Fresh millions to set Danish chatbot on the path towards a growth adventure
With the first major investment from investors including the founder of Whiteaway, the entrepreneurs can now boost their great ambitions for a chatbot for automated customer service.
Original article: Friske millioner skal sende dansk chatbot i væksteventyr in Finans on 14.11.2017.
There is a 13-minute wait on the phone for customer support, which closes at 5 pm. And sending an e-mail is a bit of a hassle and does not prompt an immediate response. Therefore, many companies have chosen to use chats and chatbots, where a computer answers the customers 24-7 and this is the market which Danish entrepreneurs are aiming to take a good chunk out of. With DKK 2.5 million injected from the company’s first venture round, the chatbot firm BotXO is now ready to grow in earnest.
“We could see that the interest was so great, we would be able to grow faster. So, now we can put a lot of effort into developing our platform and our own customer service. Chatbots are new to a lot of people, so our customers need some assistance. Otherwise, we risk a situation like in 2008, when everybody wanted an app, but no one was sure how and why their customers should use it,” says Henrik Fabrin, CEO and co-founder of BotXO.
He has started several other companies and had some money in his pocket when he went into the chatbot technology with BotXO. BotXO has spent one year focussing on development and deployment, so Henrik Fabrin has been able to pay the current total of six permanent employees with his own money. But now, it makes sense to get an investor on board, despite sales taking off.
“We have not been pitching this ourselves. And we turned down quite a few potential investors. But we ended up saying yes to Esben and Thomas, because they are very talented and nice people with a solid network,” Henrik Fabrin explains.
The names Esben and Thomas refer, respectively, to Esben Gadsbøll who created the Whiteaway group and today is a full-time business angel, and Thomas Black-Petersen who sold his IT company Inspari in 2016.
The initial plan on the other side of the table was actually not to go into an investment of this kind.
“I have seen several chatbots, but I did not find the technology particularly exciting. It was not the time for me to invest in it – it wasn’t ready yet. But BotXO has a completely different, practical approach and could provide value now. And I could see that they had a lot of enthusiastic customers,” says Esben Gadsbøll. He invests with a sharp focus on e-commerce; an industry he is familiar with through his role as co-founder of Whiteaway.
And although bots can be used for much more than online shopping, he also sees a big place for chat media in future online shopping experiences. “Being able to manage 75 percent of customer inquiries with a chatbot, and only require people for those last 25 percent is super interesting. Once you have enough orders, it becomes expensive to have customer service employees,” says Esben Gadsbøll.
Chatbots are not a new phenomenon.
Back in 2005, Ikea launched the chatbot Anna, who could answer questions about opening hours and other basic things, but after ten years of service, she was sent into retirement. People were not overly satisfied with the service, Ikea had to realise. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36225980
Today, the idea of automated answers has seen a great renaissance, not least because of Amazon’s Alexa service and the rapid development of artificial intelligence. Zendesk, one of the great entrepreneurial successes with Danish origins, launched a customer service-bot based on artificial intelligence last year.
But the way to build such a bot is to train the machine with a whole lot of data from the real world. And that world can be very different from company to company – for example, a trade union has very little in common with a web shop selling underwear.
“Artificial intelligence and machine learning is all very nice, but you need a lot of data before it gets really interesting. ‘In about two or three years, we’ll have enough data’. I hear a lot of people say that, but then where do they get the data from?” Esben Gadsbøll asks.
To Henrik Fabrin and his colleagues in BotXO, it is thus about getting started at the customer end quickly. “We usually start by inputting the 50 or 100 most common questions. But it’s a journey, with most companies. You can’t get answers to all types of questions, but you actually don’t need that, the director says.
On one web shop, the computer may handle a customer who wants to return an item and send the package labels. And if it gets more advanced than the coding can manage, a human takes over. Outside opening hours, you can order a phone call or a chat with a human the next day.
Besides customer service, an automated chat can also be used to purchase items. I.e. through Facebook’s Messenger, which today has become a sort of de facto standard, especially in Denmark. “In Denmark, it is the app where people spend the most time talking. So, as a brand being able to sell through Messenger is interesting, because that’s where the consumers are,” says Henrik Fabrin.
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