November 24, 2016      

UPS has launched a beta version of an AI-based chatbot that mimics human conversation to help users easily find UPS locations, get shipping rates and track packages.

The UPS chatbot, available through Facebook Messenger, Skype and Amazon platforms, provides users with a convenient and conversational interface that is different from those offered on the UPS website or UPS mobile apps. For example, UPS customers can use simple phrases like “shipping rates” to get prompt voice responses in English.

Amazon users can access the UPS chatbot through Amazon Echo, which features the company’s Alexa voice recognition capabilities.

“At UPS, we’re bringing our first chatbot to life to make it easier for our customers to access information about their packages and shipments through messaging apps and voice-enabled platforms,” says Stuart Marcus, UPS vice president of customer technology marketing. “Our long-range plans are much bigger than that. We see chatbots becoming an important communication channel for our customers over the next few years, and we’re setting the stage for the incorporation of artificial intelligence throughout our customer-facing technologies.”

UPS, which invests more than $1 billion a year in technology, developed its chatbot in-house. UPS is also working CyPhy Works on delivery drones. The companies recently tested a delivery drone on a three-mile trip from Beverly, Mass. to a YMCA camp at Children’s Island. Helen Greiner, founder and CTO of CyPhy Works, is one of the panelists at the CES Robotics Conference, produced by Robotics Trends. During the “Delivery Robots Knocking at Your Door” session, Greiner will touch upon her work with UPS and some of the challenges and opportunities facing delivery drones.

UPS Chatbot

AI is becoming a bigger part of various UPS technologies. For example, the company’s new virtual assistant on uses natural language understanding to help customers track packages. The assistant becomes more skilled at its tasks as more people ask it questions.

“The UPS chatbot and the upcoming integration with UPS My Choice service exemplify the company’s dedication to customer-service enhancements,” says Andrew Van Beek, UPS senior director of applications development.

UPS My Choice members receive an email or text message the day before a shipment arrives. If they won’t be home to receive a package, they can re-route eligible packages to their workplace, a neighbor’s home or a nearby UPS Access Point location.

More than 30 million people now use the service in 15 countries. In the U.S., roughly one in four households are UPS My Choice users.