Speech Technology Magazine


TouchCommerce Partners with Nuance for TouchAssist

TouchAssist blends TouchCommerce's chat and virtual assistant technology with Nuance's Nina and natural language understanding technology.
By Tye Pemberton - Posted Jul 20, 2016
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TouchCommerce, a provider of omnichannel customer engagement solutions, today released TouchAssist. Combining TouchCommerce's Web interface, extensive targeting, and analytics with Nuance Communications' Nina Web platform, TouchAssist will offer TouchCommerce customers the ability to blend artificial intelligence with live-agent chat interactions.

Nuance Executive Vice President and General Manager of Enterprise, Robert Weideman, calls it "the culmination of nine months of partnership." Last December, Nuance Communications announced a partnership with TouchCommerce where TouchCommerce would license Nuance technology in a new way to meld AI and live conversations.

TouchAssist has partially been developed to augment TouchCommerce's TouchGuides, context sensitive self-service menus for which the company is known. "We're trying to give clients the ability to offer a more open-ended experience for their customers," said Marina Kalika, senior director of product marketing at TouchCommerce, in a statement.

"We know that self-service adoption is on the rise, but we also know that a lot of brands are also very reluctant in engaging them," she adds, noting that many companies either feel the solutions are inadeuate at targeting or because there is such a disconnect between the virtual agent and any subsequent live chat."

TouchAssist attempts to solve both these problems by allowing live agents to continue conversations with customers that have exhausted the virtual assistant's ability to help.

"Pure virtual assistants reduce CRM operating costs and ideally improve customer experience," Kalika says.

If TouchAssist's virtual agent, powered by Nina Web, is not certain of what an answer to a customer question should be, a live agent is alerted to continue the conversation and to provide the right answer. Once this hand-off between the virtual and live agents has been noted, the conversation can be added to the data for Nuance's natural language understanding. These agent interactions then train the virtual assistant engine.

In the process, Nina Web learns.

TouchCommerce's current customer-base includes major telecoms like AT&T, Comcast and T-Mobile; financial services firms like Citizens Bank and Esurance; retailers like Firestone and Proactiv; and tech giants like Panasonic and eHarmony. According to estimates, both TouchCommerce and Nuanc's Nina Web each process approximately 600 million conversations per year, with TouchCommerce processing live conversations and Nina processing virtual ones.  The combination of both data sets could represent a leap in Nina's NLU processing capabilities.

"Nina has a rich data collection for interactions, and TouchCommerce has a rich data layer with human interactions, a rich repository for analytics," Weideman says. "We are expecting the large influx of conversations in the market sectors that TouchCommerce serves to drastically improve Nina's ability to handle common topics of conversation in those areas for all users of Nina."

It is hoped, according to Josefine Fouarge, product marketing manager at TouchCommerce, that with enough input and machine learning applied by Nina to TouchAssist conversations, expensive live agents can begin to transition into virtual assistant trainers devoted more to improving automated chat than dealing with routine customer queries.

TouchAssist is enterprise-ready, PCI-compliant, and fluent in more than 20 languages.

"Intelligent bots are redefining digital commerce and customer care as enterprises seek to provide an engaging customer experience using natural language understanding, machine learning, and artificial intelligence," said Bernard Louvat, president and CEO of TouchCommerce, in a statement. "TouchAssist blends our powerful targeting, routing, and agent-to-consumer communication technologies with the industry's leading natural language understanding engine to help brands target, engage, and converse with consumers in a more cost-effective way at the time that customers need assistance with their self-service experience. The power of TouchAssist resides in the fact that the agent and robot collaborate, improving knowledge and accuracy over time."

Nuance first introduced Nina in 2012, and has updated and expanded the platform several times since then.

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