information.

Tell us in what ways Kore.ai and SmartAssist are contributing to the betterment of the digital space and revolutionizing AI industry.

Almost all customer-centric organizations direct their conversational AI use cases toward improving customer engagement, especially where huge volumes are involved and there’s a need for faster redressal or resolution.

Customers and employees who wait too long for support, whether it is for getting answers to simple questions or executing transactions, will find conversational-first virtual assistants extremely effective as against the existing support channels that provide limited self-service and poor personalization.

For example, a multinational banking leader deployed Kore.ai’s AI-first smart call deflection to unclog its contact centers and achieved a 70% reduction in call waiting time.

Similarly, there are multitudes of enterprise use cases involving IT services management, HR services, procurement, admin, legal, supply chain, logistics and more where virtual assistants are being used. Most of these are urgent but simple interactions that consume a lot of employees’ time, driving up cost and reducing the speed of service, and ultimately leaving a poor experience.

For instance, a Europe-based connected lighting major automated its customer support and IT support functions with Kore.ai-built AI-powered virtual assistants, achieving a 90% reduction in query resolution times. We began with a simple use case of password resetting which used to take roughly about 30 mins that now gets resolved in less than 20 seconds. Now they have over 65 use cases, which include auditing, invoice statuses, onboarding users, password resets and searching for the right department or help supported by virtual assistants.

A German multinational bank, meanwhile, deployed an IT support virtual assistant to increase containment from 23% to 40%.

More broadly, in the digital-first society that we are living in, enterprises are using conversational AI to drive conversational IVR, self service automation, omnichannel experience, personalized services and AI-enabled agent experiences.

While natural language understanding is foundational for all of these, the real ingenuity lies in applying this technology for enterprise-specific use cases.

Companies that have a forward-thinking view invest their R&D into understanding what kind of experiences they want to deliver to their customers and employees and build use cases related to those based on domain-specific know-how, which is supplemented by NLU.

Providers like Kore.ai specialize in designing and building sophisticated conversational experiences that power voice and digital interactions by understanding context, natural human dialog flows, identifying common intents and entities, and providing a wide breadth of use cases and consistency across multiple channels.

What are your future aspirations for the company? Where do you see Kore.ai in upcoming years?

There is increased demand for conversational AI from global enterprises that are trying to modernize and adopt scalable models for growth and business continuity.

Companies are using AI to enable real-time hyper personalization and consistent performance to drive better customer and employee experiences through natural language-powered conversational IVR, self service automation, and AI-enabled agent experiences.

The evolution of no-code platforms like Kore.ai has made it increasingly easy even for business users to build self-service options, which accelerated the development of new solutions.

For example, our no-code platform helps citizen developers and enterprise users to design and build sophisticated conversational experiences for customers and employees. The CX and EX delivery frameworks within our platform bring channels and enterprise system specific integrations out of the box, enabling customers to build both CX and EX use cases seamlessly without needing to worry about specific nuances.

We have also launched several industry and function focused products:

  • SmartAssist is an AI-native contact center solution for voice and digital. It’s a complete CCaaS solution to achieve higher automation, AI-based routing and AgentAssist capabilities to augment agent response efficiency and reduce Average Handling Time or AHT.
  • Similarly, there are industry-specific, pre-built virtual assistants like BankAssist and

HealthAssist which can be deployed on SmartAssist. BankAssist automates 150+ common customer service interactions and retail banking workflows.

  • SearchAssist is the AI-powered search assistant that blends cognitive and conversational

powers together to help users bring contextual and personalized search results.

  • WorkAssist is an employee workspace application that centralizes data from applications and provides tools to collaborate on it with help from Kora Universal Virtual Assistant.
  • HR Assist is an AI-powered self-service virtual assistant for every employee to get help on

HR queries.

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