San Francisco-based Inference Solutions, which develops virtual agents for sales and service organizations, today announced that it has partnered with Pizza Hut Australia to deploy a call-steering solution to the pizza chain’s support line. Now, customers who dial in will have their call intelligently routed to either a contact center representative or a nearby Pizza Hut store location.

When customers call Pizza Hut Australia’s national number, they’re presented with the choice of requesting a pickup, placing a delivery order, or asking a question. Inference Solutions’ system then collects the caller’s address to connect them with the nearest restaurant or provide other details.

“The ability to easily add new areas of automation will enable Pizza Hut Australia to continue to improve customer experience while reducing their cost-to-service,” said Inference Solutions CEO Callan Schebella.

The collaboration comes as chatbot usage is enjoying an uptick worldwide, and with good reason — according to Juniper Research, conversational assistants will drive cost savings of over $8 billion annually by 2022 (up from $20 million in 2017). In fact, chatbots are expected to power 85% of all customer service interactions by the year 2020. And 42% of consumers, 53% of millennials, and 72% of business executives already use them on the regular.

“With such a massive call volume, even the smallest inefficiencies are greatly magnified, negatively impacting our business, and that of our franchisees,” said Pizza Hut Australia director of technology Patrick Branley.

Coinciding with today’s announcement, Inference Solution previewed a few new capabilities in the forthcoming version of its Studio platform. Perhaps chief among them is WhatsApp integration: Studio 6.2 will enable the company’s virtual agents to reach the Facebook-owned messaging app’s more than a billion users across 180 countries.

“Each iteration of the Studio platform opens new engagement paths for companies to connect with their customers, and Studio 6.2 will make it possible for businesses to use WhatsApp to not only provide customer service, but also to deploy new and innovative marketing campaigns,” said Schebella.

For the uninitiated, Studio enables businesses to build agents using a no-code, drag-and-drop interface and to launch them through telecommunication providers. In addition to text-based WhatsApp chatbots that can be instructed to respond to customers with rich media, like images, PDF attachments, and video files, Studio 6.2 introduces more robust support for Google’s Dialogflow, including phrase hints (i.e., lists of phrases sent with each request) that improve the accuracy of speech recognition.

Additionally, Studio 6.2 includes new natural language tasks that use prebuild Dialogflow agents to automate appointment scheduling with Google Calendar and display locations with Google Maps, plus improved language models that have been fine-tuned to detect speech in noisy environments. Lastly, Studio now offers 59 new¬†synthesized voices in a dozen different languages sourced from Google’s Cloud Text-to-Speech API.

“Inference Studio is an attractive solution for many of our customers because it enables them to build and deploy advanced self-service applications without a team of developers. It also enables them to build new functionality using a visual drag-and-drop interface,” said Schebella. “Those applications are delivered on-net through telecommunications service providers, making deployment easier and further reducing costs.”