LivePerson offers first out-of-box integration with IBM’s Watson Virtual Agent

Watson’s sophisticated bot can complete user inquiries up to half of the time, without having to hand off to a live agent.

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The first wave of bots is now entering a more sophisticated phase. One sign: the recent announcement that business messaging platform LivePerson has now released a version with an IBM Watson-powered bot built in.

LivePerson Head of Research Rurik Bradbury told me that this is the first enterprise-level, out-of-the-box integration of bots, AI and human agents.

Previously, he said, LiveEngage provided a messaging platform for brands’ customer service, sales and marketing that could be used by consumers on Facebook Messenger, a website, in-app messaging or SMS. Apple’s iMessage will also soon be available through LivePerson.

The platform utilizes asynchronous messaging rather than chat, meaning that there are no sessions, and the conversational history remains continually available, as in mobile messaging.

On the back end, LiveEngage is integrated with a brand’s inventory and customer data, in order to call up such data as which hotel rooms are available or info from your customer purchase record.

Except for this collaboration with Watson, the LivePerson platform does not come with an integrated bot. A separate bot service from another provider would normally be integrated, with logic to hand off to a live agent if the topic, complexity or sentiment of the conversation warranted. Here are screens showing the hand-off, with the righthand mobile screen depicting what the consumer would see:

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Now, it’s all available in one bot and messaging platform that draws on Watson’s ever-improving smarts, as well as his intent engine that can interpret inquiries with industry-specific knowledge.

Bradbury said it was difficult to quantify exactly how Watson’s sophistication differs from your run-of-the-mill bot, but he did say that containment was 20 to 50 percent with Watson.

This means that 20 to 50 percent of the time, inquiries from consumers are successfully resolved by the Watson-enabled bot without having to involve a more expensive live agent. By comparison, Bradbury said, the recently stated goal of one LivePerson bank client was to reach 30 percent containment.

In other words, Watson is a premium bot.

“There are thousands of bots on the market,” he noted, “but most are useless.”

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About the author

Barry Levine
Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.

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