Info-tech

How voice BPO [24]7 became a digital platform

K Giriprakash Bengaluru | Updated on January 15, 2018 Published on April 12, 2017

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The transformation has seen it embrace artificial intelligence, machine learning

[24]7 Inc was one of the pioneers in the BPO space in the early 2000 and along with a clutch of similar enterprises changed the employment landscape in India offering competitive salaries to thousands of fresh unskilled graduates.

Today, [24]7 founded by PV Kannan and Shanmugam Nagarajan in April 2000, during the dotcom boom era, has transformed itself from a voice-only BPO to digital embracing artificial intelligence and machine learning. It now wants people to refer it a firm that offers technology and services that let its clients engage with their customers much more effectively using digital channels.

What is more significant to note is that for a company which hired thousands now gets most of its work done through automation. For example, in 2016, [24]7 logged in 1.5 billion conversations out of which 75 per cent were through automated conversation agents.

Kannan, who is also the CEO of the company, said that the entire BPO business underwent a major transformation from voice calls to chat boxes and by 2008, [24]7 stopped offering BPO services. The company started building automated conversation agents leveraging on past data.

“If you visit our data centres, you can see how we help large brands automate their conversations online as well as 800 toll numbers,” Kannan said.

He said as customers start chatting, artificial intelligence takes over at the other end and over time, it becomes smarter mimicking the human beings. Within 3-6 months, technology becomes smart enough to handle 75 per cent of all the conversations. However, in case there are issues which it cannot handle, it immediately gets a human being to take over the chat. The transformation of [24]7 business model from voice to digital took nearly eight years.

Kannan recalls his frequent visits to US call centres where the chat labs were being implemented but they were still being treated like voice calls. But soon after the Nasdaq crash, most of the dotcom companies disappeared.

So, Kannan had to eventually go to big companies and sell them the idea of moving from voice calls to chats for customers to get a better experience. But these big companies wanted [24]7 to help them with voice offshoring.

“We were able to eventually influence them to go digital and that is how the company transformed itself,” he said. Post 2008, [24]7 stopped selling BPO services and decided that it will help companies move from voice to digital. Today, most of the revenues come from digital and automation.

Published on April 12, 2017
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