CallJoy is the Small Business Answer to Google Duplex
Google announced CallJoy this week, a new AI-based service for small business to automatically handle inbound phone calls. Whereas Google Duplex shocked many observers in May 2018 when the Google Assistant service made restaurant reservations and hair appointments by speaking to humans, CallJoy is a Google Duplex-like service that works on behalf of small businesses to communicate with human callers. The new business line emerged from Google’s Area 120 experimental labs according to a blog post by Bob Summers, General Manager of CallJoy.
The $39 per month service will answer customer calls to small businesses and attempt to address common questions. If the customer would like to place an order or additional information needs to be shared, the service will send a text message with a link to the caller. The idea is for CallJoy to act like a human receptionist that can manage inbound calls and customer requests. Google Duplex, you may recall, acts like a human assistant by taking care of menial tasks that require interaction with the physical world. In fact, both of these services are attempting to use AI to automate tasks that today require physical world interactions.
A Restricted Set of Businesses and a Recording Warning
There is an extensive FAQ page on the official CallJoy website. The new service is invite-only at this point and limited to the U.S. market although it does indicate an intention to support other countries after refining the solution. Google is screening applicants and appears to be limiting the service today to “owners of restaurants, retail shops, beauty salons, service providers and automotive services.” The reason for this is likely the same as with Google Duplex’s limited roll out around just three use cases. The AI service will work more reliably if the domain scope is limited. Restaurants receive a common set of requests from customers as do automotive services.
In addition, each caller will be greeted with the familiar phrase, “Call recorded for quality purposes.” This is required in 11 states with two-party consent for recording phone calls. It is also part of the bargain that Google bought into with Duplex. Some media and activists were concerned that the human wouldn’t know they were speaking to a machine and were critical of Google not disclosing Duplex was an AI-based assistant to call recipients. In this instance, Google isn’t telling the user that it is a bot on the line, but it is clearly indicating a recording it taking place.
CallJoy Call Actions
CallJoy also has what are referred to as Call Actions. These are workflows that CallJoy can handle and enable users to configure responses and automate activities. The product FAQ describes Call Actions as:
Call actions define what happens when the CallJoy phone number rings. By default, all incoming calls will be answered with a recording consent message and then be connected to your primary business number. You can customize your Call Actions with a personalized greeting, basic business information like open hours or by adding the textback feature.
This is important. CallJoy is not just answering questions about store hours which you can already leave in a recorded message. It offers small business owners the opportunity to set up an automated workflow that can send users a link to order food, complete other tasks, or change the interaction.
A New Human-to-Machine Interface
Historically, people are good at speaking with people and machines are generally good and communicating with other machines, but machine-to-human and human-to-machine communications often fail. They literally speak different languages. However, Google Duplex demonstrated a solution to the machine-to-human communication problem for specific tasks with well-defined boundaries. CallJoy is addressing the opposite scenario by automating human-to-machine conversations. It is not clear what would happen if Google Duplex attempted to connect with CallJoy, but maybe we will see that next week at Google I/O.