Directly’s Crowd-Powered AI Provides Customer Service in the Gig Economy



I’m excited to announce that
Directly has received $20 million in funding from Microsoft Ventures, Northgate, True Ventures, and Costanoa Ventures. It’s the largest round we’ve raised to date, and it comes at a time when companies en masse are recognizing the power of new work models and seizing the opportunity to transform their customer service.

So why raise money now? First, there’s a growing awareness among companies that gig work models, which are familiar to us in our personal lives (Uber, Instacart, Thumbtack), can allow companies to tap into vast networks of talent beyond their company walls. Second, after decades investing $20 billion annually on an alphabet soup of call center technology, companies have a growing understanding that no amount of technology alone can fix customer service.

And that’s where Directly comes in. We help companies build trusted networks of experts (i.e. affiliates, champions, and power users with deep product expertise) who earn rewards for answering customer questions, creating help content, and training the AI.

When customers contact your support team, instead of being met by a limited chatbot or hold music, customers are provided an auto-answer written by a top expert (and validated by other experts). When needed, customers are connected with the best possible expert to get live assistance.

This expert-in-the-loop technology is our secret ingredient. Our machine learning (ML) identifies and routes questions to the highest performing experts for each topic, which results in better individual answers. Meanwhile, these high performing experts also create auto-answers for the AI to match with incoming questions. Experts then train the AI by voting on the accuracy of each automatically delivered answer and offering improvements in real-time.

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It’s a simple twist on pure machine learning: the AI makes the experts more effective, the experts make the AI more effective, and the result is a better customer experience. It’s also the reason we were excited to partner with Microsoft, who are investing heavily in artificial intelligence and saw the potential to partner with Directly to integrate gig workers into AI and ML.

“Directly changes how companies think about artificial intelligence and how they deliver customer service,” said Leo de Luna, managing director at Microsoft Ventures.

Early adopters of our enterprise service—companies like Pinterest, Nextdoor, and LinkedIn—inherently understood the power of networks because of their business models. Three years later, we’re now working with some of the largest companies in the world, like Microsoft, Samsung, SAP, and Autodesk.

“The quality of the answers are good, the response times are very, very fast and the feedback we get from our customers is very positive,” said Grant Rochelle, Senior Director of Technical Support for Autodesk, which uses the Directly platform to harness a trusted network of Autodesk power users that includes architects, designers, and aerospace engineers.   

At the crux of our model is better answers; better answers lead to better customer experience. Businesses we work with increase their customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) to an average of 93 percent, reduce response times to 2-3 minutes across digital channels, and reduce support costs by an average of 65 percent.  

“If you can go out and tell clients: ‘I’m going to give you an ROI in three months of so many dollars and improve your CX,’ I mean, this is a no brainer,” said Ken Landoline of Ovum.  

There is an intrinsically human element to how we do things because technology alone can’t solve these problems. Our customers’ successes are largely due to their networks of incredible experts—knowledgeable people and champions of their products—who enjoy choosing when they work, spending time helping other customers, and training the AI to deliver better answers.

“I have always been a Samsung fan, whether it was the Galaxy products, the Note 7, or now the Note 8. I just love their products,” said Raven, a Samsung Ambassador, who assists Samsung’s customers. “I have a five-year-old daughter, so I was looking for work from home. When I came across Directly, it allowed me to be a full-time parent to her. The community we have with the Directly staff and the Samsung staff and the experts is amazing, and what I love the most is to help Samsung customers.”

The success we’ve achieved so far would not have been possible without the awesome team at Directly and all our partners—our customers, the experts, and our investors. We’re excited to keep this momentum going in the months and years ahead. Find out more about how we can transform your customer experience or join our team today.