“I want to change my addr-”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that. Please try again, or press zero to speak to an agent.”
You’re probably all too familiar with this painful experience. You call your bank, utility provider, or an airline with a simple request – only to be met with the dreaded robotic voice and menu. It fails to understand you. You try, try again ... and eventually give up, cursing under your breath. At last, you’re routed to a human agent, only to find you’ve been redirected to the wrong department, and you’ll need to wait another 15 minutes or start again.
Customer service is broken – for the end customer, for the call agent (often a minimum wage employee, with a typical tenure of less than 12 months), and for the brand. Do things really need to be this way? We believe not – a belief that also underpinned our investment in Mavenoid back in 2020.
With our recent investment in Parloa, we’re backing a team that is revolutionising voice customer service. Malte and Stefan have built the next-generation platform for conversational AI, and we think they have the potential to make outstanding customer experiences accessible to everyone.
Why now? With the advent of LLMs and generative AI, we can not only augment human capabilities, but also achieve high levels of automation without compromising on performance – a thesis which applies to many software categories. The next generation of contact centres will have machine intelligence at their core, and will look very different from we’re accustomed to today. LLMs can be used to enable dramatically better-quality interactions at lower cost, either through complete call automation, or by assisting agents with the information they need to be as effective as possible.
The “digital transformation” of contact centres is not a new phenomenon - but we can now achieve end-to-end performance which has not been possible before. Some of these building blocks have been assembled over the last two decades: core telephony platforms have begun to move to the cloud; enterprises have started automating calls using touch-tone IVR and agent support tools. In the last decade, we’ve seen the first wave of ML solutions for voice biometrics, call analytics, and basic response generation – which have only seen partial adoption and mixed efficacy.
Now, things are different: Parloa is among the first end-to-end platforms that can give agents all the tools they need to excel, and even enable complete dialogue automation. Its offering spans from voice recognition and understanding, to speech synthesis, to agent support. Their platform is best-in-class by all available benchmarks, and the results are almost magical. Customers come away delighted as their requests are handled seamlessly.
For enterprise customers, this is proving to be a no-brainer. Customer experience continues to be a major competitive battleground for any multichannel business. In a tough macroeconomic environment, cost control is an ever-increasing priority for CIOs. This opportunity is self-evidently huge: there are about 15 million contact centre agents worldwide, and enterprises spend $300B on telephony [Gartner / Goldman Sachs]. In this context, Parloa’s remarkable growth comes as little surprise.
It’s rare that we meet a team with this mix of domain experience, and sheer ability to execute. Malte and Stefan have long been immersed in their industry, having founded one of the first dedicated conversational AI agencies in Germany. We’ve been amazed not just by their product, but also by their commercial instincts: few SaaS companies show this level of maturity at this stage across the organisation. We are excited to participate in the Series A financing alongside EQT Ventures, Senovo, Newion.
Yet this is still only the beginning. We believe that Parloa is on a path to transforming customer experience at global scale, and we’re thrilled to partner with them as they realise this vision.