Continuing the series on Artificial Intelligence, Company Connecting interviewed Ed Challis, CEO of re:infer. re:infer uses artificial intelligence to provide its clients with detailed insights into customer behaviour.
Hi there, could you tell us a little background about Re:Infer and how you got started?
re:infer is a spin out from the machine learning research group at University College London. We met each other through David Barber a lecturer in machine learning at UCL. I [Ed] did my PhD with David, that’s where I met Marius who started his PhD with David a few years later. Both myself and Marius had always worked at the intersection of machine learning research and industry.
Two years ago we started to get very excited about recent advances in neural networks applied to problems in natural language understanding and we were confident this was just the tip of the iceberg. We created re:infer to apply these new Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques to help businesses better understand and interact with their customer base.
Who are the main people involved in Re:Infer?
Myself, Ed Challis (CEO), Marius Cobzarenco (CTO), David Barber — head of research, and Jason Kingdon our principal advisor and investor.
What is Re:Infer's mission?
To help our clients to understand their customers needs and make responding to those needs as frictionless and effortless as possible.
Re:Infer is all about engaging with customers, either by categorising open source feedback, survey forms, and with your conversational AI tool. What are the main benefits of using AI rather than a traditional customer relations team?
We don’t replace a customer relations team. We just make them much, much more powerful. It’s impossible for a customer relations team to understand the needs and wants of every single customer. To be there at each interaction. But re:infer uses Artificial Intelligence to read, parse and interpret that volume of information to inform and direct the customer relations team.
What impact do you think Artificial Intelligence will have on business. Both in terms of improving services and products, but also in terms of the job market. Is there a potential for displacement of human staff, or is it more about humans interpreting the powerful results of AI tools?
The impact is already significant today and this will only increase with time. Practically every innovation impacts the job market -- changing the relative value of different skills and attributes. Look at how the farming industry works today versus 100 years ago. I believe that AI might negatively impact the labour market in the short term but that at a longer horizon its impact will be a net positive.
Where do you see the future of Re:Infer, do you have any particularly exciting developments or projects planned for 2017?
The exciting things we're working on now are about using the re:infer platform to help our clients increase the lifetime value of their customer base. Being scientific about how conversational interventions can reduce churn and increase loyalty.
The longer term is about augmenting humans ability to have a successful commercial conversation. To be both more scientific and more scalable.
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