Call Center AI Startup ASAPP Raises $120M
Customer service and experience AI developer ASAPP has raised $120 million in a Series C funding round from existing investors and newcomers Fidelity and Dragoneer. The funding pegs the startup’s value at $1.6 billion, double where it stood a year ago during its last funding round.
ASAPP provides AI services used by call centers and other customer service interfaces. The seven-year-old startup developed ways of using machine learning to improve human performance and introduce automation to workflows where appropriate. Customer service agents can use ASAPP as a kind of coach for determining how to talk to customers during sales calls or service requests. The AI analyzes what is being said and the sentiment behind the words to craft its suggestions. When a busy call center agent has several simultaneous conversations happening, those suggestions can help prevent confusion or errors. The AI also uses machine learning to work out where automation can help agents, personalized based on the agent’s own capacity.
The idea is to lighten an agent’s load and give them more time and energy to deal with the elements only humans can handle. The AI parses calls in real-time as well, providing notes on the interactions and coming up with ways to improve next time. ASAPP points to its relatively enormous research division as the key to the company’s success. The company claims more Ph.D. students in machine learning experimenting with potential customer experiences than anyone else.
“ASAPP is one of the few companies advancing research and development in artificial intelligence and its application for customer experience,” ASAPP CEO Gustavo Sapoznik said. “In an environment where customer expectations are rising, ASAPP is helping large enterprises advance digital engagement, real-time voice transcription, speech analytics, and live agent coaching and analytics.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and shift to working from home for so many people triggered a skyrocketing demand for AI in customer service. ASAPP was one of the many startups flooded with new clients and investors. Last year, Dialpad raised $100 million and Observe.AI raised $54 million in quick succession, while Five9 bought outright the virtual agent platform Inference Solutions. The trend continued this year, with Uniphore closing an eye-popping $140 million funding round a couple of months ago. ASAPP doubled in size last year, picking up several major new clients like Dish Network and JetBlue, fueling the need for the funding round. The new money will serve to expand ASAPP’s reach, as well as add and expand the AI embedded in the customer experience performance platform.
“The Customer Experience industry is at a crossroads. After years of interactive voice response systems and bot investments, customer satisfaction is down, and costs have increased,” Sapoznik said. “We apply our AI research to make people in contact centers wildly more productive because existing rules-based technology and architectures limit companies to small improvements that can’t bridge the digital transformation opportunity that AI is enabling and delivering.”