May
09
2018
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ServiceNow chatbot builder helps automate common service requests

When it comes to making requests inside a company for new equipment or to learn about HR policies, it can be a frustrating experience for both sides of the equation. HR and IT are probably tired of answering the same questions. Employees are tired of calling a help desk for routine inquiries and waiting for answers. ServiceNow’s new bot-building technology is designed to alleviate that problem by providing a way to create an automated bot-driven process for routine requests.

The company claims that you can build these bots to provide end-to-end service. Meaning if you tell the bot you need a new phone, it can pull your records, understand what you currently have and order a new one all in the same interaction — and all within a common messaging interface such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.

It also works for customer service transactions to process routine customer inquiries without having to route them to a CSR to answer typical questions.

The new chatbot building tool called Virtual Agent, has been built into the ServiceNow Now platform and provides a way for developers to build conversational interfaces easily, says CJ Desai, chief product officer at ServiceNow. “[The Virtual Agent] enables our customers to develop a wide range of intelligent service conversations from a quick question to an entire business action through the messaging platform of their choice,” Desai said in a statement.

The announcement is part of a broader AI initiative on the part of ServiceNow, which purchased Parlo, a chatbot startup, just last week for an undisclosed amount of cash. The acquisition should help give ServiceNow more AI engineering talent and help them beef up their natural language processing (NLP) to further refine and improve their chatbot products moving forward, as the Parlo team and technology get incorporated into the ServiceNow platform.

The company claims that using these chatbots, customers can reduce call volume to help desks and customer service by 15-20 percent, using the standard argument that it should free humans to handle more difficult inquiries.

The company joins a slew of other platform players including Salesforce, IBM, Oracle, AWS, and others who are incorporating chatbot building technology into their platforms.

Apr
03
2018
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Zendesk hits $500M run rate, launches enterprise content management platform

Over the last several years, Zendesk has been making the transition from a company that caters mostly to small businesses to one with larger enterprise customers — and their revenue reflects that. The company announced it has crossed the $.5 billion annual run rate since its last earning report in February. It also announced a new enterprise content management product specifically geared for large customer service organizations.

The company was just shy of the goal after its most recent earnings report (pdf) with $123.4 million for the quarter. They say they have since passed that goal, but have not announced it until now, based on revenue that closed March 31, 2018. The company is projecting between $555 and $565 million in revenue for fiscal 2018, according to its last earnings report. When you consider that when the company went public in 2014, it was at $100 million in annual revenue, reaching a half billion dollars in 4 years is significant.

Zendesk reports that 40 percent of its revenue now comes from larger enterprise customers, which they define as 100 seats or more. The company is predicting it will cross the $1 billion run rate by some time in 2020.

“When we IPOed, our run rate was $100 million. We had great momentum, but we were seen as SMB scaling to mid market. To reach a half a billion dollars shows momentum for building up enterprise market and enterprise products,” Adrian McDermott, Zendesk’s president of products told TechCrunch.

As for the new product, it’s called Guide Enterprise and it’s designed to provide those larger customer service organizations with a knowledge base and a content management platform for editorial planning and review. The idea is to empower customer service reps to write up solutions to problems they encounter and build up that knowledge base as part of the natural act of doing their jobs.

Zendesk Guide Enterprise. Photo: Zendesk

That gives organizations a couple of advantages. First of all, the reps can find their fellow employees’ notes and not have to reinvent the wheel every time, and the notes and articles they write can pass through editorial review and become part of the permanent knowledge base.

When customers hit the site or app, they can access solutions to common problems before having to talk to a human. The platform also includes reminders to check the content regularly so the knowledge base stays fresh and stale content is removed.

Finally, the company is applying AI to the problem. The artificial intelligence component can review the corpus of information currently available in the entire knowledge base and identify gaps in content that the company might want to add, allowing for proactive content creation.

The content management idea isn’t new to Zendesk. McDermott says they shipped the first content management product years ago, but what’s different is that this is geared to larger organizations and that the AI piece allows for some automation of this process. “The new workflow brings rich AI concepts like content analytics into the publishing flow,” he said.

Feb
22
2018
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Customer service bot startup Agent IQ announces $6.3 million Series A led by Sierra Ventures

 If you’ve tried to deal with a bot before you can speak to a human customer service rep, you know how frustrating that process can sometimes be. Sure, there are basic tasks that can free up a human rep to handle the more difficult matters, but it can be exasperating when there is no easy way to talk to a person. Agent IQ, a startup that has developed customer service bots, acknowledges… Read More

Feb
21
2018
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Onward helps businesses automate their customer service

Onward team 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. Read More

Nov
06
2017
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Salesforce to offer more customized AI with myEinstein

 It’s been just over a year since Salesforce introduced Einstein, a set of artificial intelligence technologies that are designed to underlie and enhance the Salesforce product set. Today, at Dreamforce, the company’s enormous customer conference taking place this week in San Francisco, it announced myEinstein, a package of tools it created to help developers and Salesforce… Read More

Oct
10
2017
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Salesforce takes another shot at IoT

 Everyone wants a piece of the Internet of Things, and why not? If predictions come to fruition, there are going to be billions and billions of devices and sensors broadcasting information at us by 2020, and someone has to make sense of it and point us to the data that matters. Salesforce wants to be that company (or at least one of them). Salesforce has never been shy about jumping on the… Read More

Oct
04
2017
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Apple ‘acqui-hired’ the team from messaging assistant Init.ai to work on Siri

 Earlier this week, a small startup called Init.ai announced that it soon would be discontinuing its service — a smart assistant for customer representatives to parse and get better insights from their interactions with users, as well as automate some of the interactions — because the team was (according to a notice on the site) “joining a project that touches the lives of… Read More

Jul
27
2017
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Salesforce claims you can set up customer service in Service Cloud update in less than a day

 Salesforce announced an update to its Service Cloud today, which the company says enables non-technical administrators to build a customer service organization with connected services in less than a day. That’s a bold claim, even for the marketing department, but the Service Cloud app builder has been built on top of the Salesforce Lightning development platform and designed to drag… Read More

Jul
20
2017
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Freshdesk owner Freshworks acquires Joe Hukum as it plans a move into chatbots

 After raising $55 million last year to build its business beyond its existing help desk services, today Freshworks (the parent company of Freshdesk) has made an acquisition to help it fill out that strategy. The company has acquired Joe Hukum, a startup out of India that offers a platform for businesses to build their own chatbots. I’ve asked, but the companies are not revealing any terms… Read More

Apr
15
2017
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Your customer’s online journey is only part of the story

 For years we’ve been hearing about the promise of customer experience management, the notion that you can understand your customer at a highly detailed level and serve them the content, products, services and even ads that matter (or at least make sense) to them.
Today’s marketing software is bringing that idea closer to reality.
But technology is only part of the brand-consumer… Read More

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