Bots and AI: The Cutting Edge of Customer Care (Part 1)

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“People want to feel heard and seen – and today’s customer service very frequently does the exact opposite of that” – Dr. Justine Cassell, Carnegie Mellon University

LivePerson and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) recently hosted over 100 customer care executives from globally leading brands for the Bots and AI conference in Pittsburgh. I had the great opportunity to attend as part of the IBM team.

The idea at the heart of the Bots and AI conference is that bots and human agents can help customer service be more successful. Chatbots can build rapport with people and answer simple queries effectively. When a more complex interaction is necessary, chatbots can hand off to a live agent, and the agent can pass back to a chatbot to complete a transaction. Thus, chatbots and human agents can “tango” together to quickly handle customer queries successfully.

At the end of the conference, LivePerson CEO Rob LoCascio asked everyone to reflect on what had shifted in our thinking around AI and customer service. For me, the “aha” moment came when I heard one of the presenters, Dr. Justine Cassell from CMU, talk about building rapport with bots. She said that people want to be seen and they want to be heard. And, in today’s world, sometimes when you reach customer service, you feel neither seen nor heard. Bots and AI can build real rapport with people and help resource-crunched teams in making every single customer feel valued, seen, and heard.

Dr. Cassell and her team in CMU’s HCI Lab are focusing on how AI can help improve customer care. Their socially aware robot assistant, SARA, was at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, interacting with world leaders and helping them navigate the event.

One of the conference’s more striking aspects was the input from CMU researchers and professors who showed us the possibilities at the cutting edge of research today. Although the event bridged into brand-new AI research, it started out with real-life examples. Panelists from Kia, Royal Bank of Scotland, IBM Watson, American Express, and LivePerson discussed the current state of bots and AI and the practical considerations during bot and AI deployment in customer care. There were also inspiring examples shared by Vodafone, Royal Bank of Scotland, and KDDI.

Vodafone, with the help of LivePerson and IBM Watson, just launched TOBi.


TOBi is a chatbot – an artificial intelligence engine that is part of My Vodafone’s new in-app messaging service. Vodafone worked with LivePerson’s technology to power the messaging portion and leveraged IBM Watson’s AI to power the chatbot. Vodafone UK’s head of contact transformation, Richard Clarke, summarizes: “With 55% of UK consumers stating the most important factor in the ideal customer experience is a prompt and effective response to queries, TOBi is our answer to providing customers with a quick and easy web chat service.”

To learn more about Watson Virtual Agent, sign up for a free trial. Check out the video below for a sneak peek:

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