For most companies with service departments, communication with customers* is an essential part of their business model. At the same time, the quantity of requests can quickly lead to overload, and relevant inquiries can get lost in the process. For several years now, the Berlin-based company Solvemate has been addressing this problem with its chatbot: thanks to the use of artificial intelligence - so-called conversational AI - certain inquiries can be answered automatically and service can be provided in a targeted manner and at the right time. We spoke with CTO Jürgen Vogel about the development of the chatbot and the advantages of the Berlin location.
Hi Jürgen, you are a remote-first company based in Berlin. What's the view like from your current office?
I work most days from my home office, which is located in the basement of my Berlin apartment. From my desk, I look directly up at the sky and am happy when children stop in front of the window to look at my work environment.
Next to my desk is my drum kit - one of my great joys for in between!
With Solvemate, you have designed a chatbot that is equipped with an AI. How did the idea come about?
The original idea goes back to my co-founder Erik. When he was helping his father solve a computer problem, he had the idea to automate it with an AI. Over the last few years, this original idea then evolved into what we stand for today: A solution that allows companies to once again nurture valuable customer contacts and make time for relevant customer inquiries. This is driven by personalized automation using our chatbots, which can be accessed on all popular communication channels.
What was the process of developing your artificial intelligence like? How long did it take?
For the first two years, the focus was entirely on the AI, as it is the basis for our platform. Then it was on turning the AI into a product that could create real value for businesses. Because AI alone doesn't help anyone. Today, we have a 50/50 split between AI and platform in product development.
How can you imagine the functions of your AI?
Our AI helps you quickly find the right solution or answer to your request when you contact a company's customer service.
So, for example, if you want to know the status of your last order, you can find it out via the chatbot. But to do that, the chatbot has to understand in the first place that that's what you want to do. This is where our engine comes in, it knows you and can ask you intelligent questions with this knowledge. This way, you can make it clear to the chatbot very quickly what your request is - even if your request is a bit trickier.
Users of your software will certainly have different demands on your bot depending on the product or offer. To what extent is it adaptable?
Our solution works for very different customer service areas. The knowledge is always created, updated and supplemented by the customer service teams of the companies. This way, the customer experience is entirely in the hands of the respective experts.
You founded Solvemate in 2015. Since then, a lot has happened in the field of AI, both in Berlin and in the rest of the world. Which developments impress you the most?
I'm particularly impressed by the progress in the field of autonomous driving. Road traffic is so complex, so unpredictable and full of small, unspoken agreements between road users. For example, when you enter a narrow street and someone is coming toward you, who pulls over and waits for the other? A small situation, but one that is actually very complex. As a novice driver, this is where you really start to sweat :)
The development of autonomous cars has been much slower than many had hoped. But now, finally, it feels like it's no longer just a foolhardy vision of the future, but could soon become a reality in our road traffic.
Even though you work remotely, what do you particularly appreciate about the AI scene in Berlin?
We work remotely, but this year we will again open a hub for collaborative work, workshops and events in Berlin. Especially for exchange and networking within the Berlin scene, meeting in person is simply essential. And that's also what I've always appreciated so much about Berlin and what makes this city so attractive: Whether it's founders, developers, or researchers - everyone is eager to exchange ideas and is full of enthusiasm. It is precisely this spirit that makes Berlin the most vibrant technology location in Europe.
Last but not least: What are Solvemate's plans for the future?
Since March 2022, Solvemate has been a part of the customer platform Dixa. Dixa has been building a completely reimagined customer service solution over the last few years, always focusing on the friendship between brands and their customers. Our team, our product and our Berlin roots complement Dixa perfectly. Together we can now offer the most advanced customer experience platform and make it successful in Germany. To do this, we will work with our colleagues from all over the world, but most importantly, we will strengthen our Berlin location and be an active part of the Berlin AI scene.