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October 2, 2023 AI in CT’s AI-backed tech helps customer service reps quickly find answers

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED Sedarius Tekara Perrotta is the CEO of Stamford-based AI tech company
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Most companies have their data and other knowledge content managed by various software systems that silo people, processes and technology in different departments like customer service, sales, IT help desks or marketing.

A lack of information integration often leads to challenges accessing and understanding that data in a timely manner — especially as the amount of data keeps multiplying.

Forty-two percent of employees responding to a recent survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit said the ability to access information quickly and easily has the greatest impact on their productivity levels.

Businesses are also expected to compete on customer experience, since consumers today expect quick access to up-to-date information.

As a remedy to these challenges, Stamford-based has developed an answers-automation software that uses artificial intelligence and data analytics. The technology offers companies tools that provide a quick resolution to consumer queries, and gives employees real-time, actionable information.

“We set out to create a platform we ourselves could use,” said CEO Sedarius Tekara Perrotta, a veteran in the knowledge-management space who co-founded the company in 2017 with Colin Kennedy and Tobias Jaeckel.

Customer service support

Before starting, the founders worked as knowledge-management consultants, helping companies identify, organize and then disseminate information more broadly across their organizations. But they became frustrated, Perrotta said, by hurdles around information systems integration, automation and poor user experiences.

They saw AI as a tool to better manage customized traditional knowledge management systems so content can be more easily accessed, shared and evaluated.

“This is about companies being able to use their content productively,” said Perrotta, who’s from Fairfield and decided to headquarter the company nearby in Stamford, at 6 Landmark Square.

Shelf’s AI-driven technology — called MerlinAI — essentially plugs-in to a company’s information systems to access and then learn from existing data.

The technology streamlines an organization’s various information systems and makes them accessible and searchable in seconds, so that when an employee — from a manager to a customer service rep — needs help, they quickly get answers.

Shelf’s technology, for example, can help companies improve their customer support by eliminating the need for employees to search through various data sources. Instead, Shelf centralizes that content, which can be accessed through a keywords search.

Shelf also offers consumer-facing, self-service tools that allow customers to find the right answers through chat boxes, or instant-answer web forums.

Importantly, the technology meets the most stringent security standards, Perrotta said.

Growth streak said its technology can reduce the average time for a customer service rep to answer a question from more than four minutes to less than 20 seconds.

One client, meal-kit delivery services company HelloFresh, reported that its average agent handle time is down 20% in dealing with its 8 million-plus global customers, after Shelf was able to integrate about a dozen various knowledge data sources.

Shelf’s clients span an array of industries and also include John Deere, DSW, Equitable/AXA, OPEX Corp., Glovo and HireRight.

Shelf has also received industry recognition, including being awarded top honors for best-in-class knowledge technology by Gartner Digital Markets.

“We’re seeing an incredible amount of opportunity in the market right now,” Perrotta said.

Shelf has been on a growth streak, especially after raising $52.5 million in 2021 from a group of investors led by Tiger Global and Insight Partners. It’s raised over $60 million since its founding.

Connecticut Innovations, the state’s quasi-public venture capital arm, is an investor in the company.

“Shelf is building the next generation knowledge management infrastructure,” said Jon Rosenbaum, managing director at Insight Partners, a New York City-based venture capital firm.

Over the past year, Shelf’s staff has doubled to 150 employees, and so have revenues, although the privately held company declined to disclose exact figures.

Meanwhile, its number of users has doubled annually, including 30% growth last quarter, boosted by clients purchasing additional licenses for departmental and staff use, Perrotta said.

The goal is to eventually take the company public through an IPO, Perrotta said, though he didn’t provide a time frame.

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