The future of customer experience is unimaginable without artificial intelligence. With mind-boggling amounts of data, businesses must rely on AI to make sense of it. Humans alone cannot translate myriad and disparate pieces of information into actionable intent, but at the same time, machines can’t make complex decisions, nor can they calm a frustrated customer.
That’s where we come in. Nearly 20 years ago, we founded 7.ai because companies needed to engage their customers in a completely different way. Our mission is to make it simple for consumers to connect with these companies to get things done, and we have continuously worked to complete this mission through a unique blend of technology and human talent.
For the past several years, we have invested heavily in key areas including data science, world-class design, and putting industry-leading technologies into the hands of live agents. Using AI, agents have the tools to create a personalized, predictive, and effortless customer experience. Human agents use 7 AIVA, our AI-powered chatbot, to gain faster access to intents to provide more comprehensive customer support, and AIVA learns from agents to become smarter over time.
As agents tag interactions, AIVA uses machine learning to improve and automate more tasks. This makes live agents more productive and frees them up to manage the parts of the journey that are best handled by humans. Simply put, this unique blend of AI and HI (human intelligence) is redefining the way companies interact with consumers.
All this has resulted in tremendous success for our clients, and has helped further our mission. Having been in the customer experience business since 2000, we have built a wealth of knowledge on customer journeys by industry. While I am proud of all our client successes, I will highlight just a few.
7.ai solutions are architected in such a way that clients can “build once, deploy anywhere,” which means using the same business logic and natural language processing across both voice and digital channels. It also means that our solutions are ready to support the continual emergence of new channels like Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger and virtual personal assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
Our platform is designed to enable companies to quickly and inexpensively extend their investments into those channels. We are dedicated to the success of our clients, and as evidence of that, last year our client revenue retention was 101 percent. Here are just a few examples of customer successes over the last year:
Energy – We helped a leading energy company better understand its customer journeys so that calls to live agents could be reduced. Our VA responded to almost 400,000 questions in an 18-month period, and achieved a remarkable 30% increase in CSAT scores. Additionally, they saved almost $1.1 million during that time, attributed to call and email deflection. We found that the customer escalations to a live agent were due to broken journeys, wherein customers couldn’t self-serve through IVR. With this learning, we deployed our VAs on their website to deliver an easier way for their energy consumers to ask questions using everyday natural language and instantly receive the right answer.
Our virtual agent responded to almost 400,000 questions in an 18-month period,
and achieved a remarkable 30% increase in CSAT scores.
Financial Services – A large credit card company had two vital concerns: compliance and collections. To meet their needs, the company turned to 7 Active Share, our visual communication tool to make it easier for consumers pay their credit card bills and to ensure that the company stayed in compliance with industry regulations. As financial services are highly regulated, their agents have traditionally been required to read long disclosures that must be read verbatim. This is a painful experience for both agents and consumers, and represent risk for the company if the agent makes a mistake in reading it. Through Active Share, an agent can now show the consumer the disclosure on their smartphone or computer screen. That allows the consumer to read it and click to acknowledge that they’ve read it. The benefits to the company include 100 percent regulatory compliance, shorter interactions, higher consumer and agent satisfaction. In addition, the company projects $18 million in annual savings by enabling consumers to make payments from their mobile phones and reducing delinquencies.
Insurance – We recently won business from two large US-based insurance companies who have standardized on 7 AIVA. Using AIVA, the companies are scaling and automating self-service interactions and helping customers help themselves — faster and more efficiently than they ever could previously. 7 AIVA is boosting first contact resolution (FCR) and reducing costs.
Media and Entertainment – We partnered with a large satellite radio company to increase self-service for their customers. Using AIVA, the company deflected 15% of calls to human agents and increased self-service adoption by 50% in the first year. Many of their customer queries were from people trying to cancel their subscription because they bought a new car that came with a trial subscription, and didn’t want to be double-billed. Our VA could identify those issues and escalate to a live agent who could transfer the current subscription to the new car radio, pausing the customer’s existing subscription and automatically reactivating it when the trial subscription ended.
Retail – We recently won a large sportswear company that is using 7 AIVA and 7 Chat. The company’s leadership team felt that 7.ai offered expertise that our competitors couldn’t match, especially in relation to CX improvement within the retail industry. Our technology and team professionalism struck a chord with the company, and now we’re off and running. We are implementing our technology across three of their brand web properties.
Telecom – 7 AIVA, helped a large telecom company save $6M in the first year it was deployed, by driving more customer self-service and higher first-contact resolution. Many of their customers used to pick up the phone and call—even for basic requests that could be done online, like paying bills or checking account status. The company wanted to automate its top 10 customer journeys, with 10% of their subscribers using self-service by the end of the first year. As the company nears the end of this first year using AIVA, we’ve seen a 26% increase in online chat volume and 95% of the customers’ issues are resolved in the first chat session. The client has seen AIVA provide assistance on 30% of customer chat intents, and with approximately 4 million interactions, achieving close to 40% containment (resolution in the first chat). As inquiries become more complex, AIVA transfers account management, cancelation, and internet troubleshooting queries to live agents, irrespective of the channel the customers are on - the web or mobile.
Last year we introduced more rigor into our product development process and release cadence. We wanted greater predictability for our clients, and the market to ensure that everyone knew what new capabilities we were introducing. Here are some of those product highlights:
Winter 2018 Release (February) - Released the Only Virtual Agent with Integrated Conversational and Informational Capabilities. This release enhanced 7 AIVA to support both informational and conversational journeys in a single solution. This enabled enterprises to handle everything from simple queries to complex interactions. We also announced that we had more than 150 patents and patent applications, and that 7.ai Virtual Agents handled more than 200 million inquiries in 2017, a 50 percent increase over the previous year.
Spring 2018 Release (May) - Brought Conversational Chatbots to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. 7 AIVA extended its conversational and transactional capabilities to support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The Spring 2018 Release also included enhancements to 7 Personalization, updates to the self-service publishing tool within 7 AIVA, and improvements to 7 Chat that included a more intuitive console for live agents.
Summer 2018 Release (August) - 7 AIVA Became the First Virtual Agent with Emotional Intelligence. We announced the addition of advanced conversational capabilities to 7 AIVA making it the first virtual agent to possess emotional intelligence. This furthers our vision of humans and chatbots working side-by-side. The bot can analyze customer’s language to detect level and kind of emotion, responding appropriately. If escalating to a live agent, the human agent can now be aware of how the customer feels and better prepare to help.
Fall 2018 Release (November) - 7.ai Blends Chatbots and Humans to Dramatically Improve Intent Recognition. 7 AIVA took another step forward in furthering the company’s blended AI vision by introducing human agent assistance for faster confirmation of consumer intent. This new intent clarification capability results in increasing self-service completion rates up to 70 percent. We also announced that 7 AIVA now handles more than 3 million monthly interactions for Fortune 1000 clients.
Things I’m Excited About
This year we strengthened our executive team with three key hires, all of whom report directly to me.
In May 2018, we announced the appointment of former Intel executive Brent Bowman as chief financial officer. In this role as the company’s financial leader, Brent focuses on driving financial strategies that support continued financial growth for 7.ai. He brings more than 30 years of financial management experience, having served as vice president of Finance and CFO for Intel’s Programmable Solutions Division. He joined Intel through the $16.7 billion acquisition of Altera Corporation, where he served as vice president corporate controller and vice president of Finance. Prior to Altera, he spent 16 years at Sun Microsystems where he held several senior finance roles. He started his career with Ernst & Young in its San Francisco office.
In June 2018, we appointed world-renowned advanced mathematical modeling expert Cosimo Spera as chief data scientist. In this role, Cosimo is responsible for leading the company’s data sciences and AI strategy. Spera holds a doctorate in mathematics and statistics from the University of Siena, Italy, a doctorate in operation research from M.I.T. and held a post-doctoral position in operation research at Yale University. Prior to joining 7.ai, Spera was chief data scientist at SaltGrid where he was responsible for building and leading the data science team, driving the product vision and roadmap, and designing and deploying predictive models for health, safety and the environment. He has held leadership roles at Innotas and Zephyr Health as well.
In August 2018, we named Paul Loftus as our chief revenue officer. In this role, Paul serves as the company’s revenue strategist, responsible for setting and executing the company’s revenue acquisition and retention strategy. He brings more than 20 years of experience in successfully leading sales transformations and building highly engaged, passionate teams. Prior to joining 7.ai, he served as the North American head of sales and revenue retention for Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting, a market-leading global information services company with headquarters in the Netherlands. At WK, he successfully launched and grew a cloud product from zero to more than $225 million in revenue in just a couple years. Prior to that, he spent 16 years at ADP, most recently as division vice president of ADP National Accounts.
And in January 2019, we appointed Rohan Ganeson as the company’s chief operating officer. In this role, Ganeson is responsible for overseeing core business functions including Cloud Infrastructure, Data Sciences, Platform Solutions Product Architecture, Product Management and Engineering, and related Marketing functions. Ganeson brings a wide range of skills across multiple functions, with a proven track record for driving transformation and growth in international businesses. He has experience working in Asia, Australia and North America, and prior to joining 7.ai he spent the last 10 years at Optus, one of Australia’s largest telecommunications companies and a key 7.ai client. At Optus, he served in a variety of leadership roles, most recently as Managing Director, Customer/Digital, where he was responsible for all of Optus’ $6.5 billion customer business.
Mitsui - Last fall we announced a partnership with Mitsui to bring intent-driven engagement to Japan. Mitsui is one of the largest conglomerates in Japan, with a business network around the world. The partnership is designed to help Japanese companies better understand, anticipate and act on consumer intent in order to improve customer experience. Through an exclusive agreement with 7.ai, Mitsui is reselling 7.ai technology through its significant business network in Japan and through its various CRM and IT affiliates. We now have two enterprise customers up and running in Japan, with more to come.
Blue Prism - In June we announced a partnership with Blue Prism to deliver new AI-enabled automation capabilities for virtual agents. The new joint offering enables 7 AIVA customers to use Blue Prism’s Digital Workforce to efficiently automate hard-to-access back and front office systems. By combining 7.ai AI-powered virtual agents/chatbots with Blue Prism’s Digital Workforce, 7.ai clients can automate processes faster, reduce response times and deliver a more satisfying customer experience.
KPMG - In August, we announced a strategic alliance with KPMG, a global leader in customer experience advisory and management consulting services, to help companies accelerate their digital transformation efforts. Through its alliance with 7.ai, KPMG extends its customer service (CX) transformation abilities with intent-driven engagement solutions that help enterprises improve service and reduce costs.
IBM – Most recently, we have entered into a global partnership with IBM as the preferred enterprise chatbot and virtual agent provider. The partnership, which covers a range of customer experience solutions, enables clients who are leveraging Watson to use that technology with 7 AIVA, and leverages the global reach of IBM Cloud for intent-based customer engagement.
Recognition by Key Industry Analysts
Over the past year we were covered by leading analyst firms. Here are just a few examples:
Forrester has consistently ranked 7.ai as a leader in chatbot technology and we remain a “Forrester Recommended Vendor.” We have been included in several reports including “Choose The Right Customer Service Solution For Your Business,” “Five Methods For Measuring Call Deflection From Experiences That Begin With Digital” and “The Future Of Digital Experiences.” In June, I had the honor of keynoting Forrester’s CXNYC alongside Lucky Rai of DISH. Our presentation titled “Using AI to Create Memorable Self-Service Experiences” was extremely well received.
WATCH THE FORRESTER KEYNOTE PRESENTATION NOW
Gartner has included 7.ai in several recent reports including the Hype Cycles for CRM Customer Service and Customer Engagement, Unified Workspaces, Artificial Intelligence, Enterprise Architecture and reports including “How Virtual Assistants, Immersive Experiences and Robots Will Impact Your Organization” and “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018.” In May, analyst Brian Manusama said “You’re one of the biggest companies in terms of delivering the conversational capabilities.”
Opus Research awarded 7 AIVA its highest ranking in the Intelligent Assistant sector. The 2018 edition of Opus Research’s Decision Makers’ Guide to Enterprise Intelligent Assistants report ranked 7 AIVA as a top solution for Fortune 1,000 companies and considered it to be the only virtual agent solution capable of delivering unified self-service, from simple FAQs to complex, conversational issues and online transactions. The report stated that “AIVA excels beyond call deflection by answering information questions and excelling at resolving complex issues.”
Ways We Have Strengthened
- Security – Security is a top concern for every company we do business with, it’s also a top priority for 7.ai. We protect your data as if it were our own with an emphasis on people, process, and technology. We have brought in top talent to strengthen our security practices, including a world-renowned expert as our chief information security officer. We have re-examined every component of our systems to ensuring that every base is covered, and that all 7.ai environments are secure. Additionally, every function within our company is trained to think about security, and best practices are followed on every level.
- Investments in Automation and Giving Clients More Control – Clients have expressed a desire for more control over their implementations including the ability to schedule maintenance, open a ticket or check its status, among other things. As such, we are trialing a Customer Self-Serve Portal with a number of clients, with plans to expand greatly in the coming year. This portal is born from our desire to better leverage our own technology for interactions with our clients. We’re making investments in internal tools automation, with the goal of opening those up to clients in the future to help support different kinds of needs. Some of our clients want 7.ai to handle 100 percent of the solution, while others want some ability to update and even extend our technology solution. We are working hard to enable the entire range of scenarios.
Things on the Horizon
- The Blended Bot Experience – We don’t believe in a world that’s 100% automated. We think of automation as a continuum where routine portions of an interaction can be automated in order to free up human agents and make them better at their jobs. For example, capturing a change of address can easily be automated and reduce agent time. Today we offer an agent-assisted chatbot, in which the bot can escalate to an agent, the agent clarifies the intent and transfers back to the bot. In the very near future, we will add the ability to have bot-assisted agents, meaning that agents will use chatbots as needed. This will soon be extended to world where agents supervise bots that operate largely independently. When that happens, it will lead to huge new opportunities in augmented human interactions for increased consumer and agent satisfaction, in addition to dramatically reducing cost.
These are exciting times for our industry, and our company. I can’t wait to see what the coming year brings for 7.ai, its clients and ultimately the consumers they serve.