Lars Selsås is the CEO of Boost.ai, a company that helps enterprises create personalized customer experiences through digital assistants. In the past years, their focus has been on creating a chatbot with real natural language understanding to decipher the underlying intent of a customer’s query.
In this interview, Mr. Selsås shares insights on how AI has become a unique opportunity for marketers both to scale operations and to engage with customers in a sustainable and proficient way.
Tell us about your role in Boost.ai?
As CEO, I am in charge of overseeing the development of new features and functionality of our conversational AI solution which is currently deployed globally in over 100 virtual agents across the banking, insurance, telecom, and private sectors.
Can you tell us about your journey into this market and conversational AI specifically?
We started Boost.ai in 2016, after seeing a clear gap in the market for automated chat solutions that dealt specifically with a unique set of enterprise challenges. There was any number of off-the-shelf chatbots available at the time, but none of them worked effectively at scale or focused specifically on language understanding. This was a big focus for us in the beginning, and we quickly cornered the market in the Nordics by delivering virtual agents that didn’t buckle under high volumes of chat traffic and were more adept at understanding the underlying intent of a customer’s query.
Flash forward to 2019, and the foundation that was laid back in 2016 has been instrumental in propelling Boost.ai into our current customer experience-centric strategy going forward.
Customers are at the heart of any business: marketers have always known this and technologies like conversational AI offer a unique opportunity for them to reach out to consumers where they spend their time – on their smartphones.
How do you think technology is upgrading marketing?
Technology is unquestionably beneficial to the marketing sector. The enormous amount of data that is available today, compared to even a short decade ago, means that marketing departments can test, analyze and see real results on the campaigns they run. A savvy marketing department today arms itself just as much with data and analytics, as with a word processor and a catchy slogan.
Why do you think customer experience is gaining more attention from marketers?
Customers are at the heart of any business. Whether you’re a challenger bank looking to disrupt the financial services industry, or an entrenched telco preparing for the 5G future, at the end of the day it’s your customers that will make or break you. Marketers have always known this and technologies like conversational AI offer a unique opportunity for them to reach out to consumers where they spend their time – on their smartphones. Maximizing the customer journey through chat means they’ll be more inclined to stick with a brand for the long haul.
How has the application of AI helped to empower marketing professionals?
Conversational AI is a powerful marketing tool. Virtual agents built on our solution aren’t just resigned to being basic FAQ-bots. Instead, they are able to proactively guide customers to established goals or targets, helping them with their query while offering additional products and services based on existing data. By also being able to authenticate users, conversational AI opens up a wealth of potential in which virtual agents can perform complex transactions – say, reporting a lost credit card or upgrading a phone data package – that would normally require the assistance of a human operator.
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How does conversational AI help in delivering better customer experience?
Boost.ai’s technology centers around putting customer experience first. That means that our conversational AI can successfully automate the majority of a business’ chat interactions; while seamlessly and intelligently bringing in human support as and when necessary. Our clients have found enormous success through this method, with one of our largest banking customers automating 50% of all its incoming chat traffic in just six months. This balance of human and machine working together for the ultimate benefit of customers is what sets us apart.
Conversational AI opens up a wealth of potential in which virtual agents can perform complex transactions – say, reporting a lost credit card or upgrading a phone data package – that would normally require the assistance of a human operator.
What advice would you give to other technology start-ups?
It may sound cliche, but it is important for up-and-coming companies to find a way to differentiate themselves. There’s so much noise out there in the enterprise space, and you need to dig deep and identify what you are really bringing to the table that puts you ahead of the competition.
What trends do you see emerging in AI and conversation AI in 2019?
We can expect companies to begin demanding to see a return on the investment they have put into AI. 2018 was marked by multiple examples of businesses jettisoning their existing, ineffective chatbots and upgrading to a conversational AI solution that actually works for them at scale. Handling 80% of incoming inquiries versus 40% makes a dramatic impact, not only on customer experience but potential savings and future revenue as well.
What are the major developments you are planning at Boost.ai?
It’s an exciting time at Boost.ai. We recently debuted our newest technology called ‘Automatic Semantic Understanding’, which allows us to vastly improve the understanding potential of our virtual agents. They are now able to easily handle multiple intents in the same request, understand insanely complex queries and eliminate false positives by up to 90% in some cases.
We are also doing research on turning the understanding of how our neural networks think into a super-powered search that could potentially handle very complex searches, like insurance policy documents.
Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
In true Nordic fashion, we have a flat organizational structure at Boost.ai, making it just as much my job to support those on my team, as they do for me. We pride ourselves on being highly agile and collaborative across departments. Something that’s born out of the fact that we have had to scale up so quickly, due to the widespread adoption of our product.
About Lars Selsås
Lars Selsås is the CEO of Boost.ai – Lars is the technical powerhouse behind boost.ai, and his groundbreaking code is the basis on which the company’s conversational AI is founded. He has a deep understanding of high-performance code, big data, deep learning, and natural language technology. Lars spent a number of years in Silicon Valley working for some of the world’s leading artificial intelligence and natural language technology companies before returning to Norway to found boost.ai.