Gupshup’s conversational messaging platforms speak the language of business
If you’ve tried to change a flight in the last few months — or better yet reschedule a flight when the airline cancels on you — you know the feeling of ennui that comes from spending an eternity on hold, or waiting for a callback from customer service. One of the big problems is there are too many queries and complaints to field and not enough people to answer them.
Gupshup co-founder and CEO Beerud Sheth thinks he can fix it.
“It is the perfect solution for that problem,” Sheth told BOSS, referring to his company’s specialty of conversational messaging. “It enables businesses to write software programs — chatbots — and in these chatbots you can embed some AI and language capabilities which allow the software programs to have a conversation with humans so they can understand a query phrased in natural human language and respond to it accurately. Plus, there are integrations built into the booking system so that the chatbot can get the right information and respond to the user query.”
Even if your question is too complex for the chatbot, by answering a lot of other, simpler, frequently asked questions, conversational messaging can free up a person to tackle the bigger problems. Making that customer service interaction less of a pain is a jumping-off point, but for conversational messaging “the possibilities are endless,” Sheth says.
Start to Finish
“Conversational experiences are great around every customer touchpoint,” Sheth said.
On the front end there’s marketing. Customers can ask a chatbot for the details of special offers, whether a product comes in a certain color, if there’s a bulk discount and so on. They’re using conversational messaging to customize for their personal preferences. Then they can carry out the entire transaction: selecting items, adding them to a cart, and paying. Finally, conversational messaging can handle customer support: returns, exchanges, and the like.
“It literally cuts across the entire customer life cycle,” he said. “So many businesses start with one or two use cases, but then they expand to many others.
In addition to working with e-commerce businesses, Gupshup has been working with a lot of clients that were traditionally offline, restaurants and retailers — even educational services — that since the pandemic have started offering digital experiences. That translates into banking and finance as well. Especially with the rise of fintechs, fewer people are making transactions at a branch, they’re doing them online.
“The net result of all this is that there’s more digital transactions happening,” he said. “That’s directly correlated to conversational messaging — there are more notifications, more alerts, more digital transactions, and we are the critical enabling platform for all of these requirements.”
Catching Up to the Tech
Conversational messaging tools are available 24/7, can handle peak loads, and respond instantly.
“The only limit perhaps is, ‘How good is the AI?’” Sheth said.
Even if they just handle a few FAQs, it frees up a lot of time for human agents because they are frequently asked. Thus, chatbots can improve customer service, which improves sales conversion rates and return on investment. But conversational messaging is getting so good it can do a lot more than that.
“The state of the art in natural language processing, in particular, is just getting better and better. I think it’s already at a stage where it’s further ahead than the ability of most businesses to adopt it and use it,” he said.
What he means is that to do its best work, AI needs to be customized to fit the business objectives of the company using it. Whether it’s an airline or an e-commerce shop, the business needs to tell the AI what kind of questions it will be fielding most of the time. Humans will expect it to be able to maintain a dialogue and switch to a new topic without having to re-explain what was discussed earlier in the conversation.
“That’s what businesses need to do,” he said. “I’m excited about the potential and the opportunity now.”
The New Digital Storefront
Gupshup grew 80% year-over-year in 2020 and is on track to post similar numbers for 2021. Its latest funding round raised nine figures from the likes of Tiger Global, Fidelity Management, and others, putting Gupshup’s valuation above $1.5 billion with a client list that reads like the Fortune 500: Amazon, Citibank, Verizon, McDonald’s, etc.
Sheth said the company will use the latest funding round to just keep improving its offerings. “First and foremost, our growth has always been product and innovation-led,” he said. “We will invest a lot in developing new products and services, especially customizing solutions for specific industries and specific geographies around the world.”
The second focus is sales and marketing activities, and the third is acquisitions, scaling up with companies in adjacent spaces.
Sheth likens the current state of conversational messaging to that of the world wide web in the mid-1990s.
“When the web technology came about, it ended up becoming the digital storefront,” he said. “This was where customers were looking to reach businesses, to communicate with them. Eventually every business had to build a website, and today you have billions and billions of web pages. Every business has to do it.”
“In almost the same way, we think of conversational experience as the new digital storefront. This is where customers are looking to reach businesses, from their messaging app for example, because consumers want to be able to chat with businesses just as easily as they chat with a friend. Therefore, if this is the new digital storefront, we think every business is going to have to do this for all their use cases. They will need a lot of tools and technology, and our platform supports all of those varied ways in which they need to build conversation experiences.”
Is your company on board?