Directly: Transforming Customer Service Powered by AI and Automation

Antony Brydon

The automation of our daily existence isn’t a surprising era: from shopping for food to the management of our social life, we easily automate a large number of tasks. Consumer experience automation is no exception. While for many, consumer experience automation is new, there are many enterprises which are leveraging the power of consumer experience (CX) automation. Directly’s CX Automation platform allows a brand’s expert users to identify gaps in self-service content and solutions and: (1) create rich support content and answers that can be delivered automatically; (2) teach the AI by providing feedback on each answer as its delivered, with suggestions to improve matching and content, and; (3) resolve complex questions when the AI and broader self-service can’t.

Instant answers are delivered in the voice of the expert who authored the answer, with the expert available behind the answer, delivering a new level of experience and empathy unmatched by intelligent assistants and standalone AI. Behind the scenes, gig-economy mechanics such as routing, rewards, and incentives ensure quality by using answers from only highly-rated experts that demonstrate product and/or service expertise.

They bring this all together in a system that integrates with all leading CRM applications (Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce Service Cloud, Oracle Service Cloud, and Zendesk) and open APIs that allow integration with existing help centers, enterprise knowledge bases, messaging and business intelligence systems. For companies with existing AI and automation solutions, the platform can deliver the content and training to make existing solutions actually work, and work better.


The Mission to Deliver Better Customer Service

Work is moving from fixed to fluid, distributed networks, and is increasingly automated. Directly’s AHA! moment was realizing that it could bring work and automation together, rewarding people for automating their work with a royalty that incentivizes them to build better automations. At the highest level, Directly’s CXA platform is designed to help companies deliver better customer service.


A Proactive Leader

Antony Brydon, Directly’s CEO, has seen the customer service industry evolve over several decades. He started his career working on call center strategy in the 1990s and noticed a two-fold problem: call centers had a talent problem because turnover was high, and had a business model problem because companies deflected, rather than engaged customers. Antony envisioned a new model of customer service, and eventually a new model of work, that could solve for these problems and be scalable for large enterprises. Over the next decade, Antony’s vision of the customer service industry, and his idea for Directly continued to mature, but the technology didn’t exist yet. In 2010, the gig economy and AI became increasingly prevalent – technology had caught up to Antony’s vision and Directly was founded. Directly has partnered with large enterprises and notable names like Microsoft, Airbnb, Samsung, Autodesk, SAP, and more to transform their customer service operations. These companies consistently see increased customer satisfaction at a more affordable price point than a traditional contact center. Antony continues to work to ensure AI is a tool that works with people, in today’s workforce and the economy of the future.


Infusing Expert Knowledge

It’s increasingly clear that the majority of customer service inquiries can be handled automatically by giving customers the tools and assistance to instantly and effortlessly resolve their problems, or by predictively identifying and fixing these issues before the customer becomes aware of them. That said, most companies today are stumbling out of the gates with early AI and automation attempts – for example, Gartner estimates that through 2022, 85 percent of AI projects will deliver erroneous outcomes due to bias in data, algorithms or the teams responsible for managing them. Directly has surveyed these companies and found four root causes of AI project mortality: the lack of clean data, the lack of quality content, the lack of good signal, and the high maintenance requirements of training and retraining models to keep up with changing conditions. Directly has solved for these problems by infusing expert knowledge directly into AI systems, allowing their customers to:

•  Reduce ticket volume by up to 40%;

•  Lower costs by 60-80% per customer contact;

•  Decrease response times by up to 25x;

•  Improve CSAT scores by up to 20%, and;

•  Absorb 15x surges in traffic.


Leveraging AI to Drive Economic Value

Antony believes AI and the gig economy will continue to transform how people and companies work in the next economy – humans will work alongside AI, powering smart, empathetic, accurate content. Directly is leading this shift by changing the way companies deliver customer service by leveraging domain experts to create support content, continuously update the content and resolve complex issues when AI can’t – a model that can be applied to any industry.


AI – A Tool for People

Though many fear that AI could displace human workers, Directly’s model shows that for knowledge workers, AI can be a tool for people, not instead of people. If used in the right way, AI can be a boon for businesses and employees alike.


Overcoming Business Challenges

According to a report published by Radiant Insights, the customer service market size was valued over US$51 billion in 2014 and is expected to be worth US$68.5 billion by 2020. With seemingly endless options for customer service chatbots, BPOs, and only communities, Directly had to establish itself as a unique-in-the-market solution – AI powered by subject matter experts – in this crowded space.


Awards and Recognitions

The company has received numerous awards and motivating customer feedback for driving excellence in the market. Some of the notables one includes:


•  2018 Frost and Sullivan Technology Innovation Award

•  2018 AI Tech Trailblazers Award

Customer, Investor and Analyst Feedback

•  Karyn Gladstone, Nextdoor: “Our experts are answering questions within 5 minutes, which is astonishing to me.”

•  Alysa Taylor, Corporate Vice President of Business Applications and Global Industry at Microsoft Corp.: “Directly has helped Microsoft provide an excellent support experience to our users through a combination of AI and a community of experts, and with this new partnership, we are now enabling this same capability for our Dynamics 365 customers.”

•  Adam Coccari, Sr. Manager at M12 (formerly Microsoft Ventures: “Directly has consistently been on the cutting edge of AI and customer service, and we’re thrilled with this new launch. Directly is providing Microsoft customers with seamless support based on knowledge from our community of experts, and is a great example of deploying AI in concert with humans to solve critical business problems.”

•  Mila D’Antonio, principal analyst at Ovum: “Directly helps customers harness gig work models and AI to transform and scale customer service. Directly is proving that AI will become a viable option to facilitate the personalized, efficient, and frictionless experiences customers crave, and their technology enhances human interactions—it does not replace them.”


The Future Roadmap

Modern customers expect agents to know their products inside and out, and provide a highly customized, personal answer and nearly instant answer when they need support. Directly is fast becoming one of the biggest names in this market because the unique combination of AI and product experts they provide allows businesses to look beyond the customer contact center and provide better answers, individualized for customers automatically.

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