Alterra.ai Unlocks Meaning Beyond Keywords

Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Michael Zunenshine
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What do you know about intelligence?

How would you characterize the difference between intelligence and knowledge? One answer to this seemingly semantic exercise is as follows: One can know a lot, but being able to fuse that knowledge in order to create new ideas, and to come up with new solutions to life’s problems, that is true intelligence.

This definition also resonates in the contemporary field of artificial intelligence. Computers only know whatever information we feed them, and they’re great for spitting back whatever data-parcel we request via keyword searches.

But AI can take all that data and do more.

Alterra.ai is one such company doing more with artificial intelligence. It’s an AI-powered chatbot—or, a virtual-business assistant. It doesn’t only regurgitate pre-composed responses from keyword repositories (any computer can do that). What sets Alterra’s bot apart is its natural language processing (NLP) capacity.

NLP is a function of AI that “listens” to human conversations or reads human-to-human text exchanges. Then by applying deep learning, it teaches itself to better “understand” and be able to “intelligently” respond to human queries to offer more relevant solutions.

In other words, it not just cataloging keyword associations, but seeks meaning beneath the currents of human communication.

Alterra goes to work

Alterra takes its NLP-based AI technology and packages it up for the business world as a virtual service rep. This is the chatbot that pops up (often at the bottom right corner) in a browser window when you land on a website, offering the visitor instant assistance.

Answer Bot

Of course, it cannot replace true human customer service agents, but a bot does greatly improve the speed and accuracy with which customers can get assistance on more basic issues, thereby freeing up time for human reps to deal with “escalated” issues.

Alterra calls this feature the Answer Bot. It can reside on a company’s website, but it can also be integrated into SMS, email, and apps like Slack, Skype and Facebook Messenger.

When a customer begins chatting with Alterra’s Answer Bot, the whole conversation—history and all—can seamlessly migrate over to FB Messenger so the customer can continue to receive service even while on the go.

Setting up Alterra’s bot is quite simple; there is no coding required. First, you register with Alterra, then you upload your company’s website FAQ as a series of questions and answers into Alterra’s FAQ editor. After that, you just copy two little lines of code into your site’s backend and Answer Bot is ready to roll.

FAQ edit & search

With Alterra, even the FAQ becomes a searchable database. A customer coming to the FAQ can search for an issue, and all the results are displayed as search engine results pages (SERP) much like one would see with Google.

Except it’s not merely searching for keywords (that would be mere knowledge regurgitation). According to Alterra’s research, keyword search results like those found on Google deliver accurate responses only 25% to 50% of the time.

Alterra, on the other hand, searches for the meaning of the query. One way this is achieved is through an intelligent gathering of the myriad of ways humans can communicate the same issue in different languages.

According to Alterra.ai, at 90% accuracy, Alterra’s Answer Bot is the most precise answer bot on the market today.

For example, a query about “pricing” might be phrased with vocabulary like “cost,” “money,” “payments,” “credit cards,” etc. For a keyword search to function here, each term would have had to be fed to the system beforehand. But Alterra’s system teaches itself via NLP to recognize the meaning of these terms as they are continually used by people.

In other words, the system has learned to “reduce paraphrases to one canonical form” to figure out the visitor’s intent.

Rapid Resolution

Another intelligent trick up Alterra’s artificial sleeve is what they call Rapid Resolution, which works on a website’s support form (the form which creates tickets).

As the customer is filling out the form, Alterra recognizes whether the issue is something it might be able to handle. It then intercepts the filling out of the form to instantly offer a solution it’s culled from the FAQ.  

Of course, it will still humbly ask whether the problem “is solved” or if the customer still “needs help,” ready to pass the issue to service reps if it is the latter.

Integrating artificial with natural intelligence

As intelligent as any chatbot could possibly be, they’re most helpful when working together with their un-automated human counterparts. After all, it is human customers on the receiving end.

Hence Alterra’s various integration options, specifically with chat, conversational marketing, and CRM platforms designed for customer outreach and contact data organization.

Intercom

Intercom is a customer communication platform for marketing, sales, and support that combines bots and live chats to help move leads through the pipeline and help customers who need extra service.

Alterra integrates with Intercom by facilitating the instant handoff from bot to human in case the automated responses are falling short. At any point during a conversation with a bot, just say or type the word “operator” and Alterra shoots the issue over to Intercom’s live agents.

Drift

Drift is a conversational marketing tool designed to speed up the sales process and deliver higher conversion rates by qualifying leads based on priorities and seriousness of intent.

Alterra works with Drift as a sort of virtual “greeter” that can instantly assess a visitor’s purpose for arriving on a site, gather their contact details, answer any questions they have, and filter out any spam.

The Alterra Answer Bot can work inside Drift’s platform on either auto-pilot mode, which is working even when the humans are not; or co-pilot mode, which works alongside people, starting the conversations and transferring the customer to agents when needed.

Zendesk

Zendesk is a whole host of programs in the CRM universe that includes platforms for customer support, engagement campaigns, analytics, chatting and more.

The Answer Bot has the same auto vs co-pilot options with Zendesk as it does with Drift, screening tickets and offering solutions from the FAQ knowledge base. In the case where a ticket is handed over to a human, the Answer Bot also offers some suggestions for the human rep to follow.

When bright minds collide

The Palo Alto team behind Alterra is a true symposium of bright minds one would expect from the AI world: from tech-heads who graduated from Google, to brainiacs laden with PhDs in everything from math, chemistry, encryption sciences, and even something called “transcranial brain simulation” (which, based on the name, has just gotta be invaluable for AI research).

Putting those smart minds together has resulted in the Answer Bot with deep-learning NLP tech.

For any businesses with a strong online presence seeking more efficient customer engagement, the intelligent thing to do is to take advantage of all those smart minds with a little (virtual) assistance from Alterra.

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