Zendesk acquires AI automation startup Cleverly to advance customer service

Zendesk is looking to grow its customer service capabilities, and today it announced the acquisition of early-stage artificial intelligence startup Cleverly.

Financial terms of the deal are not being publicly disclosed at this time and Cleverly has not been entirely public about the size of its funding. Founded in 2019, Cleverlyis based in Lisbon, Portugal and, according to its site, has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

The startup was also listed by TechCrunch in an article earlier this year looking at thestartup scene in Lisbon as being one of the most exciting deep tech companies in the region, according to Stephan Morais, partner at Indico Capital Partners.

Cleverly’s product platform provides a series of artificial intelligence-powered capabilities, including a triage function to automatically tag incoming service requests to help categorize workflow. The startup also has what it refers to as AI-powered human augmentation with itsagent assist capability that aims to help customer service agents provide the right answers to inquiries. The company’s technology already integrates with Zendesk, as well as with Salesforce.

As to why Zendesk is acquiring Cleverly, Shawna Wolverton, EVP of product at Zendesk, noted in an email to TechCrunch that the two companies have a similar vision for the future of customer service.

“Cleverly and Zendesk want to democratize AI, so companies can create practical applications that make it possible for businesses to get started with AI right out of the box — without a team of data scientists required,” she said.

Wolverton added that AI has the ability to help customer experience teams deliver great customer service. She expects that the next generation of great customer experiences will be created by intelligent software, enabling humans and AI working closely together to deliver this at scale.

Wolverton noted that her company will be welcoming all of Cleverly’s team to Zendesk beginning August 30, including founders Christina Fonseca as VP of Product and Pedro Coelho as principal engineering lead, Machine Learning.

Zendesk already has a series of AI-enabled capabilities that can help organizations automate customer conversations, boost agent productivity and increase operational efficiency, including the Answer Bot, which is a chatbot for customer interactions providing answers pulled from Zendesk’s knowledge base. Zendesk’s Content Cues AI-powered feature in turn helps to automatically review support tickets and also can identify areas where content in a company’s help center can be updated to be more useful to users.

“With Cleverly, we will deliver a range of capabilities that automate key insights, further reduce manual tasks and improve workflows, and overall lead to happier, more productive support teams,” Wolverton said. “We will have more news to share on that front once the team is up and running.

Zendesk’s business has been growing in 2021 overall,reportingsecond-quarter fiscal 2021 revenue of $318.2 million for a 29% year-over-year gain.

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