LivePerson: life after voice

Voice is dead?  Well, not quite yet.  According to Rob LoCascio, founder and CEO of New York-based customer engagement vendor LivePerson, contact between customers and businesses is still 90 percent via voice. Indeed, large companies like banks are still spending billions of dollars fielding voice calls (at an estimated average $6 per call). It’s a cost to the business, and what’s more: “People are more frustrated than ever.”

It’s an experience we’ve all had calling a business.  Put on hold for ten minutes, then connected to someone who doesn’t understand or can’t respond.  No wonder, then, that–again according to LoCascio–“80 percent of interactions are happening through some kind of messaging,” although he admits “800 numbers aren’t going away any time soon.”

LivePerson has been around more than twenty years. LoCascio created the company in an era when, if you wanted to speak with someone about something you’d found online, you first had to hang up your internet connection before you could make a phone call. Online chat is by now well developed, of course, as an alternative to voice calls–although it shares some of the drawbacks; not least, waiting for a representative to respond. LivePerson acquired or developed solutions for online chat, then for mobile chat.

LoCascio, however, sees mobile messaging as “the biggest place for disruption.” It’s very different from chat, he emphasized. “As a brand, you’re in the customer’s pocket.” Communication through messaging can take place over a period of time; it doesn’t interrupt multi-tasking. While some us1e cases require immediate response, many communications can appropriately take place over an hour or a day. But wherever you are, said LoCascio, “messaging is always connected.”

LivePerson’s customer base ranges, said LoCascio, “across the board.” Its 18,000 clients include large corporations like Amex and Citibank as well as “very small customers.” I asked LoCascio whether messaging was in competition with real-time social channels like Twitter. He strongly disagreed. “I understand the omnichannel concept–wherever the consumer is, I’ll be there.” But less than one percent of brand-consumer engagement takes place on Twitter compared with voice and chat. “It’s public,” he said, “it’s not secure. People use it because ‘I can’t get through to the brand.’ Those platforms are not made for customer support.”

Last week, LivePerson announced the extension of its cloud-based LiveEngage capabilities to Facebook’s messenger platform. Announcing the integration, LoCascio said: “With more than 900 million monthly active users, Messenger has become a crucial touch point for brand-to-consumer communications. We’ve built LiveEngage to enable brands to effectively support a growing number of digital conversations at scale, and we are excited to announce that we have extended our LiveEngage capabilities to Messenger. Without this, brands are at risk of neglecting their consumers using Messenger, much like they have in the 1-800 number voice channel. With a platform like LiveEngage in place, brands have the opportunity to create meaningful and lasting relationships with consumers via Messenger.”

LiveEngage can live on any digital channel, and provides single-dashboard monitoring and prioritization of customer messages. It can automatically switch responses from bot to live representative, and generates analytics on outcomes. It’s currently signing up clients to beta test the Facebook integration.

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