Onward

Customer service is a key concern for enterprises. A spate of startups have recognized this, and are leveraging technology to disrupt the space. Onward, a small firm that builds tools that help businesses automate sales and customer service, has recently been acquired by Google.

While we have no details regarding the terms of the deal, what we do know for sure, is that Co-founders Rémi Cossar, Pramod Thammaiah and CTO Aaron Podolny are all joining Google.

Onwards wasn’t always in its current form. The team originally created a virtual assistant called Agent Q, that helped people shop. Folks out to buy things could could simply text Q and receive product recommendations. However, they soon realized that pivoting this product so that it’s functionalities could be leveraged by enterprises, had the potential to significantly improve Agent Q’s prospects. And that is how Onward came into being.

The bot pulls answers from a database for the simpler queries. For more complex questions, Onward allows enterprises to build chat decision trees that can help them address their customers request, and quickly bring in a human for intervention if it appears that the bot is unable to provide all the answers.

Of course, Onward and other bots are not perfect at present. However, with time, enterprises could well use a tool like this to automate a significant portion of customer queries. Already, global giants like Salesforce are building tools for this very purpose. In fact, the Onward service can also be integrated with major platforms like Salesforce, Zendesk, Shopify and HubSpot.

With Google’s backing, the Onward team will receive access to virtually unlimited R&D and technical capabilities. What is not clear at the moment, is whether Google wants to use Onward’s capabilities for automating it’s own customer service, or if it plans develop and offer the service to enterprises as a standalone product, or, if the company will walk both of the paths.

A Onward blog post on the topic, said:

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. With Google, we’ll be able to expand the reach of the technologies that power Onward.

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