Trish Dromey reports on how a Dublin startup is using AI to make call centres work more efficiently.
With the aid of an intelligent agent assistant called Arthur, contact centre staff can, according to Dublin start-up EdgeTier, deal twice as fast with customers’ email, text and chat queries.
Using artificial intelligence (AI), Arthur is designed to streamline and automate repetitive tasks for agents and also suggest responses, explained EdgeTier CEO and co-founder Shane Lynn, who says that AI has the potential to revolutionise the contact centre industry.
“We believe that rather than replacing human interactions, AI can be used to assist human operators and so retain the personal touch, empathy and complex communication capabilities of agents while leveraging the speed and accuracy of AI systems.”
He said that although several companies offer AI technology solutions to replace humans, EdgeTier is one of the few to have adopted the approach of using AI to help humans do their job more efficiently.
Arthur, initially created for email queries in 2017 and subsequently enhanced to include chat and text communication, is now being targeted at enterprise clients. Mr Lynn said EdgeTier has customers in the car rental and e-commerce space and is carrying out trials with companies in retail, insurance and telecommunications. Estimating that the system has already saved thousands of agent hours in contact centre time for clients, Mr Lynn said the name Arthur was chosen because it’s a friendly sounding one for an assistant.
“It also means we are offering ‘Arthur-ficial’ Intelligence,” he joked.
EdgeTier is now in the process of raising seed funding in excess of €1m, which it will use to further enhance Arthur and develop sales in the UK this year and enter the US market in 2020. Setting up the company in 2015, Mr Lynn and co-founders Bart Lehane and Ciaran Tobin, set out to use advanced analytics and simulation technology to simplify everyday decision making.
Using some angel investment and competitive start funding from Enterprise Ireland they initially developed a consumer-based mobile application for the telecommunication space. Changing direction in 2017, the founders began providing consultancy service for contact centres.
“We saw an opportunity to use AI to build products to make operations more efficient,” said Mr Lynn.
The EdgeTier team made a pitch to one of their first customers, a car rental company with over 250 customer service agents, offering to build a product using AI that would speed up operations.
“We started by making a proof-of-concept version which was used for email. In 2018, we included chat and we now have a system that assists agents with text-based customer communication,” said Mr Lynn, adding that sales activity has ramped up since last October when Arthur became capable of dealing with text, chat and email.
“Functions carried out by Arthur include routing messages to the right place, recording and pre-writing suggested responses for customers. For some customer queries, the AI system has sped up processing speed by up to five times.”
Initially funding product development through data science-based consultancy work, EdgeTier has used early revenue from Arthur to bring on board two developers in addition to its three founders.
“We have built the technology and demonstrated that it works, our next step is to grow sales,” said Mr Lynn.
The company plans to use the funding being raised to increase the its staff size to around 15 in the next year.
“This year we plan to continue developing our technology and to target the UK market, recruiting staff there and setting up an office.
“There are 750,000 people employed in call centres in the UK — this is a huge opportunity.”
Once established in the UK, EdgeTier intends to go after an even bigger fish — the US market. “This is a massive
market where software for customer care is expected to be worth $48bn (€42bn) in 2025,” said Mr Lynn.
EdgeTier’s long-term goal is to build a world class AI-enabled contact centre platform.
“We plan to develop Arthur and also to create other lines focused on the contact centre industry.”