Replicant raises $7 million for bots that answer customer questions over the phone

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Autonomous customer service agents are fast becoming the rule rather than the exception, and that’s partly because consumers seem to prefer it that way. According to research published last year by Vonage subsidiary NewVoiceMedia, 25% of people prefer to have their queries handled by a chatbot or other self-service alternative, and according to Salesforce, roughly 69% of consumers choose chatbots for quick communication with brands.

The public’s growing acceptance of support bots is perhaps one reason why startups like Replicant are attracting investors. The San Francisco-based company today revealed that it’s raised $7 million in seed funding led by Atomic (the venture studio behind Hims, Bungalow, and TalkIQ), with participation from Bloomberg Beta, Costanoa Ventures, and Norwest Venture Partners. The capital infusion comes as Replicant brings on Gadi Shamia, the former CEO of cloud contact center solutions provider Talkdesk, as its new CEO and as it formally launches its AI-powered solution for customer calls: Thinking Machine.

“Agents are frustrated by answering the same questions 100 times a day. Callers suffer from long wait times and inconsistent service while companies find it hard to control costs and scale without impacting customer satisfaction,” said Shamia. “Our AI solution lessens those pain points while improving customer service.”

Replicant’s Thinking Machine — development of which began in 2017, spearheaded by Replicant cofounder Benjamin Gleitzman and startup studio Atomic — answers calls around the clock with no wait time, even during peak hours and spikes. Virtual agents handle a range of inquiries by processing full sentences rather than just keywords, and they respond in under a second with “natural,” conversational tones while performing background tasks like issuing refunds, rescheduling appointments, filling out intake forms, and updating shipping addresses.

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Replicant’s phone bots can seamlessly hand off calls to humans in the event they become confused or can’t autonomously accommodate requests, and they relay bullet-point summaries of progress to said agents in order to ensure a smooth transition. Moreover, the Thinking Machine bots chart out call events based on each participants’ intents, and they become smarter over time thanks to a central AI model that ingests data from every conversation.

Through a dashboard, Thinking Machine enables call center managers to supervise and engage with ongoing calls at any time; to choose voices and styles; or optionally connect bots with internal databases, customer relationship management platforms, and contact center software. Thinking Machine works on any voice channel, including mobile apps, websites, and smart speakers like Google Home, all while surfacing insights around customer intent, resolution rates, and more on the backend.

There’s no doubt that Replicant’s Thinking Machine is holistic, but it competes against incumbent solutions like Google’s Contact Center AI, Avaamo, LogMeIn’s Bold360, and others. Still, backers like Norwest Venture Partners partner Scott Beechuk bet that potential clients abound, considering the $1.3 trillion businesses collectively spend annually servicing 265 billion customer calls.

“AI can power long‑running voice conversations between smart virtual agents and customers to solve real problems at scale,” said Beechuk. “Replicant is leading this new wave of automation and is far ahead of any competing product with bots that sound and feel amazingly real.”

Source: VentureBeat

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