BusinessDay: Had any useful chats with a bot lately?

A leader in the virtual agent market is Stellenbosch-based CLEVVA.


By Johan Steyn, 10 October 2022

Published by BusinessDay: https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/companies/telecoms-and-technology/2022-10-10-johan-steyn-had-any-useful-chats-with-a-bot-lately/


Have you interacted with a chatbot recently? I am sure you were likely ready to tear your hair out. It is hugely frustrating to interact with these bots. They are stupid, rarely understand what we are asking and mostly provide irrelevant answers. Or they just point us to a web page.


However, all is not lost. There are technology companies working on vastly improving the cognitive intelligence behind this technology. A leader in the virtual agent market is Stellenbosch-based CLEVVA.


Cofounder Ryan Falkenberg told me that CLEVVA now builds virtual agents that can perform at the level of human experts. These agents serve customers across multiple digital channels and resolve known queries, issues or complaints without any human intervention.


“Chatbots are essentially digital assistants. They are designed to give you an answer to a very specific question or get a specific request actioned for you. They are not designed to offer contextually relevant advice or help solve a complex service problem.”


Falkenberg told me that virtual agents are different. They can guide you to the right outcomes based on your specific situation, need, or problem. They know what questions to ask, answers to give and actions to take, in context and in line with your specific business rules.


“CLEVVA’s virtual agents perform inbound, outbound or in-context support roles. Plus they ensure the query gets resolved the first time. As a result, they dramatically lower call volumes and reduce your total cost to sell and serve.”

Falkenberg says a virtual agent can be made operational within two to three months. “It takes a lot of upfront focus and is highly specialised work. That is why we offer our clients a full solution-as-a-service. They simply get a high-performing virtual agent, and don’t need to worry about the how.”


Virtual agents complement human agents. They are not a threat. They handle the high volume, rule-bound work so that human agents have more time to focus on the high-value relational work.


Keep an eye on this exciting company, as it is bound to continually challenge the status quo of both chatbot vendors and traditional business process outsourcing providers.

• Steyn is on the faculty at Woxsen University, a research fellow at Stellenbosch University and the founder of AIforBusiness.net