Earlier in the week, Conversable announced plans to work with government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton to create “automated interactive messaging, tools, services, and experiences that fundamentally enhance and transform customer care in all channels.”
Called “the world’s most profitable spy organization,” Booz Allen is known to work almost exclusively for intelligence agencies like the NSA, the Department of Defense, and the federal government.
“During the next five years, messaging will become the preferred path for customer and stakeholder interaction, ultimately displacing call centers and replacing or augmenting mobile apps,” a Booz Allen statement said.
The firm may best be known in recent memory as the employer of Edward Snowden. At the time of the Snowden leaks in 2013, 76 percent of Booz Allen employees had a classified clearance, according to Bloomberg.
Oh, and it seems the 15-year-old winner of the international botathon was heavily influenced by Conversable cofounder Ben Lamm.
VentureBeat reached out to Lamm to talk about his plans for the future of a company that started one month ago with a bot for Wingstop.
Conversable is Lamm’s fifth business, and his third with Andrew Busey, creator of iChat. Team Chaos, a gaming company the two created, was sold to Zynga last month.
VB: What market do you see for Conversable, how big do you think it is, and what part are you trying to reach?
Lamm: We fundamentally believe that messaging is here to stay and is already changing how brands interact with their current and future customers. I have been very vocal that this shift will be a major disruptive force for industries like the traditional mobile app industry. We believe that relatively single use applications are really the past and that major brands can offer a much better, faster, and more responsive experience for their customer through automation in messaging. Brands can actually listen to their customers, see what they ask, how they ask it, and understand both the context and intent of their questions to better serve them in a continually improving manner versus just looking at number of taps on a mobile app. This is huge and redefining for brands and the entire end-to-end customer experience.
VB: Pizza Hut and Whole Foods are awesome, but Booz Allen works with businesses and governments. What kind of work do you have in mind to help governments make chatbots?
Lamm: We don’t talk about what is coming soon, but there are some really big initiatives we are working on with Booz Allen and other partners we have. The use cases for the government sector are equally endless because it’s not about chatbots, it’s about using this technology to make the access to data and systems easier, faster, and more efficient for the end user. In the case of the government, that’s us — Americans. What do you want to see? An easier way to access information on national parks? A better way to navigate big systems like healthcare.gov? An easier way to understand your taxes? Better service for our vets? The possibilities are revolutionary and amazing.
VB: What do you think will change when people chat with businesses?
Lamm: People will smile. Interacting through messaging is fun, intuitive, and easy when done correctly. People will be much happier instantly getting the products, services, information, and resolutions they are looking for in the channels they already are in without having to stop what they are doing and call a brand or download a brand’s app.
VB: When you look at this relatively new bot ecosystem, what sort of opportunities do you see for chatbot makers?
Lamm: It’s a pretty big new space with tons of opportunities. You are starting to see bot marketplaces, independent bots, bot makers, and platforms to support all of those.
VB: You’ve started a few different kinds of companies. What attracted you to bots specifically?
Lamm: It was 100 percent my cofounder Andrew Busey. Andrew was the founder of iChat in the ’90s, invented chat with a customer service rep, and has over 20 fundamental internet chat patents (I think Avaya owns those now) — so he has been thinking about this space for a long time. Given the trends we were seeing with WeChat in China and the various messaging platforms in the U.S., he believed the timing was right to focus our team, who had been working on a pretty sophisticated chat platform with responders, to move into the space. The market, coupled with Andrew’s background in chat and my experience in the mobile app industry, seemed like the perfect fit for us. After I sold Chaotic Moon to Accenture last year and transitioned out, I jumped on full time earlier this year.