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As call volumes skyrocketed during the pandemic, contact centers turned to AI to help distribute the workload. But even before the pandemic, customer services were experimenting with automation solutions, including chatbots and transcriptionists, to streamline operations. A 2019 survey by Deloitte found that 76% of contact centers plan to invest in AI over the next two years. According to the same survey, 57% of companies were testing the use of AI to support customer service agents.

Anticipating the trend, Karan Kashyap founded Posh Technologies, a conversational AI and natural language processing technology development company based in Boston, Massachusetts, in 2018. Today, Posh announced that it had raised $ 27.5 million. dollars in a Series A financing led by Canapi Ventures. Kashyap, who serves as CEO, said the proceeds from the sale will be used to support additional investments in product research and development and the expansion of Posh’s platform.

“Posh’s growth accelerated during the pandemic amid the increasingly digital world in which we continue to live. By the time the pandemic started, we were already preparing to step on the accelerator pedal. The issues and needs of financial institutions have changed from the pandemic to our advantage, including the need to better manage 24/7 customer service, manage increasing call volumes from closed branches and double the self-service solutions, ”Kashyap told VentureBeat. by email. “There was also a high turnover rate for these customer service jobs – the ‘big resignation’ took a toll on call center jobs as well. While Posh’s goal is not to replace human agents, our technology helps our customers process higher volumes and augment their current service models.

Increase customer service

Kashyap, with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in AI, developed Posh’s technology while studying at MIT. The platform provides chatbots that automate customer questions and workflows across web, SMS, and messaging apps for tasks like checking schedules and payments. A separate IVR robot replaces traditional telephone keypad menus with natural voice conversations with customers.

On the backend, Posh automates FAQs and contact center and help desk workflows, leveraging machine learning and natural language processing to give chatbots “memory persistence.” Concretely, Posh’s systems train on domain-specific data so that its chatbots understand some of the nuances of the language of a given industry – and company -.

Posh integrates with live chats as well as other “API-enabled systems” (eg, digital banking databases and telephony) and speaks to human representatives as needed. Customers get metrics that show how conversations are going and areas for improvement.

“Our AI can easily handle routine inquiries without requiring staff involvement. We see it as the first line of defense to get people out of the queues while still allowing 24 hour self-service, ”Kashyap said. “Credit unions and banks are often able to answer customer questions directly on their website using the Posh chatbot feature. In cases where the chatbot doesn’t have the right answer, it can intelligently forward the request to a call center or in-person representative, dramatically improving both the amount of money spent on customer service as well as customer experience.

Competetion

Beyond incumbents like Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Amazon, Posh competes with a number of startups in the expanding call center automation space. Yellow.ai, a chatbot platform based in Bangalore, India, recently raised $ 78 million in venture capital to expand its platform globally. There’s also Ada, a Toronto-based startup that develops AI-infused customer service chatbots.

Grand View Research predicts that the global contact center software market will be worth $ 90.6 billion by 2028, if the current trend continues.

Kashyap argues that Posh’s focus on the financial services industry gives it an edge over its competitors targeting a wider range of segments. To date, Posh has partnered with more than 50 financial institutions to deploy web and mobile digital agents, and the company’s software manages tens of thousands of chats per day and reaches over 5.5 million people. .

“We serve approximately 50 community-based financial institutions – banks and credit unions – across the United States and their end users and members. Our digital assistants and voice banking assistants process tens of thousands of requests per day on behalf of these financial institutions, ”said Kashyap. “We’re very focused on financial services, so we’re training our AI models to be very domain-driven. Not only do we focus on training models with the goal of automating routine banking requests and workflows, but we also use AI to glean information from conversations going through our system, for example. to discover operational causes or detect anomalies.

Going forward, Canapi Ventures partner Neil Underwood expects Posh, 40 employees, to have expanded access to credit unions, banks and potential talent through his other backers Curql Collective. , CMFG Ventures, JAM Fintop, Human Capital and Piedmont. Over the next few months, Posh plans to increase hiring to keep pace with what he describes as “rising” demand.

“Beyond answering questions, Posh has developed a skill to help banks carry out simple banking transactions. Especially for credit unions, which are very much focused on the member experience, this can be of significant added value, ”Underwood told VentureBeat via email. “Over time, we anticipate that the Posh platform will be used by credit unions and banks to manage all banking interactions.”

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