October 14, 2019 News Magazine

Facebook has acquired Servicefriend, which builds ‘hybrid’ chatbots, for Calibra customer service

As Facebook prepares to launch its new cryptocurrency Libra in 2020, it’s putting the pieces in place to help it run. In one of the latest developments, it has acquired Servicefriend, a startup that built bots — chat clients for messaging apps based on artificial intelligence — to help customer service teams, TechCrunch has confirmed.

The news was first reported in Israel, where Servicefriend is based, after one of its investors, Roberto Singler, alerted local publication The Marker about the deal. We reached out to Ido Arad, one of the co-founders of the company, who referred our questions to a team at Facebook. Facebook then confirmed the acquisition with an Apple-like non-specific statement:

“We acquire smaller tech companies from time to time. We don’t always discuss our plans,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

Several people, including Arad, his co-founder Shahar Ben Ami, and at least one other indicate that they now work at Facebook within the Calibra digital wallet group on their LinkedIn profiles. Their jobs at the social network started this month, meaning this acquisition closed in recent weeks. (Several others indicate that they are still at Servicefriend, meaning they too may have likely made the move as well.)

Although Facebook isn’t specifying what they will be working on, the most obvious area will be in building a bot — or more likely, a network of bots — for the customer service layer for the Calibra digital wallet that Facebook is developing.

Facebook’s plan is to build a range of financial services for people to use Calibra to pay out and receive Libra — for example, to send money to contacts, pay bills, top up their phones, buy things and more.

It remains to be seen just how much people will trust Facebook as a provider of all these. So that is where having “human” and accessible customer service experience will be essential.

“We are here for you,” Calibra notes on its welcome page, where it promises 24-7 support in WhatsApp and Messenger for its users.

Screenshot 2019 09 21 at 23.25.18

Servicefriend has worked on Facebook’s platform in the past: specifically it built “hybrid” bots for Messenger for companies to use to complement teams of humans, to better scale their services on messaging platforms. In one Messenger bot that Servicefriend built for Globe Telecom in the Philippines, it noted that the hybrid bot was able to bring the “agent hours” down to under 20 hours for each 1,000 customer interactions.

Bots have been a relatively problematic area for Facebook. The company launched a personal assistant called M in 2015, and then bots that let users talk to businesses in 2016 on Messenger, with quite some fanfare, although the reality was that nothing really worked as well as promised, and in some cases worked significantly worse than whatever services they aimed to replace.

While AI-based assistants such as Alexa have become synonymous with how a computer can carry on a conversation and provide information to humans, the consensus around bots these days is that the most workable way forward is to build services that complement, rather than completely replace, teams.

For Facebook, getting its customer service on Calibra right can help it build and expand its credibility (note: another area where Servicefriend has build services is in using customer service as a marketing channel). Getting it wrong could mean issues not just with customers, but with partners and possibly regulators.


Source: TechCrunch

Tags: in Uncategorized
Banner
Related Posts

Binance resumes trading following $40M bitcoin hack

May 15, 2019

May 15, 2019

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance has resumed trading activity. Users can now cancel open orders, deposit crypto assets into their Binance account,...

VW’s futuristic all-electric dune buggy embraces its 1960s’ roots

March 5, 2019

March 5, 2019

Volkswagen has added another member to its ever-expanding I.D. line of concept electric vehicles that’s meant to showcase the automaker’s...

Samsung targets iPad Pro with the Galaxy Tab S6

July 31, 2019

July 31, 2019

Once again, the rumors proved to be true, with Samsung going straight from the S4 to S6 for its premium...

Ford expands self-driving vehicle fleet to Austin

September 25, 2019

September 25, 2019

Ford is adding another city to the list of places it’s going to be deploying self-driving vehicles: Austin. The automaker...

Watch Microsoft unveil the HoloLens 2 live right here

February 24, 2019

February 24, 2019

Microsoft is set to announce a brand new hardware device at MWC in Barcelona — the new HoloLens headset. The conference...

Expedition installs highest weather stations on Earth atop Mount Everest

June 13, 2019

June 13, 2019

A recent research expedition to Mount Everest that wrapped up this week recorded a number of global records and world-firsts,...

Facebook launches Portal TV, a $149 video chat set-top box

September 18, 2019

September 18, 2019

Facebook wants to take over your television with a clip-on camera for video calling, AR gaming, and content co-watching. If...

Digging into key takeaways from our 2019 Robotics+AI Sessions Event

April 23, 2019

April 23, 2019

Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read...

Watch the first trailer for ‘See’, Apple’s post-apocalyptic show starring Jason Momoa

September 10, 2019

September 10, 2019

While Apple’s big event today was largely focused on the iPhone 11 and other new devices, the company also offered updates...

Porsche Taycan configurator: The 11 details that stood out

September 5, 2019

September 5, 2019

The Porsche Taycan is here — actually two flavors, the Turbo S and the Turbo — in case you haven’t...

DJI introduces a Ronin stabilizer for mirrorless cameras

July 17, 2019

July 17, 2019

The camera stabilizer has been an interesting piece of DJI’s product play. A kind of offshoot of the company’s advanced...

Run.AI raises $13M for its distributed machine learning platform

April 3, 2019

April 3, 2019

Tel Aviv’s Run.AI, a startup that is building a new virtualization and acceleration platform for deep learning, is coming out...

Apple’s new Health feature tracks unsafe headphone volumes

June 4, 2019

June 4, 2019

According to recent numbers from the World Health Organization, roughly half of people aged 12-35 are at risk for hearing...

Security lapse exposed private Theta photos

May 30, 2019

May 30, 2019

Millions of photos taken by Theta camera owners — some private and unlisted — were left exposed after security researchers...

Google Lens can translate foreign language text in photos and read it back to you

May 7, 2019

May 7, 2019

Google is making some updates to its impressive visual translation tech from Google Translate and throwing it into Lens. You...

Comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *