Neople wins a Gerard & Anton Award, © Bram van Daal
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The use of bots and virtual assistants has grown at lightning speed, and their deployment is now more important than ever. It is no longer a question of whether to deploy conversational AI, chat, messaging, voice, or bots, but rather how best to do so. Not surprisingly, digital colleagues are becoming increasingly popular. High workloads and a tight labor market are forcing companies to work more efficiently. Research shows that nearly 50 percent of our work week is spent looking up information and then processing it into messages such as emails. Digital assistants can offer a helping hand. In the Netherlands, several companies are developing virtual colleagues, including the Eindhoven startup Neople.

Why this is important:

The past year has seen a rapid succession of different AI technologies. Many companies recognize their value but are often unsure how to use these technologies effectively. Neople aims to change this by using ChatGPT and improving it using company-specific documents and data.

AI training center

Just as humans must be trained to do their jobs, so must AI colleagues. Neople has just raised €6 million to launch an AI training center for digital colleagues. The investment round was led by Newion and Simon Captial. Existing investors Peak and Curiosity are backing the deal. Neople is also opening a second office in Berlin.

100 companies

Neople – last year’s winner of a Gerard & Anton award – was founded more than a year ago to eliminate the biggest challenges facing customer service teams. Specifically, the startup develops AI colleagues for customer service teams in e-commerce. Neople solves the high workload in those teams by making AI accessible through a self-paced digital colleague. Over 100 Dutch and German e-commerce companies have now hired Neople.

Collegial AI

According to Neaple CEO Hans de Penning, customer service teams are not yet using AI widely because it often leads to incomplete, incorrect or inappropriate responses. Neoples new training center should enable senior employees to train AI colleagues so they can eventually provide the best customer service completely autonomously. “We are on the eve of a shift to a new way of working with technology. Soon, AI colleagues with the right soft skills will perform all repetitive and time-consuming tasks exactly as instructed. We call this future collaboration ‘Collegial AI.’”

Customer service teams are often the bottleneck of an e-commerce business, according to De Penning. “Support staff handle countless questions, even those from irritated or rude customers. Collegial AI makes the work more fun and allows employees to focus on providing additional service. The investment allows us to launch our AI training center to train Neople to work autonomously.”

Meet Bob

There are already AI colleagues, like Bob, active in the field. For example, at an e-commerce party Toppy. Toppy processes some 250,000 orders a year, including many outdoor products such as Jacuzzis, swimming pools, and garden equipment. Neople Bob is trained on all product information, FAQs, the website, and more and is ready to provide answers to incoming questions from colleagues.