There’s a reason why call centers have such a negative connotation — and it’s the same reason conversational AI company Interactions was founded in the first place.
In 2004, Interactions was founded to create a human understanding engine that would provide effective, efficient and more human customer service to companies of all sizes. Today, their AI-powered Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) is used by a slew of Fortune 500 companies.
But a lot has changed in both the AI and customer service space since 2004, and that’s caused some big enhancements to the company’s award-winning technology. We talked to four team members to understand how far they’ve come and where they’re going.
WHAT THEY DO: Interactions’s Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) blends artificial intelligence and real-time human understanding to enable conversations with customers through web chat, texts, SMS and phone calls.
WHERE THEY DO IT: They’re headquartered in Franklin, with offices all around the world — including one in Boston’s Seaport District.
HUMAN OR AI?: The technology is able to cut through slang, accents and background noise, enabling consumers to speak in their own words, getting what they need done, all without having to go through a live agent.
KIND OF A BIG DEAL: Interactions works with many Fortune 500 companies and has earned a slew of prestigious accolades, including spots on the Inc. 5000 list and Forbes’ report of “The Next Billion-Dollar Startups.”
Mahesh Nair, SVP Technology
As the SVP of technology, Mahesh is responsible for all of the engineering, research and operations and support aspects of the IVA platform. He oversees these teams and ensures they’re equipped with the tools they need to complete their numerous initiatives.
BEYOND WORK: When he’s not at work, Mahesh is either running or cycling. He’s participated in several half and full marathons since 2010.
How is your team working to evolve Interactions’ product?
There are numerous initiatives in flight, but I will use one example here. We are working on our next generation Rapid Application Development (RAD) offering, and this required close collaboration between my team, the development teams and the AppDev, VUI (voice user interface) design and client success teams. During critical launches of the first few applications built on this next-generation RAD capability, we operated as one big team with members from the cross-sectional team working closely and going the extra mile to successfully launch the applications.
During critical launches [...] we operated as one big team with members from the cross-sectional team working closely and going the extra mile to successfully launch the applications.”
Where do you see Interactions’ product in six months? What about in one year? How will your team get there?
In six months, one example of a product evolution will be around multiple new applications going live on our next generation advanced conversation AI-driven dialog management and numerous rapid application development, prototyping and rapid-testing enhancements in our designer tooling.
In a year’s time, we will have our conversational AI mature enough to incorporate innovations around learned dialogs, dialog discovery and improvements being made in our customer journey mapping capabilities. We will continue to push the limits of reaping the maximum benefits out of human intelligence by pushing the boundaries with our machine learning stack that leverages our data lake and pipeline.
Brian Louro, Sr. Software Engineer
Brian is responsible for feature enhancements, documentation, inter-team collaboration, planning, troubleshooting and fixing issues, metrics and monitoring. Put simply: He makes sure the core platform is stable and high-performing.
BEYOND WORK: Outside of tech, Brian’s main love is golf — though he doesn’t think they’re all that different. Through both, he’s learned persistence, creativity and problem-solving.
Does this team have a say on the products, features and design developed by your company?
This team has a direct impact on product development within Interactions. We’re involved in feature planning, timeline estimations, design, and development of the platform. We’re generally presented with an ask to implement some feature. It’s our responsibility to ensure the feature not only works today for a single client but can scale tomorrow when the feature is widely adopted. We don’t generally implement features or products just for a single client — instead, we design and develop in such a way that the features can be used by all of our clients.
It’s our responsibility to ensure the feature not only works today for a single client but can scale tomorrow when the feature is widely adopted.”
How has your product or tech evolved from when you first started? What are you able to do now that you couldn’t then?
Our platform stack is taking more calls now than ever before. When I first started, it was just that: calls. Now we’re handling conversations across multiple channels. In doing so, we’ve improved on client application designs and introduced Docker and Ansible for deployment packaging and automation. We’ve expanded into cloud providers to be able to serve clients worldwide, and the number of components has grown to scale with the increased volume. Today’s architecture is more reliable and scalable, and we’re continuing to make it even more so. With improved architecture and development of new components, we’ve been able to significantly introduce machine learning while leveraging human understanding.
Pam Cohen, Software QA Engineer
Pam is responsible for testing Interactions’s application to every level, including environment configuration, implementation and product delivery. She’s made it her team’s goal to provide clients with an exceptional customer experience.
BEYOND WORK: When she’s not in the office, Pam can be found anywhere and everywhere. Her hobbies include everything from cars — the mechanical side! — to scuba diving to traveling.
What about this role attracted you in the first place?
Interactions’ voice recognition and telephony technology is one I have never worked with in the past. I was intrigued by the AI portion of speech recognition and how the application handles utterances from callers all across the world. The idea of testing a customer service application was interesting and appealing as customer service is so lacking and frustrating — Interactions can truly make the experience a pleasant one.
We share team dinners and personal stories and get to know one another — it’s a great time and helps us grow our team.”
Your team is very collaborative. How do you feel that’s helped the end result?
The QA team is spread out across multiple locations, and our team does an incredible job of working together over Slack to bridge any communication gaps. We also have biweekly meetings where we share insights on process improvements or current projects. Once a year, we gather together as a group for a week and work in one big room goofing around and being a family of geeks. We share team dinners and personal stories and get to know one another — it’s a great time and helps us grow our team.
Nathan Doe, Principal Applications Developer
As the principal application developer, Nathan works with clients to build quality applications that can transform customer experiences. His team is responsible for automating more of the workflow and increasing efficiency in the application building process.
BEYOND WORK: When Nathan isn’t working, he’s playing music. He’s a drummer in a band he started with some of his friends.
Tell us about a project you’ve produced during your time here that you’re proud of.
I recently finished an application for a large company that had complex data-driven business logic. As such, the back-end integration for this project was very large. We’re able to build this integration in a generic way so that new web service integrations took significantly less time than previous applications. We have taken concepts from this implementation to drive our back-end implementations on all projects going forward.
An upcoming project that is very exciting is a new feature coming to our development stack involving reusable components between applications.”
What’s an upcoming project you’re excited about?
An upcoming project that is very exciting is a new feature coming to our development stack involving reusable components between applications. This is a big deal to our stack because it allows us as developers to use predefined components in our application so that we can deliver standardized high-quality code more reliably and at a faster pace.