Apr
15
2020
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Frame AI raises $6.3M Series A to help understand customers across channels

Frame AI, a New York City startup that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help companies understand their customers better across multiple channels, announced a $6.3 million Series A investment today.

G20 Ventures and Greycroft led the round together. Bill Wiberg, co-founder and partner at G20, will join Frame’s board under the terms of the deal. The total raised with an earlier seed round is over $10 million, according to the company.

“Frame is basically an early warning system and continuous monitoring tool for your customer voice,” Frame CEO and co-founder George Davis told TechCrunch . What that means, in practice, is the tool plugs into help desk software, call center tooling, CRM systems and anywhere else in a company that communicates with a customer.

“We then use natural language understanding to pull out emerging themes and basically aggregate them to account and segment levels so that customer experience leaders can prioritize taking actions to improve their relationships,” Davis explained.

He believes that customer experience leaders are being asked to do more and more in terms of talking to customers on ever more channels and digesting that into useful information for the rest of their company to be responsive to customer needs, and he says that there isn’t a lot of tooling to help with this particular part of the customer experience problem.

“We don’t think they have the right tools to do either the listening in the first place or the analysis. We’re trying to make it possible for them to hear their customers everywhere they’re already talking to them, and then act on that information,” he said.

He says they work alongside customer data platforms (CDPs) like Segment, Salesforce Customer 360 and Adobe Real-time CDP. “We can take the customer voice information from all of these unstructured sources, all these natural language sources and turn it into moments that can be contributed back to one of these structured data platforms.”

Davis certainly recognizes that his company is getting this money in the middle of a health and economic crisis, and he hopes that a tool like his that can help take the pulse of the customer across multiple channels can help companies succeed at a time when a data-driven approach to customer experience is more important than ever.

He says that by continuing to hire through this and building his company, he can contribute to restarting the economic engine, even if in some small way.

“It’s a bleak time, but I have a lot of confidence in New York and in the country, in the customer experience community and in the world’s ability to bounce back strong from this. I think it’s actually created a lot of solidarity that we’re all going to find a lot of new opportunities, and we’re going to just keep building Frame as fast as we can.”

Mar
04
2020
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Zendesk’s latest tools designed to give fuller view of the customer

Like many technology companies, Zendesk made the tough decision to cancel its Zendesk Relate customer conference this week in Miami amid COVID-19 health concerns. That doesn’t mean the announcements didn’t happen though, even if the conference didn’t, and today the company announced a major update to its Sunshine development platform.

You may recall that the company, which is widely known for its help desk software, made the move to CRM when it acquired Base in September 2018. A little later that year, it announced the Sunshine platform, which customers could use to build applications on top of the Zendesk platform.

It has been working to integrate the CRM tool more broadly into the platform, and today’s announcement is about giving Zendesk users a broader view of its customers. Zendesk has a great amount of data at its disposal about the customer’s likes and dislikes based on interactions with the help desk side of the house, and Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane sees the two sides being interconnected. At the same time, he’s embracing the idea of this all taking place in the public cloud on AWS.

“Our vision is really to have all the components, all the infrastructure, all the business logic that you need to build a customer experience, and customer relationship management applications, all on the Sunshine platform, all living natively on AWS,” Svane told TechCrunch.

All of this is in service of giving customers a better experience based on what you know about them. He said that the goal today is to retain and satisfy the customer, and the platform is designed to give them the data they need to help do that.

“In the old days, you went out and you bought a product, and that was kind of the end of the transaction. Today, through the convenience economy, through the subscription economy, it’s more about your long-term engagement with a vendor,” he explained.

He sees the platform helping pull all of this data together, while recognizing and acknowledging the challenges involved here. In fact, he is reluctant to call it a complete picture, calling that a false narrative other vendors are putting out.

“We do want to help our customers extract all the relevant information and to try and create a picture that is helpful across all these different channels, but we also know that the reality of it is that you have so many disparate systems right now,” he said.

He sees his platform with the engagement data on one side and the customer record on the other as a good starting point for this. “I think there’s a lot you can do to collect a lot of information and have an abstraction layer, and that’s what we try to do with Sunshine. We want to have an abstraction layer where you start working and seeing all of this data to get insights into your customer. And I think that’s much better start.”

Nov
14
2019
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Moveworks snags $75M Series B to resolve help desk tickets with AI

Moveworks, a startup using AI to help resolve help desk tickets in an automated fashion, announced a $75 million Series B investment today.

The round was led by Iconiq Capital, Kleiner Perkins and Sapphire Ventures. Existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Bain Capital Ventures and Comerica Bank also participated. The round also included a personal investment from John W. Thompson, a partner at LightSpeed Venture Partners and chairman at Microsoft. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $105 million, according to the company.

That’s a lot of money for an early-stage company, but CEO and co-founder Bhavin Shah says his company is solving a common problem using AI. “Moveworks is a machine learning platform that uses natural language understanding to take tickets that are submitted by employees every day to their IT teams for stuff they need, and we understand [the content of the tickets], interpret them, and then we take the actions to resolve them [automatically],” Shah explained.

He said the company decided to focus on help desk tickets because they saw data when they were forming the company that suggested a common set of questions, and that would make it easier to interpret and resolve these issues. In fact, they are currently able to resolve 25-40% of all tickets autonomously.

He says this should lead to greater user satisfaction because some of their problems can be resolved immediately, even when IT personnel aren’t around to help. Instead of filing a ticket and waiting for an answer, Moveworks can provide the answer, at least part of the time, without human intervention.

Aditya Agrawal, a partner at Iconiq, says that the company really captured his attention. “Moveworks is not just transforming IT operations, they are building a more modern and enlightened way to work. They’ve built a platform that simplifies and streamlines every interaction between employees and IT, enabling both to focus on what matters,” he said in a statement.

The company was founded in 2016, and in the early days was only resolving 2% of the tickets autonomously, so it has seen major improvement. It already has 115 employees and dozens of customers (although Shah didn’t want to provide an exact number).

Nov
01
2018
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Spoke enhances AI engine to power help desk ticketing system

Spoke, a startup that wants to simplify the way companies add and process help desk tickets using artificial intelligence underpinnings, announced it has enhanced its AI engine to allow for more complex queries.

The company founders were working at Google after a previous startup had been sold to the search giant when they encountered a problem with help desk ticket processing. It was spread across different tools and generally was more complicated than they thought it needed to be.

Like all good entrepreneurs, when they left Google in 2016 and were looking for their next challenge, they decided to attack this pain point, which they felt acutely in their time at Google. Like many startups, that pain point gave rise to a new company: Spoke.

The product launched last March and the company already has 150 customers. The idea with the service is to provide an intelligent internal ticketing system, whether that’s for HR, IT or other internal help desks.

They wanted to make the tool as conversational as possible, so you simply enter a question or statement such as “the Wi-Fi is down in my conference room” or “how much vacation do I have left.” The system generally recognizes the type of request — Wi-Fi would go to IT and vacation to HR — and it moves the ticket through the system accordingly. If there is a relevant knowledge base article available, it might pull that as suggested reading. They say they have gotten to the point that 50 percent of requests can be resolved automatically without routing to a human.

Along the way, it keeps asking for feedback so that the artificial intelligence engine underlying the tool can learn what it got right and wrong and adjust accordingly in the future.

While the tool has its own complete interface, the founders recognized that people work in different ways, so they have also built integrations with Zapier (the workflow tool) and Slack, allowing customers to take that Spoke functionality and use it inside the tools they commonly use at work without explicitly having to open the Spoke tool.

The company has 20 full-time employees. Customers include DoorDash, Evernote and charity: water. They have raised $28 million.

Oct
26
2016
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Zendesk expands beyond the help desk

Customer service rep on phone. Zendesk has always been known as a customer service cloud application, and while its focus remains on the customer, it is attempting to expand the mission using data to drive communication and understanding about the customer. The company wants to make sure that everyone involved has the whole picture of the customer experience and hopes to provide assistance whenever and wherever people… Read More

Mar
05
2014
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Zoho Seeks To Disrupt IT Helpdesk Market By Offering ServiceDesk For Free

With enterprises looking to achieve cost savings as their top priority in managing their IT systems, the IT help desk market is getting commoditized very fast, leaving little room for any disruptive innovation. ManageEngine, a division of Zoho, is offering its flagship IT help desk software — ServiceDesk — for free starting today, underscoring just how competitive and commoditized this… Read More

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