Solving the customer support conundrum: why we invested in ultimate.ai
This post was written by Jambu Palaniappan, Managing Partner, OMERS Ventures
I have a vivid memory of the early days of Uber in 2012, of what I affectionately called at the time my “second job”.
I was leading a team opening Uber’s operations in Dallas, and after a 15 hour day of on-boarding driver partners, building our pricing model, navigating regulatory strategy and some guerrilla marketing, I’d settle into a four hour session to complete several hundred customer support tickets that had come in through the course of the day.
This ritual would often only start around midnight, where I would systematically and repeatedly answer the same basic questions like “How much does an Uber cost?” or “Does this customer deserve a refund based on their trip being delayed?”. Sure there were tools and shortcuts to help with the repetitive answers, but I kept thinking to myself that there must be a more effective way to automate the activity — both for the benefit of the customer and the company.
In those early days, I learned an important lesson: when you’re starting something new, customer experience is what matters — magic moments that define who your company is and what you stand for. It’s why I love startups; you have an opportunity in each one of those interactions to drive customer love, loyalty and take a step towards making a lasting impact.
Cool story. Why are you telling us this?
For the last eight years, I’ve been asking myself why our customer experience interactions haven’t evolved much in that time. Sure there have been new workflow tools built for enterprises, but we haven’t seen the benefit of that as customers. When I ran Uber Eats in EMEA, our support costs effectively scaled with our business. Any efficiency that we gained from scale was effectively gobbled up by the need to add more support modalities, more managers and increased technology overhead.
That thesis led us on a journey at OMERS Ventures over the last year. We looked high and low for who was building the rails of the next customer experience revolution. Who was not just focused on building chatbots or another layer of infrastructure for the old world of support, but shifting the paradigm towards a more integrated future where automation is at the forefront of better customer experience? And thanks to a kind introduction from Connor Murphy, I think we’ve found it.
I’m so pleased to announce OMERS Ventures is leading a series A investment today in ultimate.ai — a Berlin and Helsinki-based conversational AI platform that automates and improves customer support experiences by provisioning virtual agents to complete tasks.
ultimate.ai has built virtual agents for some large European companies like Telia, Finnair and Deezer, that integrate across a company’s technology stack: with CRMs like Salesforce and Zendesk, and order management systems. When implemented, the virtual agents can automate up to 80% of inbound support requests instantly with improved customer experience metrics. They have built a best-in-class deep learning stack, and their technology is language-agnostic without the need for a translation layer (oftentimes the failure point for other automation products).
Our thesis was that seamless integrations across support tools and back-end systems, working across any language the customer chooses, creates a platform that not just automates common support interactions but actually improves the experience customers have with the products they use. That has certainly shown in ultimate.ai’s growth and expansion. The automations also allow agents and customer experience teams to focus on more complex or critical issues. Most importantly, we were so impressed by the team.
The team, the team, the team.
The ultimate.ai team is an incredible mix of exceptional AI talent and are customer obsessed. We’re so excited to partner with Reetu, Sarah, Markus, Jaakko and their team. Their founding story goes back to a primary school in rural Finland, with a move to Helsinki and then onto Berlin. Perhaps most importantly, they know how to hustle — having learned a lot in their first startup journey in the food delivery space (haven’t we all!) and with a bold vision for the future of customer experience.
With this funding, ultimate.ai will take on expansion across Europe and North America, and continue to improve the product. We’re excited to be part of the journey, and bring the OMERS Ventures transatlantic team to help support their growth.
We’re confident Reetu, Sarah, Markus, Jaakko and the team at ultimate.ai will redefine customer support. Once they do, I hope I can finally lay my lingering support ticket nightmare experiences to rest.