AI-driven chatbots are redefining customer engagement: Exotel’s Shivakumar Ganesan – An Interview with Economic Times

Media Mentions

Economic Times

Response for ET questions

Spokesperson: Shivakumar Ganesan, Co-founder and CEO of Exotel

1)  How is customer engagement changing with the use of AI, chat bots etc?

As many aspects of our everyday interactions turn virtual, customer expectations are at an all-time high. Customers expect businesses to value their time, ensure easy engagement, and deliver bespoke solutions for their needs. AI and chatbots are able to match some of these expectations by providing round-the-clock consumer support, thereby changing the face of customer engagement. Any company that takes customer service seriously cannot afford to ignore the use of AI anymore. This technology not only allows organizations to resolve basic queries quickly, freeing up human resources for more complex tasks, but also learns and adapts to customer preferences so that it can better anticipate customer needs and provide more personalized responses. With the right AI technology in place organisations can reduce operational costs, increase efficiency and improve customer experience. Many studies have shown that consumers prefer chatbots to human agents due to their 24/7 availability and quick resolution responses. In this uber-tech age, consumer satisfaction is directly related to the experience they have with the company and AI can be used to constantly improve it. 

2) How have the acquisitions of Ameyo and Cogno AI helped? Are you looking for more acquisitions? If so, in which areas?

These two acquisitions have been very strategic, as they have allowed us to offer an all-in-one cloud platform and adapt to new ways of communication for connected conversations. 

With these alliances and the UL VNO license, our company now provides the ultimate full-stack customer engagement solutions for enterprises, completely on cloud. These include monitoring customer sentiments, seamless onboarding of new customers, zero-contact resolutions for existing customers, and various digital sales and support use cases. We would certainly be on the lookout for more collaborations, specifically in new geographies in emerging Asia!

3) Quite often, customers engaging with chat bots want to connect with a human. Obviously there are limitations of bots. Are these getting any better? How will engagement with chat bots be, say by 2030?

Chatbots today have some limitations like gauging changes in human emotion, language sensitivity, responding to complex queries, and such. We do appreciate that as the tech stands now, companies who find the right synergy and balance between human and AI interactions, tend to perform better than companies which depend exclusively on just one solution. However, thanks to deep tech and machine learning, chatbots are becoming more intuitive and gearing towards simulating human-like conversations quickly to get consumers what they want when they want it.Thus we are confident that things will change rapidly in the years to come with AI-driven chatbots radically redefining the customer engagement landscape. Conversational AI trends going forward are  focusing on  mainstream development of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in chatbots. I believe EQ will soon become a more critical skill set for executing higher order tasks and innovative thinking. This will happen as machine learning models will begin to understand context and the emotions of the user, and adapt accordingly. At the moment, we are just skimming the surface with chatbots right now. I envision a future where chatbots will be able to offer specific assistance towards achieving a positive outcome for a given situation for a customer.

4) Do you see customer engagement being run entirely by automated systems, without human intervention? If so, by when?

 I don’t think the Customer Engagement segment will be completely automated by AI. A hybrid between humans and AI is the likely future.There is a lot of research being carried out in this area and as new technology evolves I see chatbots perform more complex tasks and cover a wider  spectrum of customer engagement processes from managing leads, to converting them into sales while responding to bespoke consumer needs. However customers can be  emotional, needing empathy and an emotional connection from the customer service experience. Having a hybrid model with both humans and AI, would be the best for delivering a personal brand experience.

5) With fewer humans in customer engagement, how is the cost of customer engagement changing for enterprises?

Well, there is already substantial evidence that automation in the customer engagement section is helping companies save upto 30% or more in terms of costs. These solutions are no longer prohibitively expensive as one had earlier imagined. Companies are beginning to see the long-term benefits of this one-time investment cost. Again the new add-ons ensure regular updations at minimal costs. Automation has set in motion an entire cycle of savings for companies — right from the costs invested in hiring, to infrastructure and training to name but a few. 

6) Are you profitable? Are you raising fresh capital? If so, how much?

Our ARR is close to $60 million and our clients include companies like Ola, Swiggy, GoJek, & Byju’s. We provide 40 million engagements everyday for over 6000 companies in India, SEA, Middle East, and Africa. So far we have raised $100 million and currently we have enough money to pursue our goals over the next few years.

7) How do you see 5G impacting customer engagement, if at all?

I am very optimistic about 5G. I believe it will bring massive improvement in the customer engagement segment, as better connectivity would mean faster downloading speeds and more reliance on technology. While existing networks may already serve some of the customer services needs, the availability of 5G  will allow enterprises to provide better and faster customer experience with digitally enabled applications. With 5G mobile data will become more ubiquitous and thereby IP calling will become mainstream in enterprise use cases.

8) Companies are increasingly looking at creating a presence in the metaverse. Brands like Nike, JP Morgan, Gucci are already there. How will customer engagement change in the metaverse?

Right from opening a bank account or scouting for a car in a showroom, or trying on a new product e.g. shoes, the metaverse will be a crucial part of omnichannel customer engagement.  

Product discovery and how we experience services before we purchase probably would be one of the first impacted areas because of the metaverse. This is still early days and perhaps the social networks and then social commerce would be early indicators of the adoption.

About Exotel

In today's dynamic business landscape, customer expectations are constantly evolving. Businesses face the challenge of balancing the need for increased revenue, optimised costs, and exceptional customer experience (CX). Exotel steps forward as your transformative partner, offering a comprehensive AI-powered communication solution designed to address all three!

We leverage the cutting edge of AI to create co-pilots. These intelligent assistants seamlessly integrate across all communication channels (omnichannel), enabling hyper-personalized interactions with every customer. Imagine empowered agents receiving real-time guidance, leading to faster conversions and improved lead nurturing.

Exotel's impact extends far beyond the agent experience. AI co-pilots automate repetitive tasks, freeing up valuable resources and reducing operating costs. Additionally, AI-powered self-serve options empower customers to find answers independently, boosting overall CX. Exotel goes beyond just technology. We partner with you to craft customised solutions that unlock the true potential of AI-driven communication.

Let Exotel be your guide through the ever-changing business landscape and a partner for all things from customer engagement to customer experience. We'll help you achieve your unique goals while empowering every conversation like a friend.

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