Onward helps businesses automate their customer service

How much can customer service be automated? Onward has some straightforward targets — 40 percent of tickets and 40 percent of messages should be automated, and average response times should be 40 seconds on average.

Founders Rémi Cossart and Pramod Thammaiah describe this as Automation40 — basically, a set of goals for businesses looking to bring more automation into the customer service process. They compare these targets to fitness goals: The idea isn’t to hit them right away, but rather to have something to aim for.

This is a new direction (and new name) for Cossart and Thammaiah’s startup. They were previously building Agent Q, a text message-based shopping assistant. Like other founders building virtual assistants, they pitched Agent Q as a mix of automation and human interaction. Eventually, they decided that the real opportunity lay in helping other companies achieve that mix.

To do that, they’ve designed different solutions to address different types of customer service questions.


For the most common questions, Onward can simply pull up a response from the company’s knowledge base. For queries that are a bit more difficult, there’s a visual bot builder, allowing customers to design the flow around how questions get answered, what information gets collected from the customer and so on.

In some cases, the system will need to hand customers over to a human agent. But even in those cases, the agents will be assisted by Onward’s technology, which will suggest different answers, hopefully making them faster and more accurate.

Onward is launching today as a self-serve product. Monthly pricing starts at $9 for the most basic version, going up to $99 per desk for features like integration into HubSpot and Salesforce.