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StepOne is aiming to make the often grueling ordeal of customer service easy.

To that end the software-as-a-service (SaaS) seller startup raised $4 million in an A round of venture cash Thursday.

Billing itself as an adaptive self-service startup, StepOne says devices enabled with its software simplify the procedure of customer care by predicting consumer questions based on data culled from previous Internet purchases and use. This means less legwork for the company at the receiving end of the questions.

In other words, the software predicts customer needs. That makes it easier when consumers have questions for customer care. But instead of ungodly wait times, companies using StepOne’s software do it virtually.

StepOne, based in Austin, TX, is aiming for the fences — that is, big enterprise and large retailers as clients. It has publicly announced two launch customers thus far. The first is Telstra, the Australian telecommunications giant. The startup declined to say who the other is.

The software data-mines consumers Internet history, buying habits for example. It then processes and stores this data. If an individual has questions directed to customer service for those using StepOne, the requisite information on their buying habits and preferences is available to the agents processing the online questions, said StepOne president Alex Mitchell.

According to StepOne:

“Large companies with complex products are increasingly investing in customer service in an attempt to grow satisfaction, reduce churn and lower call volume. In a 2013 study by Ovum, 68 percent of CIOs place spending IT budget on improving customer experience and satisfaction as a high priority for 2014. Looking into the future, ABI Research’s Internet of Everything Research Service predicts that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet by 2020, creating enormous demand for excellent customer support.”

To be sure, virtual predictions are an inexact science, and Mitchell understands this.

“We’re not going to be right 100 percent of the time,” he said.

Mitchell declared the value proposition of StepOne as saving clients money from having to interact with current and expansive traditional customer service protocols — call centers in India, for example — and taking them virtual.

Mitchell and his nine-member team are using the money to hire an additional 15 data scientists, engineers, and marketing people.

And he acknowledges competition in the space, from IBM, for example. But he is undeterred.

“Most consumers prefer to help themselves. If we can do a better job of predicting their questions, we drive value, and provide insight to clients on how they can improve,” the process, Mitchell said.

LiveOak Venture Partners led the round in addition to Silverton Partners.











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