When Israelis feel down about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that seeks to punish Israel for its perceived ill-treatment of the Palestinians, they should remember that they have friend in Rob LoCascio, CEO of LivePerson, a US company that provides help services for online businesses in the form of help chat services, analytics, and other forms of customer engagement.
“We’ve been in Israel for fifteen years, ever since we acquired HumanClick in 2000,” LoCascio told The Times of Israel.
“That’s long enough for us to have decided that Israel is not just a place we came to because of a buyout, but a place we consciously chose to do our research and development,” LoCascio said. “There’s a lot of great things happening here, and the proof is that we are in Israel by choice – and not because of any ethnic, religious, or political ties.”
Of Italian-American background, LoCascio says the company remains committed to Israel because of the high quality of work LivePerson gets out of its workers here. “Israel is one of two places in the world where you can find such high quality engineers, the other being Silicon Valley – and Israel offers many advantages over that location.”
LivePerson is the company behind, among other things, most of the “help chat” boxes on websites. “We have about 8,500 customers, the vast majority of which – about 7,000 – are small businesses with one to ten employees, but we also have very large customers, including 400 of the largest web sites,” LoCascio said. “In recent years we have developed a number of technologies to enhance sales for these companies, and have been very successful at doing so.”
At this year’s DLD tech festival in Tel Aviv, LivePerson introduced its new campaign – putting an end to the 800 help numbers and replacing them with LivePerson’s callback system. “Each year there are about 280 billion calls made to 800 numbers, and almost all of them are experiences in frustration,” said LoCascio. “You can be on hold for what seems an endless amount of time, waiting to speak to a customer service agent.”
What started out as a way to make it easier for customers to speak to representatives – over fifty years ago – just hasn’t kept up with the times, said LoCascio. “AT&T invented the 800 number in 1964, but the network was never meant to deal with the number of callers that use it now – and with companies cutting personnel to save money, the wait time for 800 number service calls keeps increasing.”
According to industry statistics, more than half of Americans spend 10 to 20 minutes on hold every week waiting for a customer service person – a loss of some 13 hours a year, worth over $100 billion in lost productivity.
Instead of handling customer service with a phone call, LivePerson wants companies to adopt a much more modern method – using chat and text messaging to communicate with customers.
“Today when you are on hold on a help call you get a ‘pop-in’ message asking you to leave your phone number so they can call you back,” said LoCascio. “Our LiveEngage platform is different, because it gives companies the power to figure out the most effective way to contact customers.”
A mobile version of LiveEngage, for example, lets companies use messaging to directly contact a customer on their devices, freeing up the customer to go about their business and responding to a message from the service provider at their convenience, not the other way around.
LiveEngage, like all of LivePerson’s other systems, were developed in Israel, where the company has some 400 employees and is growing 18% a year, in customer size and number of employees, said LoCascio. “For us, Israel is the only place that makes sense to do tech. Israel is a lot like Silicon Valley, but there is a lot more employee loyalty here. Israelis are more family and group focused, and they know how to scale communications technology, which is what we do.”
LivePerson likes Israel so much that the company in 2011 did what few Israeli companies are doing these days – listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. The company has been listed on the NASDAQ since 2000, but because so much of the company’s business revolves around Israel, the company decided to dual-list on the TASE. Besides HumanClick, LivePerson has acquired Israeli companies Kasamba (2007) and NuConomy (2010), the former working in the live online help space, and the latter in the web analytics space.
Using those companies’ technology, as well as its core development group, LivePerson has come out with various new products and service – like live online counselors and tutors for college students – that have helped LivePerson maintain its top status in the live chat field, said LoCascio.
“LivePerson has had a strong connection to the Israeli technology community. We see Israeli technology as key to our continued success. I could easily have picked the company up and moved it to the US, but that would not have been to our benefit at all.”