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With a $1.5M seed round, Eloquent Labs mixes AI and Mechanical Turk to fix customer service

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NewsHubKeenon Werling would be the first to agree that conversational AI is regularly overhyped. So instead of taking the traditional approach and gloating about a glitzy new deeper learning algorithm to pitch his new venture Eloquent Labs , Werling instead opted to differentiate by optimizing something far more low-tech, people. The startup’s special sauce is embracing a mix of AI, crowd workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and traditional customer service representatives to improve experiences while cutting costs.
Eloquent Labs today announced that it has raised $1.5 million in new seed funding from Khosla Ventures , XSeed Capital , Alchemist Accelerator and an assortment of angels.
The company’s basic plan is to sell a conversational assistant named Elle to small businesses on Shopify that integrates directly with online shops to help customers with common problems like product tracking, managing returns, executing cancelations and answering FAQs. But things start to get interesting when crowd sourced labor is mixed into that more traditional model.
Companies like Digital Genus have promised “human + AI” for customer support for quite some time. To make experiences more seamless for the average person just looking to return a sweater, most startups in the space train their models to know when to give up. This stops conversations from spiraling out of control into computational purgatory. When an end user asks something not in the repertoire of the AI, a human customer service agent is seamlessly brought into the loop to finish the conversation.
This interplay between man and machine has saved companies a lot of money.

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