Artificial intelligence (AI) company Omilia has announced that it has raised $20m for its automated voice-based customer care virtual assistant, as investors see the potential of conversational AI as an alternative to call centres amid the coronavirus.

The funding has been supplied by Grafton Capital, and will enable Omilia to be further developed and rolled out to new customers and markets.

Available on a host of platforms, including phone, web chat, social networks, email and SMS, the technology can provide support to customers via both voice and text, Omilia is currently deployed in 15 different countries and 21 languages.

Having been trained using machine learning on billions of different customer interactions, it is able to guide customers through a call, passing them off to a human call centre employee if they have a particularly complex query. Omilia is also equipped with voice biometrics technology, enabling companies to build passive identity verification systems into the call.

For companies, technologies such as Omilia enable call wait times and lengthy security protocols to be eliminated, while enabling human workers to focus on unusual or complex situations.

Omilia conversational AI sees strong growth

While it is not the only company offering such a service, Omilia claims to be superior to its rivals due to a combination of proprietary technologies across speech recognition, voice biometrics and dialogue technology.

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“Current automated customer service technologies promise so much but deliver so little,” said Omilia CEO and co-founder Dimitris Vassos.

“Refreshingly, at Omilia we are not just riding the AI wave; we are delivering the advanced levels of customer care we’ve been sold for decades, at scale and with excellent customer experience.”

The company, which was founded in 2002, has seen revenues grow by 100% in 2019, with the majority of its growth coming from the North American market.

Omilia claims to have cut call handling times and return calls by 50% and internal transfers by 96%. This, the company says, cuts overall costs for customers by 20%.

“We abandoned the legacy approaches and outdated open standards  which were holding back the customer experience, and with the customer care journey at its heart, we’ve built a platform capable of human-like natural language interaction, that delivers business benefits in the real world, at scale,” says Vassos.

“Comparing Omilia with current competitors, is like comparing a luxury car to an engine on four wheels. Both will get you from A to B, but you would not trust the latter for a family trip with the kids.”

Conversational AI in call centres: The potential amid the coronavirus

The potential of Omilia conversational AI has become particularly clear with the outbreak of the coronavirus.

This has not only forced call centres around the world to switch to home working, but has also seen many companies experience a surge in customer enquiries as services across industry verticals are disrupted by the pandemic.

As a result, the benefits of passing many customer interactions to an automated conversational AI platform such as Omilia have become particularly clear.

“We’ve spent the past months listening to industry-leading companies around the world telling us how Omilia’s platform has transformed the performance and  efficiency of their contact centre operations, whilst delighting customers,” said Oliver Thomas, Managing Partner at Grafton Capital.

“Dimitris and his team have patiently and profitably built a world-class technology platform, away from the pressures of venture financing. It is a privilege to be their first outside investor at a time when more and more enterprises are learning that Omilia’s is the only AI platform that can truly deliver a conversational customer experience at scale.”

Read more: How the coronavirus outbreak could change contact centres forever