Kids say the darnedest things. And apparently, so do people calling into contact and call centers.
And the things they say have real value to the company taking the call in terms of marketing and sales. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a very good way to take what people say, analyze it and act on it.
Companies have long recorded customer calls, but what to do with those recordings has been an unanswered question.
Amy Brown, founder and CEO of Carmel-based software startup AuthentiCx, has what she hopes will be a popular answer.
The company she founded in August 2018 has developed a system to analyze what’s said in customer calls and harness the information in a way companies can act on it.
“Customers drop a lot of clues about what they like, what they don’t like, the competition and other useful information,” Brown told IBJ. “And they’re dropping those clues without being asked. So it’s natural and organic.”
AuthentiCx recently announced it has raised its first round of capital—$800,000—to fuel its growth. The pre-seed round was led by Chicago-based M25 with participation from Elevate Ventures and Innovatemap Ventures, both of Indianapolis.
“We were impressed with Amy, the quality of the team and the traction they have attained early on,” said Eric Steele, entrepreneur-in-residence at Elevate Ventures. “Their focus on data analytics throughout the customer lifecycle will have a major impact on financial and health outcomes for the companies they serve.”
AuthentiCx’s software records customer service conversations and puts them through a language processing engine that gives context to the calls. Words and phrases get categorized. For instance, likes and dislikes.
The data is then fed to human analysts for further evaluation. The human, Brown said, adds context to the key words.
That mix of human and machine analysis, Brown said, is one of the things that makes AuthentiCx unique.
“The platform allows the human analyst to efficiently do their work,” Brown said.
AuthentiCx can provide its customers with that human analyst, but more often will train someone from the customer’s staff to analyze the speech data.
Because AuthentiCx’s platform is driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning, Brown said, it gets better at analyzing phone calls over time.
“This isn’t a set it and forget it model,” Brown told IBJ. “It’s all about ongoing learning and refinement of the model.”
Brown, 44, knows well the problems call center managers and the companies that run them face.
Before becoming the sole founder of AuthentiCx, she spent 20 years working in the health care and insurance industries, many of those as a manager of customer service or on government relations teams. She also served as executive director of the Indiana Medicaid Program and was health policy director during Gov. Joe Kernan’s administration.
“I saw the problem first-hand of companies amassing hundreds of millions of customer interactions,” Brown said. “They usually sit and are never accessed. I saw there was an opportunity to drive growth.”
Brown said gathering customer information through AuthentiCx’s system is far more valuable than the process of trying to get customers to answer automated post-call questions or e-mailed questionnaires. Feedback surveys can be reduced and replaced with real-time audio and visual outputs in the AuthentiCx dashboard, Brown explained.
“Those [surveys] are annoying, can be time consuming for the caller and they don’t yield the fullness of information that can be captured through a basic phone call,” Brown said. “They’re a skewed data source. You’re only getting the very angry or very happy customers.”
AuthentiCx, which has 11 full-time and 10 part-time employees, now has seven sizable customers, Brown said. She declined to disclose any of her clients
“We have leading enterprise clients in pharma, health insurance and health systems,” Brown said.
Brown led the development of the product and scored the company’s first customer in January 2019.
She initially hired a contractor to handle the technical aspects of building the platform, then hired a full-time technical director.
“I have a business background. I know what the problem is and what the solution needs to be,” she explained.
She took no salary for the first year after founding the company, and she and a colleague invested a collective $40,000 to launch the firm. She still remembers vividly winning AuthentiCx’s first customer. She said her contacts in the health care industry were a big help.
“When I got the first ‘yes,’ I came downstairs and was giving my four children high-fives,” Brown said. “It was a great feeling.”
Initially Brown was in no hurry to raise capital.
“I’m a Midwest scrappy operations leader,” Brown said. “I set out to prove myself before I hired anyone or raised any capital.”
In the summer of 2019, Brown said, “I could see we had something big. Big companies were seeing the value of what we offered. So I decided to raise money and grow more quickly because we were clearly meeting a need.”
Brown expects AuthentiCx to have more than $1 million in recurring annual revenue by the end of this year and to be cash flow positive in the fourth quarter of 2021.
She plans to add three more employees this year and five in 2021. And Brown hopes to raise another—bigger—round of capital in mid 2021.
“It’s rare that we see a company so strong in every category. Amy is a known leader and highly connected in this space, which has shown in both her understanding of the pain points and her ability to close large deals quickly,” said Victor Gutwein, founder and managing partner of M25. “And the market opportunity for this is large and growing rapidly. AuthentiCx is not just the whole enchilada. It’s the rice, beans and free chips and salsa too.”