Siena AI raises $4.7M to develop an empathic AI customer service agent

Merchants want to give their customers the best experience possible. However, when a delivery doesn’t get there on time, or an order is wrong, you have to work with customer service to get a problem resolved.

Adding artificial intelligence to the customer service layer enabled merchants to use chatbots or other tech to address easier requests. Chatbots often follow a script, which can lead to some frustrating back-and-forth before customers decide to speak with a human.

Siena AI’s co-founders Andrei Negrau and Lisa Popovici believe the best of both worlds can happen — an AI customer service agent with the empathy of a human. They have been in the e-commerce space for eight years, most recently building software for Shopify merchants.

“You have the chatbots on one hand, and everyone hated chatbots when we were really looking into the experience. Then there was business process outsourcing,” Negrau told TechCrunch. “When we started Siena, the premise was that there was no solution that could seamlessly automate everything like an agent.”

The pair developed an AI-powered customer support solution that might be a machine, but understands context and responds with empathy like a human.

Injecting AI, often as conversational AI, into the customer service industry, is not new. Companies like Ada, and Neuron7, to name a few, have developed approaches to making customer service better for both companies and their customers.

Siena AI, Lisa Popovici, Andrei Negrau, customer service

Lisa Popovici and Andrei Negrau, co-founders of Siena AI. Image Credits: Siena AI

However, Negrau and Popovici say Siena stands apart in three ways: First is its AI Personas feature that enables merchants to create one persona that speaks their brand’s unique voice and style on social media, while utilizing a more professional persona for email.

“This was one of merchant’s biggest concerns — they want to implement AI, but don’t want to lose their brand voice which takes years to build,” Popovici told TechCrunch.

They also developed Siena to juggle multiple tasks in the same interaction. For example, pulling order data and asking for product photos while also changing the shipping address and sending out a replacement product. Third is the company’s cognitive reasoning-based engine, or CORE, for considering the best resolution path to a complex customer service problem.

Since launching the company six months ago, Siena has amassed 65 customers, including brands like Kitsch, Simple Modern and Everyday Dose. Popovici said the company has reached revenue milestones during this time, but declined to go into further detail. The company also manages up to 80% of customer interactions across over 100 languages and all channels; for example, email, text, social DMs and comments.

Investors are keen on Siena, too. A group, including Sierra Ventures, Pari Passu Ventures, Spacestation Investments, Village Global, The Council and OpenSky Ventures, pumped $4.7 million in seed funding into the company recently.

The co-founders plan to use the capital on hiring, go-to-market capabilities and technology development to get its solution to become a fully autonomous agent for customers over the next 12 months. Siena is also launching a learning hub for customers called Siena AI Academy, when they can more easily integrate AI into their customer service workflows.

“Our flagship product, the autonomous agent, is going to be in a great position by the second quarter of next year,” Negrau said. “We know what’s not working, and we will continue to help guide our customers toward what we know is working.”