Could you let us know your journey into technology? What inspired you to start Valyant?
I have always been interested in technology and actually Founded a custom Software Development company, AppIt Ventures, before launching Valyant AI. The inspiration behind starting Valyant came simply from a place of wanting to solve a problem in an industry that needed a lot of help. I saw an opportunity to utilize technology as a way to make things easier for both customers and business owners. As Conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) began to make strides (with the massive growth of home assistants like Siri and Alexa), I knew there was a way to implement this in the enterprise to help businesses supplement their operations and the efforts of their employees.
What is Valyant and what is your differentiating technology?
Valyant AI is a Colorado-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) company focused on customer service in the quick-serve restaurant industry. One of the world’s first commercial retail deployments of enterprise artificial intelligence (AI), Valyant AI’s voice recognition AI-customer service platform, a digital employee called “Holly,” leverages the power of Conversational AI to transform customer service in physical retail locations.
By integrating with existing drive-thru hardware and on-premise or Cloud point-of-sale (POS) systems, Holly drives an enhanced customer experience. The digital, Voice-based assistants allow businesses to streamline the customer experience, improve employee efficiency and help address labor shortages, especially during peak times.
Built and trained using actual customer recordings, the system is now being refined with live customer orders. Unlike popular AI assistants like Siri or Alexa that need to respond to a virtually infinite range of requests from weather inquiries to sports scores to a specific music selection, Valyant’s patent-pending system requires a significantly smaller vocabulary of keywords to take meal orders. As a result, the accuracy of Valyant AI’s system already exceeds that of Google’s voice assistants for this application, and the platform includes custom-built hardware and conversational software based on a restaurant’s menu to drive guaranteed accuracy.
How does Valyant’s Conversational platform (Holly) help in Customer Service? How can Marketing, Sales and other teams leverage it?
The Conversational AI platform takes customer orders (currently at the drive-thru window), freeing human employees to spend more time focused on the customer at the window, providing better, faster and more accurate service to customers and a more enjoyable and less stressful experience for employees.
Additionally, with our technology, customers don’t have to spend as much time in line waiting for an employee to become available to take their order. A recent report shows that the wait time at drive-thrus has significantly risen over the past several years, and our technology has helped address this issue by minimizing time spent in the drive-thru. With Holly, restaurants can now experience industry-leading Conversational AI to streamline the ordering experience, reduce wait times and improve the employee experience.
A recent survey of Good Times customers who participated in the breakfast test revealed 95% of customers said the AI technology met or exceeded their expectations. More than 80% rated their total experience with the technology as 4 out of 5 stars.
Clearly, these benefits can be leveraged by Marketing and Sales teams to both show value and differentiate the company’s offerings from other technologies on the market. Additionally, the results collected thus far from the implementation of Holly have been astounding and have been useful in both sales and marketing. Besides a better customer experience and an improved bottom line for the customer and business owner, our technology has also continued to learn from its human interactions, providing additional opportunities for upselling.
How has Customer Service evolved? What do you think are the current expectations from the markets you serve?
The world of customer service is evolving significantly as advances in technology continue propelling the world into an increasingly digital space. From improved 24/7 availability to applications that leverage AI to remember past transactions and drive an enhanced customer experience, technological advancement has improved customer service.
Customers in the fast-food space increasingly expect personalized service, easy access to information and quick, pleasant assistance. By leveraging technology that mediates the mundane repetitive tasks that fast food employees are used to and replacing them with a digital employee who never gets tired, annoyed or confused, customers are experiencing faster, better service without completely losing the human component.
Do you think there is a need of Human Intelligence in this process? What percentage of your technology actually involves Human Supervision?
While robots and computers have proven to be far better than humans at executing certain tasks, I believe humans are – and will remain – crucially important in the future of work. From soft skills to the human experience, certain aspects of humanity ensure AI will never reach the level of sophistication where computers and robots will totally replace their human counterparts in the workforce.
As such, to drive further order accuracy, the Valyant AI system employs human-in-the-loop (HITL) on all orders. This feature enables guaranteed order accuracy, problem identification and drives opportunities for improving the overall customer experience.
How does this platform provide the desired accuracy in accurately measuring customer sentiment/intent? What are the challenges you face and solve using technology?
Many consumers remain hesitant about advanced technologies and AI coming to “replace” humans in the workforce. Much of the fear stems from the notion that these machines will become sentient and take over the world, but AI remains nowhere near that advanced at this stage of its development.
As previously noted, Holly was built and trained using actual customer recordings, and the system employs HITL on every order to ensure accuracy, identify any potential problems and drive opportunities for an improved overall customer experience. Because Holly doesn’t need to respond to inquiries surrounding weather forecasts, sports scores or a specific music selection like popular AI assistants like Siri or Alexa do, the system requires a significantly smaller vocabulary to accurately take meal orders.
Between software accuracy, technological innovations and human-in-the-loop, Valyant AI is able to successfully complete 95% of all customer orders with a 4 out of 5 ratings from customers utilizing the technology. The technology continues to improve by learning from current and past interactions with real customers.
How is Holly different from the other Voice assistants like Alexa and Siri?
Holly is a fundamentally different product from prior generations of smart assistants. Instead of being limited to single intent responses (ex. What’s the weather?), she’s capable of carrying on a more fluid and human-like discussion around specific knowledge areas, like quick-serve restaurants. This fluid ability to carry on a conversation allows for an unstructured and more human like interaction that lets the customer order as they normally had with onsite employees. There is going to be a revolution in Voice technology over the next few years as systems like Holly enter the market and provide nearly indistinguishable human-like interactions.
Which geographies are you currently focusing on? We would like to know the feedback about their growth in the next 2-3 years?
Although we have fielded business inquiries from potential partners and customers outside of the United States, we are currently focusing on the US for the next few years. We are also limiting our focus to quick-serve restaurants and ideally those with large footprints. The technology itself can be embedded anywhere a customer might want to order food, like the drive-through, mobile apps, kiosks, call-ahead, and smart speakers.
What are other different areas other than restaurants where it can be used to improve customer experience?
Conversational Artificial Intelligence platforms like Holly can be used in every single industry. Call centers, long the leading edge of conversational technology will be the most eager adopters over the next few years. We’ll also see this technology begin to move into other areas like Financial Services, Healthcare, Retail, and Hospitality. Ultimately any location where a customer might interact with an employee, either in-person or virtually, could ultimately be handled by this technology.
Which other Conversational AI platforms are you interested in?
We’ve learned that customer perception of conversational AI platform relies heavily on two factors, first their ability to do their intended job accurately, and second how human and approachable the system appears. Given the second factor of seeming more human relating to a better experience, Google’s Duplex platform offers a very compelling case for what is possible in human-sounding conversational AI software.
Do you think AI is replacing humans? What are your thoughts?
No, AI is not replacing humans. Rather, advances in AI technology are augmenting humans in the workforce and allowing them to do their jobs more effectively than ever before.
Rather than acting as a job-stealer, today’s AI is a colleague with a vastly different skillset who is “hired” to complement the role of human employees, freeing them up for the most interesting and useful tasks. AI will ultimately improve the way work is done, making physical retail locations, restaurants, and companies in the hospitality space more productive, improving costs and diminishing wait times.
What are your future predictions for the technology-centered world?
Artificial Intelligence is going to completely transform the working world in much the same way as computers did three decades ago. The first phase is going to be Artificial Intelligence as an employee assist tool. For the medical profession imagine a doctor AI assist tool that can scan thousands of new medical articles, millions of patient records and provide highly accurate recommendations to a doctor about what could be afflicting their patient. In this scenario, the doctor is still in charge of making the ultimate diagnoses and treatment regime for the patient. Similarly, expect lawyers to be assisted by AI law clerks as opposed to human ones very soon.
The AI will scan millions of cases and briefs to provide the lawyer with accurate information for their current work. Looking beyond AI assistants and extrapolating out another decade or two further, we’ll begin to see AI having the capability to step into this primary role and likely taking point as the primary doctor or primary lawyer in certain situations. Automation and early forays into robotics created massive amounts of efficiencies in the manufacturing industry; artificial intelligence is going to start providing similar types of efficiencies, but it’ll be in areas that use to be heavily knowledge related work, versus manual.
What is your future Product roadmap?
Our current goal is to become the number one company in the quick-serve restaurant industry for conversational artificial intelligence. After that you’ll just have to stay tuned.
Thank you, Rob! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Rob Carpenter is the CEO and Founder of Valyant AI, an enterprise grade conversational AI platform for the quick serve restaurant industry. Valyant has developed a proprietary software application that integrates within a restaurants existing hardware infrastructure and allows the AI software to take the vast majority of customer orders and insert them directly into the POS for payment.
Rob has a master’s degree in Business Administration with a specialization in Enterprise Technology Management. He spent two years on the board for the Rutt Bridges Venture Capital Fund and in 2013 was named one of the top 25 most influential young professionals in Colorado by ColoradoBiz Magazine and in 2016 he received the Denver Trailblazer award.
Prior to founding Valyant AI, Rob was the CEO of AppIt Ventures, a custom software development company with offices in Denver, Hyderabad and London. Over the first six years in business, AppIt built and launched over 350 custom software applications, including mobile apps on all major platforms, backend web applications and sophisticated databases.
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