As the world turns, customer service seems to evolve much more slowly than most all other services. The problems that induce more hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing than solutions only seeming to be further abstracted by bad tech and the customer is these days left hanging up the phone after cussing out a robot.
For how much effort has been paid to stepping up the subpar quality of Siri and Alexa’s voice recognition capabilities, the tech used on customer service lines that people call up seems even more frustratingly antiquated by comparison. Interactions, a 12-year-old virtual assistant startup based in Franklin, Mass., has been bolstering its natural language processing tech to bring phone calls beyond “press zero to talk to a human” functionality.
The company announced Tuesday that it had closed a $56 million funding round led by Revolution Growth, NewSpring Capital and Comcast Ventures. The round was its largest to date, and brings the company’s total funding to nearly $167 million. Previous investors also include Softbank Capital and Sigma Partners.
“Just having the endorsement of these firms really speaks to the credibility of what we’re doing in the market,” Interactions CEO Mike Iacobucci told me.
Interactions has introduced a level of AI-powered complexity into its voice recognition software that gives callers a much less “robotic” experience on the phone.
For example, in a significantly more complex type of experience that the company has developed with some Hyatt hotels, users are simply asked what they need and from there the Interactions virtual assistant is tossed into the deep end where its left to parse whether the user wants to make a reservation and how many are in the party based on the language expressed by the user.
Things are still far from perfect, while Iacobucci tells me that some levels of their customer service experience tech show 98% accuracy in voice recognition, some of their more complex requests are yielding accuracy percentages in the high seventies. While Interactions is focused on bolstering its voice recognition, the company is also looking to improve the accuracy of text recognition in increasingly popular chat systems.
All of these items are critical to keeping up with customers and ensuring that people don’t walk away from these touchpoints with annoying experiences that damage their perceptions of the brands.
“Customer care is increasingly becoming a point of competitive differentiation, rather than a cost of doing business,” said Andrew Cleland, Managing Director of Comcast Ventures in a statement. “Through Interactions exclusive combination of automated natural language understanding, AI and human assisted understanding, the company surpasses its rivals and demonstrates unparalleled consumer understanding.”