For local businesses and brands, effectively leveraging Google’s suite of products presents a major opportunity to attract and retain customers. With the rise of AI and automation, new possibilities have emerged for optimizing digital presence across Google search, maps, profiles, reviews, ads, and more.

This blog summarizes a discussion between Dave Lehman, COO of Birdeye, Uday Ghatikar, Field CTO of Google Cloud, and Kiran Bellare, Head of Product Management for AI at Google Cloud, on how businesses can leverage Google to stay relevant in a competitive market. 

They also explore how Birdeye, as one of Google’s most integrated partners, fills an important role in helping local businesses successfully leverage Google’s powerful suite of consumer-facing capabilities through AI-enabled technology.

Key takeaways from the discussion

  • Birdeye is one of Google’s most integrated partners, and fills an important role for businesses trying to leverage Google’s ecosystem of products.
  • AI can help businesses engage customers, automate operations, and improve employee efficiency.
  • Google takes data privacy, security and responsible AI very seriously in its products.
  • Although AI brings huge opportunities, it also presents important responsibilities.

Fireside chat with Google

Dave: Hello, everybody. Dave Lehman, again, president and COO of Birdeye. Thank you so much for joining us today. 

We’ve had some great conversations on the evolution of AI. We’ve talked a lot about BirdAI and where we’re heading. Hopefully you guys joined us for some amazing breakout sessions with partners and customers like yourself. 

If you haven’t had a chance to check out those sessions, they’re all being recorded and you can watch them on demand. 

To close out our first day of View, I am so excited to dive into how local brands and businesses can win with Google. 

As marketers and owners of location-based businesses, your customers and your prospects journey all begin on Google. That’s the front door. And it plays a huge part in your online strategy. 

So I am ecstatic to welcome today two senior executives from Google to discuss how the partnership with Birdeye can help empower you to do more for your customers. 

First up, I wanted to introduce Uday Ghatikar, the field CTO of Google. He is deeply involved in all things generative AI and data. Uday has been with Google for almost seven years and was a co-founder at a startup within Google called Area 120 Startup Incubator. 

Also joining me is Kiran Bellare. He’s the Head of Product Management at Google Cloud for the AI Group. He is responsible for generative AI, and he’s been with Google for over four years. He’s got over 20 years experience in software applications and eight years in AIML across startups and larger companies. 

Thank you guys both so much for joining us. 

Uday, do you want to kick us off? We’d love to hear a little bit more about yourself and the things you’re involved with at Google. 

Uday: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Dave, for that intro. Excited to be here. So, I’m Uday Ghatikar. I’m a part of the Google Cloud team. I play the role of Field CTO. 

Part of my job is to work with a lot of our tier one VCs and their startup portfolio companies — think Google Ventures, Sequoia, etc. But a lot of my time is spent with customers like Birdeye, working with the executive teams to make sure that Google is aligned with their vision, that we are providing the right level of service and products, getting feedback from them, essentially making sure that they’re successful. 

I was lucky enough to be part of a startup within Google. I was co-founder of a company called Demand, and that was all about bringing Google search data into Google Cloud environments for our customers like Birdeye to be able to use. So, search is very near and dear to my heart as I work with Google. 

I am very involved with a lot of the generative AI opportunities that we have as well. So, excited to be here and to share with you. So, Kiran, you want to go next? 

Kiran: Sure. Hi, everyone. I’m Kiran Bellare. I’m in the AI products group within Google Cloud and I work on two product areas. One is called Document AI, which is all about applying AI to extract, classify, summarize and search textual content and documents — all kinds of documents that typically businesses like yours would handle. 

The other areas are conversational AI, which is where we apply to run digital chat or speech agents, which is used to drive customer support, sales, and marketing. This is also relevant to companies like yours. 

And so I work closely with customers, I develop products, and then we basically take these products to market and make sure that they help companies like Birdeye build the right solutions. 

Dave: That’s great. That’s great. Again. Welcome, guys. We’re going to get into a lot of the AI topics — everybody’s interested in diving in and learning a lot more there. But let’s just start a little bit more high level. 

Uday, you can kick us off. How can a local business win with Google? What do they need to be thinking about? 

Uday: Yeah, that’s a great, great question. You know, Google’s larger mission is to organize all of the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. 

So, you know, we believe that what people are looking for, what’s top of mind, they start with Google, as we all do. I think that brings forth this unique opportunity where, if you’re thinking about acquiring and retaining your own customers, you have a whole host of capabilities that can go around that search bar, which is describing what’s top of mind for someone.

And as they search for whatever they’re searching for, there’s a whole host of capabilities. The Google Business Profile is one, to make sure that your business is showcased on Google in the most appropriate way. 

And as they start getting more informed about your business, they can look at reviews of your business. 

Then it’s the whole notion of, you know, they have questions or they want to read more about your business. So, they could use the Q&A functionality. 

We also have Google capabilities around messaging to engage and find out more about the business, understand, ask questions, and really nail down what they want to do with that information and how they want to engage with you as a brand. 

And then the other capabilities — reserve with Google, where they can make an appointment for service or for engagement. 

Obviously the traditional business of Google around search is all about ads. So businesses can surely go and buy ads and prominently display their brand or business in the search result content as well. 

And then there’s also notions of Seller Ratings that can showcase your business, and the value that those can have. 

So, those are some of the ways of leveraging what Google offers to consumers for businesses to further attract and retain their customers, and to create a good experience overall. 

Dave: There’s a lot there. It’s a lot for a local business. Kiran, what about you? What else should local businesses be thinking about with Google? 

Kiran: So one of the things I would add to what Uday said is…so, Google itself, we make a lot of changes, right? Both at the product level as well as the underlying technology level. 

I think, like with Business Profiles, we’re constantly adding new fields. We are making changes to our algorithms underneath to support better text to speech recognition. A variety of changes are happening. 

It helps to work with solution providers like Birdeye, who take these packages and surface them within the applications that you use, so that you get the best benefit of all the technologies that are rolled out across Google. 

Kiran Bellare, Head of Product – Generative AI, Google Cloud

Dave: Yeah, for a local business who’s trying to clean teeth or fill people’s bellies…it’s a lot. So to have that kind of partnership makes a lot of sense. 

And again, obviously, Birdeye focuses on specifically helping those local brands and businesses with their digital customer experience. But we obviously have to partner with amazing businesses like yourself. Uday, can you talk a little bit about that partnership from your guys’ side? 

Uday: Yeah, absolutely. When we look at the larger Google ecosystem, it can be quite difficult for individual businesses to navigate that entire ecosystem. And I think that’s why Birdeye plays such an important role in the middle. So I’m a huge fan of Birdeye. 

I am part of the executive sponsorship team that works with the executives at Birdeye, like Dave, to really make sure that we’re working in sync to bring the best value to your customers. It’s definitely one of the most integrated partners we have that sits right in between in the Google ecosystem and enables these capabilities that we just talked about.

When we look at the larger Google ecosystem it can be quite difficult for individual businesses to navigate that entire ecosystem. And I think that’s why Birdeye plays such an important role in the middle. So it’s definitely one of the most integrated partners we have.

Uday Ghatikar, Field CTO and Google Cloud

It’s a one stop shop to really enable success for these small businesses and for the various local brands as well. I think that’s such an important role that Birdeye fulfills. And we could not be more thrilled to be partnered with Birdeye.

It’s an exciting time in terms of what generative AI and AI in general brings, and our partnership hopefully will bring a lot of those additional value-added items to your customers and to their customers. So, super exciting times. 

Dave: Yeah, well, that’s a great transition because a lot of people are here to hear about AI, and you guys are certainly no strangers to that. You guys have been in that game for a long time. And it’s just taken off like crazy in the last six months or so. 

Kiran, again, a lot of people are new to AI. What should a local business be thinking about in terms of AI? And how can Google help them and work through getting started with AI? 

Kiran: Sure. Yeah. So AI has been a pretty disruptive force that has changed — and has the potential to change — the way we work, we play, we get things done. And it has implications on both the local businesses as well as large businesses and consumers. 

Some of the areas I can think of where local businesses can take advantage of this, is, one, in terms of how they engage customers. From the kind of creatives that you need to build from a marketing standpoint, to how you run and support, sales, marketing, etc. So, in terms of customer engagement, you can get more done with less using AI.

The other area where you can get a lot of mileage out of AI is in terms of being able to automate a lot of transactions and operations. Booking appointments, for example. I think Uday talked earlier about our appointment booking capability. Now, we can bring a lot more automation into that. 

Also being able to take orders, online orders, mobile orders, etc., and basically automating those processes. 

And then the third one is improving efficiencies for your employees. So automating your internal tasks, email processing, office automation, etc.

So, the scope is pretty ubiquitous in terms of how AI can be exploited in the various aspects of your business. 

And in terms of Google’s advancements, so Google has been in this for a very long time, and so have other companies. But in the last six months or so, as Dave mentioned, there have been pretty remarkable advancements in what’s called generative AI technology, which basically accelerates the pace of innovation in all these areas that I mentioned. 

We also recently had an event called Next, where we announced a whole set of new products and capabilities around generative AI. I’m Birdeye, as well as other customers of ours, are going to be able to take advantage of those technologies and be able to surface them.

Dave: Yeah, that’s great. Uday, anything to add on that side? Again, this is interesting to the people here. What’s Google doing with this stuff? 

Uday: Yeah. And I think for businesses, as we look at it and for local brands, what’s really important is to make sure that you align the direction your business is going to how the world searches and what the world is expressing a demand for. 

And so towards that, using data, AIML, I think go hand in hand. So using that data to really understand: 

  • What does this mean for my business? 
  • What are people looking for?
  • What are we understanding from our engagement with our customers? 
  • How do we parse through that data to figure out what remains our North Star as a business? 

And with that data and analytics, there’s a huge option for businesses to really get more in tune with it and really change the course of how they’re doing things and to adapt better. That’s the huge opportunity that we have, and I think AIML can definitely accelerate that path for our customers — and that’s exciting. 

Google’s a data company and it’s an AIML company, and we can surely help in that journey as well. 

Dave: And on that, Uday, I think there’s probably a lot of… not necessarily fear, but concern from a lot of businesses out there. Right? They’ve tried to fine tune how they’re found on Google search. 

Obviously search is such a key part of Google. And now AI is coming along. What do businesses need to be thinking about in terms of how Google is going to change algorithms, change the way that businesses show up… What should people think about in that regard? 

Uday: Well, I think if you think about what generative AIML does to search, you’ll see this roll out to consumers of the search queries, it makes search even more useful. It makes search even more contextual. 

So as they start searching, they’ll see more helpfulness from search because it’ll understand context. There will almost be a relationship that you can have that you could never have had before. 

I think this will make search show dramatically more value in terms of consumers finding the services and the products they’re looking for from local businesses and brands. And people are going to take that relationship expectation that they have with search as it points them to brands, to the brands themselves. And I think it puts a little bit of an additional responsibility on the brands to fulfill that. 

So, there’s an expectation that’ll be raised in terms of expecting the brand to be more responsive or to be more accurate in terms of their listings. Or to be omnipresent in terms of a digital presence. 

And the good news about that is that generative AI and AIML in general will allow brands to, through Birdeye for example, to be that and to meet those expectations. 

So, it’s the raising of expectations, it’s the raising of helpfulness. It’s finding things more easily and finding things in a much more contextual way. And all of that stuff is good news for companies because it gives consumers a better avenue to get the services and the products they want and they need. And brands and companies can rise up to that challenge as well. 

Dave: Yeah, I think for marketers whe, again make up a lot of people watching this, the world changes, right? Like creating new content. There’s this huge opportunity for them. 

In terms of… Kiran, maybe on your side, working this into their current workflows. How should they be thinking about that? What’s the right way for a marketer to really take advantage of what Google is rolling out there? 

Kiran: Sure. Yeah. So in terms of marketers, I think there are several areas where, especially for marketers of location-based businesses, where AI can play a pretty significant role. 

The first one is around content generation. 

Marketers spend a lot of time creating content, whether it’s a graphic or textual content or video content, either for branding purposes, for a web presence, for offline presence, building ad creatives, etc. A lot of that is getting automated through AI, which would really dramatically boost productivity for marketers. So that’s number one, especially in small businesses where resources are tight when it comes to marketing. 

The second one is how you drive conversations with your customers, and being able to automate a lot of the conversations, like answering simple FAQs on your website, making sure that your responses are: 

  • On point
  • Relevant 
  • On time

Without minimizing the human overhead behind that. So, conversation is another one. 

The third one is around workflows. If you think about the different marketing workflows that can be automated, whether it’s basically email, an email responder, or other kinds of workflows. 

And then finally, I think equally important is reputation management, in terms of how you detect negative sentiment from customers either on Twitter or on Google reviews, etc., and how you manage that. I’m sure Birdeye has a solution around that as well.  

And one other area that I probably haven’t touched upon is translation, right? In terms of automating translation, you have customers who speak different languages. How do you provide real time translation services, whether it’s text, speech or other in terms of providing a better experience to your customers? 

I see a lot of potential for marketers to take advantage of AI and especially the new generative technologies that we have. 

Dave: One of the things that we announced this morning when we introduced everybody to BirdAI is the idea of human-controlled AI. Not everybody is ready for full automation and for everything to be set it and forget it

Uday, can you talk about that a little bit? Where is this in the evolution? You know, should people be expecting AI to do everything? Should it be a tool to help them, a copilot, if you will? What’s the right balance there? 

Uday: Yeah, if you think about even what was on Google’s phones the whole time — it was called Google Assistant. That will be enhanced further now with AI. 

Assistant is a good word. It’s an assistant to a human experience, an assistant to a brand, to a company. It’s an enabler, an accelerator, you may call it. It can do things that were initially just inefficiencies that were given to humans in terms of what they do.  

But it can also do things on the creative side. So there’s a huge value of what generative AI and AIML can do for humans. I think the real value comes when they work together, right? Because that’s where the rubber hits the road. There’s the creative elements that AI does, but then there’s additional validation and additional creativity that humans bring to the bar.

Working together brings that technical excellence as well as that human creativity and oversight that comes together to allow for brands to do a lot of really interesting things at scale, right? 

So you can think about making sure that your brand’s voice is expressed in the correct way, that messaging is on point to that. AI may be helpful in creating that initial messaging, but then there can always be a validation layer of the humans making sure that the customer experience is at that quality level. 

And then the great thing is that I can learn from that, right? So as humans and AI work together and redefine things, AI gets smarter and does things even better. And so maybe there’s less oversight required. 

I think that relationship works really well. I think it’s incumbent upon all of us, as humans, to work with AI to make sure we train it in the correct way, and use it in the correct ways and applications. 

And you know what? Google as well as Birdeye are providing tools and capabilities to allow for that fruitful engagement between humans and AI. 

Dave: Yeah. Can you talk to the audience about what they should be thinking about in terms of data security and privacy? 

Kiran: Sure, yeah. So when it comes to security and privacy, that’s topmost in terms of Google’s agenda. 

And in fact, when we build products, we probably have as much emphasis on that as we do on building cool new features and supporting new use cases. It’s front and foremost among everybody, all the way from engineering all the way to marketing. 

There are four or five different initiatives around security that we have addressed in the generative AI launches that we’ve done. So the first one is around data privacy. Essentially what that means is that your data will not be used by Google for any kind of training or model training or used for other purposes. Right. So your data remains private to you, within the confines of your instance. 

So that’s number one. We take a lot of these principles very strictly. So in some ways, yes, it does limit us in terms of how much we can enhance our products, but we live with those guardrails. And we’ve learned to innovate within those guardrails. So that’s one. 

The other one is around responsible AI, which is a cross Google initiative where we make sure that the outputs are safe for you, for your customers, for all your stakeholders. 

By safety, what I mean is that we have like 16 different dimensions of safety. Think of toxicity, drugs, violence, etc. So any of the content that’s being generated, whether it’s a chat conversation with your customers, an image, or any text, if there’s any sense of if it violates any of these dimensions, it’s something that you can control or Birdeye can control it for you. 

You can basically configure that, and we make sure that the content that’s going out to you and your customers and internal stakeholders are safe. So that’s another pretty important principle. 

Thirdly, we do what we call source attribution and grounding. What I mean by that is that generative AI models are notorious for hallucinating. Sometimes it produces content that may not be correct or accurate, or it has a tendency to make up stuff. 

So what we do there is we basically ground the content with facts, right? Facts are well known. Either it’s in your document corpus or within your dataset, or it could be a dataset that we have from a world knowledge standpoint. Anything that’s generated by our models is actually grounded. 

And you can even point back to the sources that we use for grounding. So there’ll be a link that goes back and says, hey, this is where I got this from, I’m not making this up. So that’s one. 

Then of course, there are the initiatives we recently announced at Next, something called digital watermarking, which prevents tampering or copying of artifacts. So think about your brand logos, etc., even your text copy. People can’t plagiarize it, take advantage of it, then use it somewhere else.  

And then, of course, the fifth one, which is equally important, is the several compliance initiatives that are especially relevant to various regulated verticals and industries — healthcare, financial services, government and also other other services. 

Things like HIPAA compliance, right? We take all that very seriously. SOC or ISO compliance, PCI compliance as it relates to financial information. 

And then finally around data residency, which is making sure that your data lives within the jurisdiction that it’s supposed to live in. A lot of countries have these laws where data cannot leave. 

So, for example, the data in the U.S., we make sure that it stays in the U.S. It doesn’t leave the borders. Because Google is a worldwide, global cloud service, right? But we do enforce data residency so the data does not leak out to other sovereignties or other countries. 

Dave: Yeah. One of the other key aspects that we talked about today in the launch of BirdAI was: How do we make it contextualized? 

These large language models like Bard seem to speak English and are so impressive. But we’ve also got, you know, ten years of review data on… lawyers, for example. So, we can essentially add in a layer there, create a smaller model, and contextualize it to essentially speak legalese. 

Can you talk to just a little bit, Kiran, aout what opportunities there are? Because people want to not just say, oh, I speak ChatGPT or Bard or whatever, they want to say, okay, I want this model to work for my business and my customers. 

Kiran: Sure. Yeah. And as you said, Dave, context is everything when it comes to these large language models. The more context they have, the better will be the response — whether it relates to the brand, the product offering of the company, or even the personalized data that the user might expect. 

There are a few different AI technologies that we offer. So, the easiest, lowest-hanging fruit is really what we call short prompting, or zero short prompting, where you would include a lot of the context in the queries itself. And that’s something that Birdeye could do to make sure that the models actually respond with the on point content. To make sure the responses accurately and comprehensively address the questions that are being asked. 

Then you can also go through levels of what we call, “tuning the models.” We have something called future tuning. We have something called fine tuning, which requires more data. Each of these techniques that I’m talking about requires more and more data. And then there’s something called reinforcement learning, which kind of depends on the customers. It uses a lot of your users’ data to assess — it’s like a thumbs up or thumbs down process — whether the content is on point or not. 

So there’s all these different technologies that Birdeye can take advantage of, and basically deliver you the best experience that’s domain specific. 

Dave: That’s great. That’s great. And you know, there’s a lot to that. And I guess that’s why we’re here, to help people take advantage of all of that stuff. 

But, guys, thank you so much. This was great. I think, both in terms of educating a lot of people on what’s there, what Google is doing, and to hear more about this partnership.

Uday, take us away. Any final thoughts or final words for the people out there?

Uday: Well, for one, my thoughts go to what a historic moment in humanity we live in. 

Change is happening in an exponential way. Generative AI and AIML, and, generally speaking, data is changing the world in front of our eyes in some really powerful ways. And that brings about this awesome opportunity that we have in front of us, but also a responsibility to use that in meaningful ways, in ways that benefit humanity, in ways that drive up business better, etc. 

Uday Ghatikar, Field CTO and Google Cloud

It’s just an incredible moment in time. We’re getting this bird’s eye view into how the world is changing in such a rapid way. And, you know, it’s time for us to embrace that. So I just want to thank you for having us here. And hopefully we shared some value that could be useful to you and your businesses. 

Dave: That’s great. Kiran?

Kiran: I would echo what Uday said. If you think about generative, it’s a pretty transformational technology. Pundits have compared it to the iPhone disruption or the Internet disruption. 

I think it does have the potential to change how we work, how we play, and how we get things done. At every level — as consumers, small businesses, larger organizations, and governments. I think we really need to take advantage of this. And businesses that take advantage of this will benefit from it more and see rapid improvements. 

Dave: That’s great. Well, gentlemen, again, thank you so much for joining us. 

For those out there, hopefully you’ve enjoyed this session and the day full of content that we’ve brought you. We still have some great sessions tomorrow for you to come check out. And there’s also live office hours. So if there are things on the product side or the business side that piqued your interest, come join us. We’ve got our experts standing by to help you out live. 

And thanks again. Enjoy the rest of View.

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