Voice AI Customer Service Startup Replicant Raises $27M
Customer service voice assistant developer Replicant has closed a $27 million Series A funding round led by Norwest Venture Partners. The startup offers companies a conversational artificial intelligence platform that it claims can understand words and tone well enough to handle most routine conversations with customers as well as a human at a call center.
Replicant’s platform provides virtual customer service agents that can act on behalf of a company. The idea is to skip the need to put people on hold and just answer questions and resolve any complaints. The deep learning used to generate the AI allows the virtual agent to parse human speech for meaning in both the language used and the emotion behind it and is sophisticated enough to halve the length of the calls, according to the startup. All of the calls are transcribed by the platform and analyzed for ways the company can improve its customer service, integrating directly into the call center platform already used by a client. The company using Replicant can theoretically answer more calls effectively without relying on a bigger call center, replacing humans with the AI. Replicant is named for the human replacements in the Blade Runner films, although presumably without the serf and rebellion metaphor of those movies.
“With Replicant, companies can provide 24/7 service, eliminate hold times, and scale elastically to meet high call volumes while improving customer satisfaction and reducing costs,” Replicant CEO Gadi Shamia explained in a blog post about the raise. “We have seen incredible success with our initial customers, including some of the country’s largest call centers, and are honored by the trust they’ve placed with us. Replicant customers are reducing costs by 50%-75%, cutting average handle times in half, resolving more than 90% of calls without escalations, and improving customer satisfaction as a result of shorter and more effective calls.”
Replicant was founded in 2017, spinning out of the Atomic startup program, and now answers more than two million customer service calls a month. The new funding round includes investment from Bloomberg Beta, Costanoa Ventures, and State Farm Ventures, as well as Atomic. It will be used to boost marketing and research, including upping the accuracy of the AI in understanding what people say. Demand has only grown this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. Existing platforms like Inference Solutions and Satisfi Labs are adapting by adding pandemic-specific answers to virtual phone agents, while new products leveraging voice and AI for enterprise services have been appearing all over, such as Outreach’s voice-controlled virtual assistant for sales calls named Kaia.
“The pandemic exposed the major shortcomings of call centers – relying on scheduling enough trained agents in physical locations to answer an often unpredictable and spiky volume of customer calls,” Shamia wrote. “And, as more and more of our experiences become digital and move online, customer service is becoming one of the most critical interfaces between brands and their customers. Customers that can hail a ride or book a flight in a single click want the same convenience and speed when they need help.”