The unwavering social media management company Hootsuite has acquired Sparkcentral, a messaging app-centric loyalty platform that offers virtual agents and automated messaging. The terms of the contract were not disclosed.
The acquisition comes as more companies look for tools to help them support customers online while also collaborating with team members in any number of locations.
One of the first pioneers in social media marketing and management, Hootsuite enabled companies to manage multiple accounts from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and more from a single dashboard. The Sparkcentral deal gives Hootsuite direct connectivity to a range of messaging apps including WhatsApp, WeChat, Google Business Messages, Apple Business Chat, Telegram, and SMS.
Sparkcentral, which operates a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business model, had raised nearly $ 38 million since it was founded in Belgium in 2011.
Gartner had predicted that 15% of all customer service interactions will be handled entirely by AI by 2021, up 400% from 2017. It’s about scalability – handling simple questions so human workers can focus on more complex requests.
The most interesting facet of this deal is that Sparkcentral will bring a number of AI and automated tools to Hootsuite through its messaging engine. This engine synchronizes incoming messages with a company’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system and gives agents a broader view of the customer. Sparkcentral also offers virtual agents – or chatbots – that can work with human staff.
Hootsuite previously offered some automated messaging features through third-party integrations, but only for Facebook Messenger. “This acquisition brings critical virtual agent capabilities to the business and provides the integration capabilities to connect to more advanced AI-powered solutions across all social and digital channels,” Ryan Donovan, CTO of Hootsuite, told VentureBeat.
Hootsuite said the deal will help bring social marketing, social listening and social customer care together under one platform. “Sparkcentral technology complements Hootsuite,” said Donovan, adding that Sparkcentral will initially operate as an independent company under the Hootsuite brand. “The goal is for Sparkcentral and Hootsuite to build the digital customer journey platform for social media marketing and social customer care by the end of this year.”
The pandemic has seen a number of big deals and new products in this area. Cloud-based call center platforms like Aircall and Dialpad have raised significant rounds of funding, while Twilio rival MessageBird launched a new AI-powered contact center. And RingCentral, which creates communication and collaboration tools for the company, took over the startup DeepAffects for conversational AI intelligence last month.
That Hootsuite is now strengthening its position in the social customer service arena is not surprising. While Hootsuite was already aimed at customer service teams, it was missing many of the features and functionality modern businesses have come to expect, and the acquisition of Sparkcentral will help fill that void.
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