LiveEngage for Voice Assistants is the first to work seamlessly across in-home assistants and messaging on smartphones
LivePerson, Inc. (Nasdaq: LPSN), a leading provider of conversational commerce solutions, today announced the launch of LiveEngage for Voice Assistants, the most advanced way for brands to connect conversationally, at scale, with consumers using Amazon® Alexa™ or Google® Assistant.
As well as performing simple tasks like paying a phone bill or checking an account balance, it is the first conversational platform for the enterprise to deliver two key innovations for consumers:
The ability to easily switch device or location, by handing off conversations from voice assistants to messaging on a smartphone, taking that same thread “on the go” without losing the flow or context.
Access to both bots and human staff in one thread, so any questions too complicated for a bot can be escalated to a human customer service agent, without the frustrating “dead end” effect often found with bots in the past.
By allowing handoffs to other devices and combining bots and human staff, LiveEngage for Voice Assistants is far more powerful than earlier solutions, because it puts in-home assistants to work for consumers as part of a wider, continuous connection to the brands they use, from any location, and on the consumer’s preferred schedule. For example, voice assistant owners can start a conversation hands-free in the kitchen, then move it to their smartphone as they leave the kitchen or house, to continue when it’s more convenient.
“As brands adopt conversational commerce, they need to offer consumers a continuous connection across all the most important conversational channels, and LivePerson is the first company to deliver it. With LiveEngage for Voice Assistants, brands can weave Alexa and Google Assistant into this wider continuous connection, and empower consumers with the ability to get any answer they need, at any time, and from any device,” says Robert LoCascio, founder and CEO of LivePerson. “With this release, LivePerson is pointing the way to a conversational future that is far better for consumers than today’s fragmented mix of phone calls, websites and siloed social touchpoints. We’re very excited about it.”
Alex Spinelli, global CTO of LivePerson, says, “Alexa and other voice assistants are among the most beloved consumer technologies and increasingly a part of people’s everyday lives — in the kitchen, the living room, and beyond. What we have delivered with LiveEngage for Voice Assistants is a way to make them even more valuable and seamlessly integrate them with other ways to message with brands, putting the consumer in control and giving them a great experience.”
As well as the new innovations for smartphone handoff and a seamless “tango” between bots and human staff, the system includes the other capabilities which have made LiveEngage the world’s leading conversational commerce platform, including: real-time metrics for customer sentiment, satisfaction, and usage; a “write once, run many” bot deployment framework to build one bot and run it across multiple messaging endpoints, such as in-app messaging, SMS, web messaging, Facebook Messenger, LINE, and, now, voice assistants; and a closed-loop optimization process, with a suite of tools to improve bot performance over time.
LiveEngage for Voice Assistants also goes far beyond legacy live chat platforms by allowing multiple bots — including those from multiple vendors — to run alongside each other, with rich metrics on every detail of the conversation. These capabilities, plus the industry’s most advanced suite of management tools, allow brands to deliver the most sophisticated voice assistant services.
LiveEngage for Voice Assistants, including Alexa and Google Home integration, is available now for enterprise customers of LivePerson.
G20 to show united front on support for global economic recovery, cash for IMF
By Michael Nienaber and Andrea Shalal
BERLIN/WASHINGTON/ROME (Reuters) – The world’s financial leaders are expected on Friday to agree to continue supportive measures for the global economy and look to boost the International Monetary Fund’s resources so it can help poorer countries fight off the effects of the pandemic.
Finance ministers and central bank governors of the world’s top 20 economies, called the G20, held a video-conference on Friday. The global response to the economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus was at top of the agenda.
In the first comments by a participating policymaker, the European Union’s economics commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said the meeting had been “good”, with consensus on the need for a common effort on global COVID vaccinations.
“Avoid premature withdrawal of supportive fiscal policy” and “progress towards agreement on digital and minimal taxation” he said in a Tweet, signalling other areas of apparent accord.
A news conference by Italy, which holds the annual G20 presidency, is scheduled for 17.15 (1615 GMT)
The meeting comes as the United States is readying $1.9 trillion in fiscal stimulus and the European Union has already put together more than 3 trillion euros ($3.63 trillion) to keep its economies going despite COVID-19 lockdowns.
But despite the large sums, problems with the global rollout of vaccines and the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus mean the future of the recovery remains uncertain.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz warned earlier on Friday that recovery was taking longer than expected and it was too early to roll back support.
“Contrary to what had been hoped for, we cannot speak of a full recovery yet. For us in the G20 talks, the central task remains to lead our countries through the severe crisis,” Scholz told reporters ahead of the virtual meeting.
“We must not scale back the support programmes too early and too quickly. That’s what I’m also going to campaign for among my G20 colleagues today,” he said.
Hopes for constructive discussions at the meeting are high among G20 countries because it is the first since Joe Biden, who vowed to rebuild cooperation in international bodies, became U.S. president.
While the IMF sees the U.S. economy returning to pre-crisis levels at the end of this year, it may take Europe until the middle of 2022 to reach that point.
The recovery is fragile elsewhere too – factory activity in China grew at the slowest pace in five months in January, hit by a wave of domestic coronavirus infections, and in Japan fourth quarter growth slowed from the previous quarter with new lockdowns clouding the outlook.
“The initially hoped-for V-shaped recovery is now increasingly looking rather more like a long U-shaped recovery. That is why the stabilization measures in almost all G20 states have to be maintained in order to continue supporting the economy,” a G20 official said.
But while the richest economies can afford to stimulate an economic recovery by borrowing more on the market, poorer ones would benefit from being able to tap credit lines from the IMF — the global lender of last resort.
To give itself more firepower, the Fund proposed last year to increase its war chest by $500 billion in the IMF’s own currency called the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), but the idea was blocked by then U.S. President Donald Trump.
Scholz said the change of administration in Washington on Jan. 20 improved the prospects for more IMF resources. He pointed to a letter sent by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to G20 colleagues on Thursday, which he described as a positive sign also for efforts to reform global tax rules.
Civil society groups, religious leaders and some Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have called for a much larger allocation of IMF resources, of $3 trillion, but sources familiar with the matter said they viewed such a large move as unlikely for now.
The G20 may also agree to extend a suspension of debt servicing for poorest countries by another six months.
($1 = 0.8254 euros)
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber in Berlin, Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Gavin Jones in Rome; Andrea Shalal and David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Susan Fenton and Crispian Balmer)
Oil set for steady gains as economies shake off pandemic blues – Reuters poll
By Sumita Layek and Bharat Gautam
(Reuters) – Oil prices will stage a steady recovery this year as vaccines reach more people and speed an economic revival, with further impetus coming from stimulus and output discipline by top crude producers, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.
The survey of 55 participants forecast Brent crude would average $59.07 per barrel in 2021, up from last month’s $54.47 forecast.
Brent has averaged around $58.80 so far this year.
“Travel and leisure activity look set to catch up to buoyant manufacturing activity due to the mix of stimulus, confidence, vaccines, and more targeted pandemic measures,” said Norbert Ruecker of Julius Baer.
“Against these demand dynamics, the supply side is unlikely to catch up on time, leaving the oil market in tightening mode for months to come.”
Of the 41 respondents who participated in both the February and January polls, 32 raised their forecasts.
Most analysts said the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+) may ease current output curbs when they meet on March 4, but would still agree to maintain supply discipline.
“With OPEC+ endeavouring to keep global oil production below demand, inventories should continue falling this year and allow prices to rise further,” said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.
Oil demand was seen growing by 5-7 million barrels per day in 2021, as per the poll.
However, experts said any deterioration in the COVID-19 situation and the possible lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iran could hold back oil’s recovery.
The poll forecast U.S. crude to average $55.93 per barrel in 2021 versus January’s $51.42 consensus.
Analysts expect U.S. production to rise moderately this year, although new measures from U.S. President Joe Biden to tame the oil sector could curb output in the long run.
“A structural shift away from fossil fuels” may prevent oil from returning to the highs of previous decades, said Economist Intelligence Unit analyst Cailin Birch.
(Reporting by Sumita Layek and Bharat Govind Gautam in Bengaluru; Editing by Arpan Varghese, Noah Browning and Barbara Lewis)
Japan’s jobless rate seen up in January due to COVID-19 emergency measures – Reuters poll
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s jobless rate is expected to have edged up in January as service industry businesses suffered renewed restrictions on movement to fight spread of the coronavirus in some areas, including Tokyo, a Reuters poll of economists showed on Friday.
While industrial production activity picked up in Japan, emergency curbs rolled out last month such as asking restaurants to close early and suspending the national travel campaign hurt the jobs market, analysts said.
The nation’s unemployment rate likely rose 3.0% in January, up from 2.9% in December, the poll of 15 economists found.
The jobs-to-applicants ratio, a gauge of the availability of jobs, was seen at 1.06 in January, unchanged from December, but stayed near September’s seven-year low of 1.03, the poll showed.
“As the impact from the coronavirus pandemic prolongs, it is hard for firms, especially the service sector, to expect their business profits to improve,” said Yusuke Shimoda, senior economist at Japan Research Institute.
“So, their willingness to hire employees appear to be subdued and it is difficult to see the jobs market recovering soon.”
Some analysts also said the government’s steps to support employment and existing labour shortages will likely prevent the jobless rate from worsening sharply.
The government will announce the labour market data at 8:30 a.m. Japan time on Tuesday (2330 GMT Monday).
Analysts expect the economy to contract in the current quarter due to the emergency measures to counter the spread of the disease.
(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
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