AI-nization at Rakuten

, Masayuki Chatani, AI

Introduction of Rakuten AI Platform

    At Rakuten, AI Promotion Department was established in August, 2016 and accelerates the commercial deployment of AI functionalities to various Rakuten services.

    Rakuten has developed and operates Rakuten AI Platform which was announced in April, 2017 (*). On top of this Rakuten AI Platform, we have accelerated the development of AI applications such as conversational FAQ chatbot and its commercial development.

Acceleration of Commercial Deployment of FAQ Chat bot

    In the Working Style Innovation Forum 2017 Winter (働き方イノベーション Forum 2017 Winter), Rakuten’s CIO & CISO Yasufumi Hirai introduced that 7 projects of FAQ Chatbot was commercially introduced on top of Rakuten AI Platform so far and the inflow of the inquiries to FAQ chat bot grows 12 times.

    With this, many inquiries can be automated handled therefore it enables that our customer service representatives can allocate more time to complex inquiries and questions. Therefore, although it is not yet ideal situations, we anticipate the effects that this will decrease the waiting minutes.

    Automated chat bots with appropriate guides, with interactive manner to the inquiries from valued customer, have introduced to Rakuten Ichiba (EC), Rakuten 24, Kenko.Com, Sokai Drug and Rakuten Mobile. Furthermore, more businesses in Rakuten group are being prepared for the commercial introduction of chat bot in customer service.

Increasing Rakuten Internal Use of FAQ Chatbot

    Originally FAQ chatbot which runs on Rakuten AI Platform was started as chat bot as customer support purpose of Rakuten’s respective internet service. However, we started to receive inquiries from internal departments.

    Departments like legal, human resources and accounting in Rakuten internal, tasks to interact with Rakuten employees as customer for answering questions are rapidly increasing, and with the increase of number of employees, it is strongly desired to introduce chat bot internally.

    With such background, we have enhanced the Rakuten AI Platform originally designed and developed for Rakuten’s internet services to be used for in-house intranet services, and the introduction of FAQ chatbot is being progress as a part of automated response features for so-called in-house shared service departments.

Three Phases of AI-nization at Rakuten

    This topic has been introduced in my column of “Omotenashi and AI” in this Rakuten Technology Blog, but we have defined three AI-nization phases as;

  • Phase 1 : AI-nization of Routine Tasks
  • Phase 2 : AI-nization of Decision Making
  • Phase 3 : AI-nization of Collaborative Work

    FAQ Chat bots we have already commercially introduced to provide answers to popular questions our customers ask and we think it is classified and realized as Phase 1, AI-nization of Routine Tasks.

    Then, as Phase 1, many Rakuten busineses and Rakuten’s internal department is preparing and more FAQ chat bots are expected to be commercially launched and operated.

Role of AI

    We believe that AI plays a significant role in the context of human – computer interaction. As of today, at the various situations, we human is often required to compromise for computer. For example such as search, we need to input proper keyword that search engine understands and when the keyword is slightly different, we will daily experience to receive the totally different results.

    At Rakuten, we envision that AI will evolve the human-computer interaction from computer centric style to human centric style.

    And as previously described, in the AI-nization Phase 2 “AI-nization of Decision Making”, we believe it is important to reach your desired product through more natural conversational interaction when you use various Rakuten’s wide variety of services. It is unavoidable to deeply utilize various AI technology not limited to Deep Learning, Image Recognition and Object Recognition.

Further Steps

    We believe, at the various customer touch points with Rakuten services, that automated response and conversational interaction with the introduction of AI will be greatly increased. Then with the dramatical improvement of conversational quality and the aggressive introduction of AI technology, we continue to devote our efforts to make Rakuten services much better for our customers.