FrontdeskAI Closes $2 Million in Funding for AI Assistant That Books Reservations for Spas and Salons
FrontdeskAI closed $2 million in seed funding on March 5th to support the expansion of its AI assistant designed to handle inbound phone calls and automatically book client appointments for spas, salons, and fitness centers via SMS. The funding round was led by Pi Ventures and the post-money company valuation was set at $15 million according to Pitchbook. FrontdeskAI says its virtual agent has already booked “several hundred thousand” appointments for more than 100 customers.
The company says there are over 20,000 spas in the U.S. and that does not include gyms and yoga studios. FrontdeskAI’s CEO Srivatsan Laxman said in a prepared statement that “customers report a 30% increase in revenue, 20% increase in new client registrations, and a significant reduction in class drop-outs.” The service starts at $75 per month with a $5 charge per appointment after the first five. Prices rise to $250 per month for 75 appointments and $2 per appointment thereafter.
Funneling Callers into Text Messaging
Inbound calls are met with a recorded message saying that the caller may leave a message or respond to the text message that is automatically generated when the call connects. This makes sense given the high proportion of calls that come in from mobile devices. From there, FrontdeskAI customers want to switch the user from a phone call to a text message chat facilitated by a virtual agent named Sasha. Sasha is simply a chatbot that can recognize requests for booking appointments and responding to questions by accessing FAQ information. The video below outlines a typical user interaction flow.
By funneling inbound callers to a text messaging channel, FrontdeskAI doesn’t have to bother with implementing a speech generation engine. It also benefits from enabling the spa clients to see the entire conversation stream if they need to refer back to the information later or when booking their appointment. And, these clients can avoid calls altogether in the future by simply booking their appointments via SMS. There are not voice interaction capabilities, but that simplifies FrontdeaskAI’s technology stack. In addition, the solution may be fully automated from a spa’s perspective but the company says there are always “human trainers … [as a] second layer of intelligence — around the clock.” The trainers are focused on adding empathy to the conversations according to the company.
What About Google Duplex?
In many ways, Sasha is the opposite of Google Duplex and not much different than many interactive voice response systems manifested in SMS. Sasha is an automated system that will help clients book appointments. It will be interesting to see how Sasha will have to evolve if a large number of consumers start using the Google Duplex service to book spa and salon appointments. Google Duplex is designed to execute the appointment booking process by voice interaction and today doesn’t have a mechanism to respond to text messages like those generated by FrontdeskAI. Today, Google Duplex is new and not widely used although Voicebot has confirmed users of the service in states as varied as Arkansas, Kansas, and Washington. Duplex eventually may be able to both make calls and interact via SMS with small businesses. Until then, FrontdeskAI appears to be a simple solution for spas and salons to automate appointment bookings that arrive via client calls.