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Parloa raises $21M to automate call centers.

Photo: Parloa

Customer contact centers cost approximately $400 billion worldwide. However, according to The Harris Poll, 46% of customer interactions will be automated by 2021 at contact centers to minimize expenses.

It benefits contact center automation software manufacturers. Recent investment growth suggests VCs agree. During the past year, labor-saving customer services startups like Invoca, Replicant, PolyAI, and Observe.ai have garnered hundreds of millions of dollars from investors.

Parloa, a German corporate software company, combines conversational AI and low-code technologies to assist contact centers in reducing workloads (or so the sales pitch goes). EQT Ventures led a €20 million (~$21.67 million) Series A fundraising round for Parloa, which included Newton and Senovo.

Parloa will use the new funds for client acquisition, product R&D, and a U.S. office.

Malte Kosub, co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch in an email that AI is poised to disrupt the multi-billion customer service business. “Europe, Middle East, Africa, and the U.S. have poor customer service. The speed of AI adoption in customer service will be the same in those areas.”

Future of Voice, a conversational AI agency Kosub co-founded with Stefan Ostwald in 2017, introduced Parloa internally. Kosub and Ostwald created Parloa, a low-code solution enabling Future of Voice customers to create “multi-channel speech experiences” like Alexa skills and phone bots. Kosub and Ostwald sold Future of Voice in 2020 and hired Parloa workers to expand the platform independently.

Parloa’s patchwork of applications and services can power contact center automation processes via low-code drag-and-drop dashboards. For example, Parloa’s natural language understanding models and speech-to-text module, powered by Microsoft Cognitive Services, may generate a phone dialogue tree. In addition, Parloa’s integrations with third-party text-generating models, like OpenAI’s recently launched GPT-4, might be used with the speech-to-text module to address typical customer inquiries and complaints.

To illustrate, a typical corporation may utilize Parloa’s capabilities to construct a phone-answering bot that automatically identifies a customer’s call (e.g., billing address change) and answers their inquiries in natural language. It might also employ Parloa’s translation technologies for multilingual customer assistance.

Parloa’s architecture isn’t unique—many contact center platforms use it—but the business believes its platform is technically better. For example, Parloa says its AI tools, applications, and modules can decrease spelling errors and other “unwanted conversational patterns” during calls and keep listening during natural pauses.

Kosub said Parloa is automating digital customer service due to the epidemic. The business has always provided customer service. We support an established multi-billion market with revolutionary technologies, not creating a new market environment or focusing on small sub-segments.

Kosub wouldn’t provide Parloa’s customer count beyond Decathlon and German Red Cross. When asked about macroeconomic challenges like the Silicon Valley Bank crisis, instead, he cited a Salesforce research that found 71% of agents have considered quitting in the prior six months.

“Companies have to cope with a declining availability of agents, staff shortages of agents, and work unattractiveness—much of an agent’s time is spent on repetitive duties, such verification, that might be done by AI,” Kosub added.

Higher salaries and perks may reduce agent turnover better than automation. In 2021, Cigna contact center workers petitioned for improved working conditions, citing excessive production demands and a lack of training.

In a recession, automation investments are simpler to market. In a competitive market, Parloa’s main problem will be standing apart. Fortunately, Kosub says he can.

“The slowdown and epidemic didn’t harm us. Instead, he stated that customer service demand and efficiency pressure is rising. “Corporate-wise, we went from 30 workers during our initial investment to over 100 in less than 12 months, with new joiners from Google, Salesforce, SAP, TeamViewer, and Celonis.”

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