Touchpoint using artificial intelligence to defuse anger
New Zealand-based technology firm Touchpoint Group is developing the world’s angriest artificial intelligence machine that it hopes will one day help big banks, telcos and insurance companies defuse explosive episodes in customer service. The new machine learning research project, which Touchpoint is investing $500,000 to develop, is being built with input from one of Australia’s big four banks, which is supplying reams of real-life customer interactions that have been collated over the past two years. Telecommunications companies and insurance firms are also contributing data. Data scientists in Australia and New Zealand will spend the next six months uploading the dataset into the platform and tweaking its learning algorithms with an expectation that it will be live by the end of the year. Once complete, the project will simulate hundreds of millions of angry customer interactions that will help companies better understand the behaviours and processes that trigger customer outbursts. Touchpoint Group chief executive Frank van der Velden said the research would help with the complex task of understanding how customers were affected by the various products, systems, policies, processes and people they interacted with in the lead-up to reaching breaking point. Mr van der Velden said the program would constantly run “what if” scenarios to see if a particular scenario was likely to enrage or benefit the customer. “The end goal is to build an engine that can recommend solutions to companies — and we’re talking about the people at the frontline here — how they can improve particular issues that customers are facing,” Mr van der Velden said. “This will be possible by enabling our AI engine to learn right across a whole range of interactions of what has and has not worked in past examples.” The project has been dubbed Radiant, which takes its name from Isaac Asimov’s seminal Foundation series of science fiction novels. In the Foundation series, Prime Radiant was a supercomputer that could predict the future behaviour and development of humanity through the analysis of history, sociology and mathematical statistics. Mr van der Velden said Touchpoint's program would be attractive to any company that had to deal with customer service complaints. “Companies don’t have the numbers of staff to go through this manually. It’s very difficult. Take a bank for example, they receive a hell of a lot of data every day. But it gets to a point where that dataset grows so large that it becomes meaningless unless you can interpret it. That’s where Radiant will fit in,” he said. “We’re not in the business of managing complaints; we are in the business of managing issues that might turn into complaints. We’re at the top of the cliff, not at the bottom. This will allow companies to better predict and identify those issues.” Touchpoint is privately owned with annual turnover of about $6m.