Google acquires AI-powered customer service startup Onward

October 04, 2018 16:33
Google hopes to bolster its capabilities in artificial intelligence through the acquisition of customer service automation startup Onward. Photo: Onward

Google has acquired customer service automation startup Onward in a move to bolster its capabilities in artificial intelligence.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Onward co-founders Rémi Cossart and Pramod Thammaiah, as well as chief technology officer Aaron Podolny, will be joining Google.

With a mission to “allow computers to participate in natural, human conversations”, the three-year-old Onward built Agent Q, a text message-based shopping virtual assistant which provides product recommendations directly to customers.

Lately, the company has been focusing on creating AI-powered customer service automation tools for businesses. Its solution can be directly integrated into systems, enabling functions like tracking conversations in Zendesk, adding leads to Salesforce and HubSpot, and allowing Shopify customers to track their orders without human interaction, according to information on its website.

In an interview with TechCrunch this March, the startup said it wants to help clients achieve a set of goals called “Automation40” – 40 percent of tickets automated, 40 percent of messages automated, 40 seconds' average response time.

Its enterprise chatbot platform leverages on natural language processing to extract meaning from customers’ messages. “Throughout this journey, we’ve remained focused on unlocking the magical experiences that are possible when computers understand the subtleties hidden in a user’s actions and messages,” Onward said in a blog post announcing the Google deal.

Google has been working heavily on artificial intelligence and machine learning technology. In May, it unveiled Google Duplex, a new technology for conducting natural conversations to carry out “real-world” tasks over the phone.

It also launched Contact Center AI, which provides call center help via a digital customer representative powered by machine learning. The product can field incoming calls and uses sophisticated natural language processing to suggest solutions to common client problems.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 4

Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong Economic Journal