(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
I often run across clients who have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in complex CRM systems and are still not responding fast enough to customer questions, particularly when they’re posed online. Sometimes, just a simple application is all that’s needed.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s suffered with this problem. Which is why last month, a few significant investors such as New York-based VC firm FirstMark Capital as well as Leaders Fund, Burst Capital, Bessemer, Version One, and computer scientist Barney Pell plowed $14 million into a Canadian startup called Ada.
Ada has only been around for a couple of years, but the timing for their technology couldn’t be better. Their product is a simple, customizable chat application for a website that, they claim, can be programmed by just about anyone to provide automated responses to common questions using their proprietary artificial intelligence algorithm. “People spend an average of 6 months of their lives on hold,” their website says. “We’re here to change that.”
If your company is like mine, you commonly get the same questions about pricing, features and the benefits of your product online from your current or prospective customers. With Ada’s chat tool you can now create an automated process for answering those questions with standard responses (including the ability to send photos, videos, and GIFs) and then alert a customer service person internally when a unique question is asked.
The application, most importantly, contains a programming interface (API) so that you can capture contact information from the website visitor asking the question and then bring that information into your CRM system for continued follow-up and nurturing.
Ada says it already helps its customers – including well-known companies like Career Builder, Coinbase and Shopify – automate up to 70 percent of their interactions, and saves them “millions of dollars” a year.
“Ada has delivered transformational, measurable results to some of the world’s most innovative brands, helping them shift from a reactive, expensive support strategy to a proactive model that reduces customer effort,” FirstMark Capital managing director Matt Turck said in a company press release. “Ada has played an important role in driving automated customer experience, and we’re confident in the team and the platform to surpass their rapid projected growth.” Turck’s firm has had successful investments in tech firms like Airbnb, Pinterest, DraftKings, Shopify, and Upwork.
Ada’s not alone in creating AI-based chat solutions. You can expect to see the market for simplified automated chat applications explode over the next few years, led by companies like Ada, DigitalGenius, Conversica and LivePerson. According to a recent report in VentureBeat, the chatbot market is about $370 million currently and is estimated to grow to $2 billion by 2024. Every great CRM system will need a great chat applications and the best ones will automate as much as possible.