That is what NoisyChannels wants to change. Combining several technologies, this imec start-up promises to streamline procedures so that customer care agents can answer clients’ written requests in an easier, faster and more efficient way.
Looking beyond the contact center lines
Geert De Bondt and Filip Deryckere both have over twenty years of experience in business services. The co-founders of NoisyChannels often felt that, contrary to the myriad of applications people use for personal tasks, modern technology is hardly applied to support knowledge workers in their activities at work.
“Nothing has changed in this field over the past twenty years”, says Geert.
Their sense of frustration, combined with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, first led to the creation of a consultancy agency, together with three other partners. But they both still wanted more.
“We wanted to create a product, something innovative that would change the way complex customer requests are handled”, admits Geert.
Despite the uncertainty involved, they both decided to leave the company and take one year off. Each founder explored different areas and fields of study – namely Data Science, and Big Data Analytics – that would help them develop a concrete and viable idea of what their product would look like.
Combining their vast practical knowledge and expertise – coming from over two decades in business services – with nowadays breakthroughs in the field of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, these two former business consultants and senior managers have identified complex algorithms that aim to improve customer services processes. Looking beyond the first lines of contact with clients – the so-called contact centers – their focus is to ensure that the more complex customers’ inquiries are handled in a faster, better, cheaper and more efficient way.
One product, four components
In order to achieve that goal, they focused on four main features:
- Assigning the right cases to the right expert. By combining the customer’s request – from the e-mail address to specific keywords in the subject line and body text – with the experience and expertise of the agents, this algorithm helps customers’ inquiries get to the right person faster.
- Recovering previous solutions to similar issues. A highly advanced search query helps customer service agents have an easier access to a digital library of former, similar cases to the ones they are assigned to, leveraging the expertise and experience of all colleagues. “It still requires the ‘human touch’ to solve these cases because these are too complex cases”, explains Geert.
- Information is power. Parallel to that, the former business consultants designed a solid search query that allows agents to quickly access their company’s knowledge databases for relevant information linked to the case context – such as legal documents – to help them find supporting material to tackle their cases.
- Nonstop flow of information. In order to ensure that those knowledge databases are always updated, they created a solution to help filter information coming from hundreds of sources, so that the people responsible for maintaining these databases can easily identify which content is relevant to the company.
The importance of twenty years of experience in the field
Solutions that help streamline processes in customer service are not new. However, most of these only focus on the first line of contact with clients.
“This solution came out of a very specific need; one we have felt ourselves during our years in the business. You cannot come up with a product like this when you’re 25, you haven’t felt these needs,” says Filip.
That is one of the reasons that explain the uniqueness of NoisyChannels.
“People our age, with our experience, they’ve felt the same needs as we did, but you need courage to take the leap. Creating a start-up is a big risk, it really has to fit your personality,” says Geert.
On the other hand, the solution behind NoisyChannels’ product lies in insights that come from a very specific background.
“It’s a combination of knowing your business and knowing what the available technologies can do for it,” adds Geert.
First (and future) clients and next steps
Companies and organizations are already seeing the potential in NoisyChannels’ solutions. AG Insurance, SD Worx and Acerta – three big names in Belgium’s business world – have already signed in as the company’s first clients.
The Flemish government agency Agentschap Innoveren & Ondernemen (VLAIO, formerly IWT) has also acknowledged the innovation behind the idea. The start-up was recently granted 220.000 euro from the institution, which has allowed them to hire their first employee.
Currently in the midst of a first funding round, their short-term goal is to acquire additional clients to cover all four components that are part of their solution. After having settled in Belgium, the founders plan to expand to the Netherlands within a few months.
Imec as a quality seal
Founded in April 2015, NoisyChannels joined the imec iStart Business Incubation Program in October that year.
“We are still early on in the program, but we have great expectations regarding the coaching and the workshops,” says Filip.
According to Geert, getting in the program was “a confirmation from a renowned organization” that their idea was good, both from a technology and a business standpoint. “It’s a quality seal”, he adds.
Company Name: NoisyChannels
Founders: Filip Deryckere / Geert De Bondt
Number of employees (2016): 3
imec support received: iStart Business Incubation Program