Balto raises $10 million to analyze call center conversations with AI

Balto, a startup developing a conversational AI platform for call centers, today closed a $10 million funding round. A spokesperson for the company said the capital will enable Balto to triple the size of its go-to-market team while bolstering product development.

As customer representatives are increasingly ordered to work from home in Manila, the U.S., and elsewhere, some companies are turning to AI to bridge the resulting gaps in service. The solutions aren’t perfect — there’s always going to be a need for human teams, even where chatbots are deployed — but COVID-19 has accelerated the need for AI-powered contact center messaging.

Balto’s AI listens to both sides of a conversation and visually prompts agents with the right thing to say. A smart checklist feature reminds agents of the flow such that when they say an item, Balto hears it and automatically checks it off the list. Balto also offers voice-trigged dynamic prompts including rebuttals, compliance statements, and product knowledge. Notifications give agents feedback on keywords, soft skills, and other habits. And sticky notes and leaderboards put reminders and benchmarks on each agent’s computer to show them how they’re doing compared to their peers.

On the backend, Balto offers management features including an agent performance dashboard, which swiftly converts all customer calls into data. This data funnels into a portal that shows individual agent and overall team performance as well as transcript snippets of calls. An accompanying win rate analysis tool analyzes the effectiveness of phrases across different agents, while a trend analysis feature shows agent, customer, and competitor trends in real time. There’s also Balto’s playbook designer, from where managers can send new winning phrases, important points, reminders, and more to agents’ machines.

Balto says it encrypts all data in transit and at rest. The thin client, which starts when agents begin a call and sits to the side of agents’ screens, is designed to work with any system that relies on headsets plugged into a computer to place calls.

There’s no shortage of competition in the AI-driven call center analytics space. Gong, a startup providing an intelligence platform for enterprise sales teams, recently nabbed $200 million in funding at a $2.2 billion valuation. Observe.ai snagged $26 million in December for AI that monitors and coaches call center agents. Beyond those upstarts, there’s AI call center startups Cogito and CallMiner, as well as more established players like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.

But Balto says business has boomed during the pandemic, with customers including Empire Today, eHealth, and National General Insurance signing on. The company claims that on average, they’ve seen an improvement in handle time by 90 seconds and a 35% increase in conversion rates.

“COVID-19 has ripped the carpet out from under sales managers across the country,” CEO and cofounder Marc Bernstein told VentureBeat via email. “Balto provides the real-time call guidance they need to empower agents and sales executives to work remote. It’s like having a coach at your side during every call, to help agents say the right thing at the right time. And results come in spades. Customers are seeing 35% higher sales conversion rates, 75% faster ramp time for new agents. One customer said their close rate was up 132%. We’re ready to roll out to new enterprises and this funding will pave that path.”

Sierra Ventures led the series A round announced today, which had participation from Jump Capital, OCA Ventures, Cultivation Capital, and others. It brings the company’s total raised to date to over $14 million.

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