Q&A with Henry Vaage Iversen, CCO & Co-Founder at Boost AI
Media 7 | March 30, 2021
Henry Vaage Iversen, CCO & Co-Founder at Boost AI, leads Boost.ai’s global sales teams and has expanded the business from the Nordics to Europe and the US. Henry has developed business ideas into real products, landed several deals for startups, and expanded businesses from Norway to Scandinavia.
Conversational AI can be used to make chatbots smarter and more capable, but that not all chatbots are powered by conversational AI.
MEDIA 7: What are you passionate about? What was your inspiration behind building a user-friendly conversational AI platform to help the frontline teams?
HENRY VAAGE IVERSEN: When my co-founders and I started boost.ai in 2016, we identified a distinct gap in the market, not just here in the Nordic countries but throughout Europe and North America, for an enterprise-grade solution that could automate customer service at scale yet wasn’t so overly complicated to use. At that time there were either simplistic chatbot products that weren’t a great fit for larger organizations or complicated automation solutions that needed a team of data scientists to maintain.
My team and I are deeply passionate about customer experience and know that this is equally true for many businesses. We designed our conversational AI platform to make it simple and fast for large organizations like banks, insurance firms and credit unions to deploy AI-powered chatbots that, through our no-code software, can be operated by anyone.
It means that these organizations can empower their most valuable customer service resource - their customer service staff - to create dynamic and engaging automated customer experiences with their wealth of product knowledge and expertise. To date, we’ve helped leading financial brands like Santander, Nordea and MSU Federal Credit Union to digitize their customer service strategy and put the power of self-service directly into the hands of consumers.
M7: What are the advantages of using a Conversational AI platform? How does it outperform chatbots?
HVI: Conversational AI is what makes it possible for chatbots to understand, process and respond intelligently to human language. What this means is that conversational AI can be used to make chatbots smarter and more capable, but that not all chatbots are powered by conversational AI.
We prefer using the term ‘virtual agents’ when talking about our conversational AI-powered bots because they can do so much more than just translate website content into simple chat responses. Conversational AI uses sophisticated deep learning and natural language algorithms to allow our virtual agents to perform complex tasks on behalf of customers. Everything from blocking a credit card and filing an insurance claim, to upgrading a data package or scanning a travel invoice, can be automated via a conversational interface that consumers have access to 24/7 without the need to call customer support.
Conversational AI also allows chatbots to understand when they don’t understand something and to respond accordingly. When queried about a topic outside of their defined scope, most basic chatbots will simply be unable to assist and this results in frustrated customers. Our solution includes a proprietary algorithm called Automatic Semantic Understanding that significantly reduces the occurrence of false positives and allows our virtual agents to intelligently transfer customers to an appropriate human operator when the AI identifies that this is necessary.
The pandemic greatly accelerated interest in conversational AI because of its ability to automate service and support traffic at scale but companies that weren’t already on-board needed to get solutions out fast without compromising on quality.
M7: Customers come from different backgrounds and understanding their slangs and dialects by an AI software is something unheard of. How does Boost AI establish a connection and deliver a personal touch while communicating with them?
HVI: It’s not very Norwegian to brag, but the various algorithms that make up our conversational AI technology stack are actually pretty powerful. We don’t confine ourselves to just off-the-shelf Natural Language Processing algorithms and our team works hard to ensure that our virtual agents are fluent in some of the most difficult languages out there.
This is evidenced by our strong client base in countries like Iceland and Finland that are notoriously difficult languages to crack for AI. Many leading public and private sector organizations in these countries use our solution because of its proven track record at understanding the nuances of the way their customers speak.
Over 50% of our clients have come to us after being dissatisfied with other solutions and they overwhelmingly tell us how happy they are to have found a conversational AI platform that is exactly what they need - from a language understanding perspective and also because we make it easy for them to get started thanks to our experience in successfully launching over 200 virtual agents across Europe and North America.
M7: To achieve the above, there is a thin line to be maintained between personalization and privacy. How do you strike a balance between both?
HVI: This is a great question. Privacy and security are important in today’s digitally-connected world and are a key component of our platform. We offer a variety of privacy features on the client-side of our solution such as single sign-on and two-factor authentication and, on the end-user side, we take GDPR very seriously and give users full control over their data. This includes data masking and the ability to delete conversations upon request.
Through user authentication, we are able to give our clients the power to personalize the chat experience for their customers by leveraging account information. This is great for enhancing interactions by suggesting products and services to customers that they may not be aware of but could be to their benefit.
M7: What do you believe are the top three marketing challenges in the post COVID-19 era?
HVI: The ongoing pandemic has really put the responsibility on conversational AI vendors like us to put our money where our mouth is. It’s easy enough for vendors to say that their solutions are the most user-friendly or have the best technology, but when the pandemic hit last Spring, it really illustrated the weak points in some strategies. We witnessed that our broad-scope approach to conversational AI was very successful in helping our clients handle unprecedented increases in customer service traffic during the early days of Covid. We had real success stories with some clients reporting that their virtual agents handled the equivalent work of 220 full-time employees at a time when it was impossible to scale up human support quickly enough.
We also encountered challenges when it came to implementation. The pandemic greatly accelerated interest in conversational AI because of its ability to automate service and support traffic at scale but companies that weren’t already on-board needed to get solutions out fast without compromising on quality. This led us to develop what we call self-learning AI that allows us to significantly reduce deployment timelines by scanning a company’s existing website, chat logs or even another chatbot and repurposing it into a useable model in a matter of hours. Then, instead of a sandbox trial or limited demo, we can build prospective clients a fully-functioning virtual agent, based on KPIs that they set, in a 10-day POC, for free and with no risk attached.
We live by three words at boost.ai - fast, easy and scalable. It is the basis of everything we do - from the development of our platform to our sales promise.
M7: Being the CCO, what strategies and tactics have you put in place or would you like to put in place to help drive revenue?
HVI: At boost.ai, we are all about our partner network. We work with some of the biggest consultancy firms in the world like Accenture and Deloitte as implementation partners in key markets. We also work with smaller, specialist partners that understand many of the local markets that we operate in and have a great network of existing clients that benefit from our customer service automation platform. Having this extensive partner network allows us to focus on building a fantastic product that our partners can then take to market with the confidence that it can achieve everything that we promise. We have found that this partner-first approach has been key to driving revenue for the company over the past few years and in 2020 I’m excited to say that we hit annual recurring revenues of $10 million.
M7: What is your marketing mantra to stand out in the fast-paced AI market?
HVI: We live by three words at boost.ai - fast, easy and scalable. It is the basis of everything we do - from the development of our platform to our sales promise - and believe that it’s only by keeping these goals in mind that we can help organizations around the world build the most transformative customer experiences.
ABOUT BOOST AI
Boost.ai specializes in enterprise-grade conversational artificial intelligence (AI). Inventor of the world’s most user-friendly conversational AI platform, Boost.ai empowers frontline customer service teams to automate customer service interactions with proprietary self-learning AI and a no-code solution that’s quick to deploy, easy to learn and highly scalable. Able to handle unlimited intents while consistently maintaining resolution rates of 90 percent, Boost.ai’s technology is used by companies like Telenor, DNB and Silvercar by Audi to successfully automate thousands of interactions. Boost.ai is a privately held Norwegian software company founded in 2016 with headquarters in Stavanger and satellite offices in Oslo, Stockholm and Santa Monica.