Solvvy Raises $12M Series A for AI-Enhanced Customer Self-Service

[Corrected 10/23/17, 9:30 am. See below.] Customers who try to get straight answers from retail support desks or telecom companies often end up leaning on their phone’s “Operator” button after a robot voice comes on the line and says, “How can I help you? I can understand spoken questions.”

Nope.

And how many people have ever replied with an enthusiastic “Yes!” when a chatbot asks, “Was my answer helpful?” We don’t, because most automated customer service agents still can’t understand what we want.

Solvvy, one of the artificial intelligence companies trying to change that, announced today that it has raised $12 million in a Series A financing round led by Scale Venture Partners. [An earlier version of this story misspelled Solvvy’s name. We regret the error.]

The Palo Alto, CA-based startup says it has two ways to make a company’s customer self-service smarter. First, it uses machine learning to mine each company’s history of customer interactions so it can better figure out what the next wave of frustrated customers is likely to need. Second, it uses a natural language processing algorithm to better interpret customer inquiries, even if the same question is stated in a variety of different ways by individuals. Then the system serves up targeted answers rather than just dumping out a whole article for the customer to hunt through.

If that fails, Solvvy says, it quickly turns the customer over to a human being—the holy grail that many people still wait hours on the phone to reach. As coveted as human contact is in the customer service realm, Solvvy maintains that with AI, its virtual customer service agents will eventually do a better job most of the time, while saving companies a bucketload of money on call centers staffed with people.

Customer service is a ripe target for AI companies, and Solvvy is playing in an arena crowded with big companies such as Salesforce and Zendesk, as well as other startups like Mountain View, CA-based Agent.ai. Solvvy says it can integrate with software from customer relations management companies such as Salesforce, and with support chat platforms such as LiveChat.

During its first year on the market, Solvvy has attracted customers including GoFundMe, Peloton, Rover, TaskRabbit, and Upwork. With its new money, the company’s fundraising total adds up to $16.5 million. In the Series A round, Scale Venture Partners was joined by all the startup’s previous investors, including Pear Ventures, Signatures Capital, and True Ventures. Scale’s founding partner Rory O’Driscoll will be joining Solvvy’s board of directors.

While Solvvy works toward eliminating most human staffers, Boston-based GetHuman bases its business on the opposite goal. Customers can hire GetHuman employees to cut through the thickets of voicemail, robots, and chatbots, and corral a real customer service representative who can grasp their specific problems and solve them.

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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