VirtuOz, a company that develops virtual support agents, has closed a $11.4 million Series B funding round led by Mohr Davidow Ventures, with Galileo Partners and Eric Hahn with Inventures Group also participating. The company’s “Virtual Agents” are basically intelligent chat bots that can walk users though sales, help, and support questions automatically. Virtual Agents generally appear as chat avatars (you can see one below), and are apparently so realistic that the company says that 69% of customers end their conversation with a “Goodbye”.
Avatars are continuously tweaked for each company, offering regular status reports that let administrators know how effective they are. Agents run through a complex series of algorithms meant to help with their designated objective, and can ask customers for further information to build up a gradually growing knowledge of each customer’s problem as it tries to reach a solution (it’s not just a series of if/then statements). Agents are also capable of simultaneously handling thousands of customer support issues at the same time. The company’s software has already been deployed by a number of major sites, including PayPal, Chegg, and eBay (which claims that 88% of support questions were resolved instantly by their VirtuOz agents).
I’m not a big fan of automated help systems, as I generally can find whatever they have to say elsewhere on the web. But VirtuOz seems to have positioned itself well – there’s clearly a huge market for them, and the floundering economy will likely see even more companies swap human tech support in favor of cheaper automated systems.