#FrenchTechFriday: Allo Media: give us a call – we have cookies!

Oct 20, 2017
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[UPDATE NOVEMBER 2017: Allo media has raised an extra 8 million Euros this month! Want more cookies?]

“Marketing is deaf once the phone rings”. This is how Romain Sambarino, CEO of Allo Media, sets the tone as we start before getting into a discussion of cookies, wizards and artificial intelligence.

The genesis of Allo Media

As is often the case, Allo Media’s story starts with another startup. Allo Medecin began as a directory to find medical professionals. This directory would generate phone calls – heaps of them. There would be unwanted calls, but how could one judge of the commercial value of the call and bill accordingly? You couldn’t just rely on good faith. The team started to set up a way to analyze the calls in order to generate leads. This is where the wizards come in.

The Voice Cookie

As the Allo Medecin team was working on a solution to analyze conversations, it became obvious that this could evolve into a whole new startup. Allo Medecin is still alive and kicking, but it also gave rise to Allo Media along the way – and now the spin-off looks to go well beyond the original by taking on the US market and staking a claim in one of the multibillion dollar global CRM and commercial telephony industry’s biggest playing fields.

How did they get there? As it turns out, many companies experience a wide gap between their marketing teams and their call centers. It’s a shame, because it should be a straightforward follow-up. By now, we’re all used to looking up a phone number on the Internet and pressing a “click-to-call” button purposely placed on the landing page. The funnel is well worked out before the call – but then it becomes all-human, and the analysis of the call is only as accurate as the human operator evaluating it.

Allo-Media’s Vocal Cookie (rolled out in September 2016) breaks from this model by making sense of the conversation and linking it to the client’s digital path. Did he visit the website several times before calling? Has he already filed a complaint through the contact page? Is this call related to that complaint? Can we sell him something else? Something more?

Yes, voice-to-text solutions already exist. But there are many features that set Allo Media apart.

Plug-and-play: the Allo Media solution is plugged onto the company’s phone line. No diverted calls.

Real Time Analysis: it’s a bit like a second operator is listening to the conversation, picking up more details and linking it to the customer’s journey.

Picking up what’s in between: hesitations, pauses, stuttering… Allo Media’s solution can make sense of it all.

Heightened alertness: the system reacts to some keywords or sentences that point to particular client needs. When a caller casually lets slip that “I’ve been a client of yours for 10 years”, you cannot treat him as a newcomer. There’s a subtle message that needs to be picked up on.

Less than perfect conditions: getting Alexa to do your bidding while you’re sitting in the comfort of your own home with no sound interference is one thing. Many calls are made from the street or in a car, and the voice signal can sometimes go from bad to worse. Allo Media manages to “understand” in less than perfect conditions.

The Vocal Cookie has already won Allo Media its fair share of prizes, including the Prix Usage at AI Paris and the MarTech Start-Up Gold Award at the IT Marketing and Communications Directors’ Club Forum (CMIT) this past June. At the Adetem Awards in July, Allo Media was awarded the Grand Prix for Start-Ups but also the Grand Prix Or for Marketing Excellence – becoming the first start-up ever to win it.

Artificial Intelligence

Besides providing the operator with a super-charged assistant, Allo Media has been developing other uses for its products. For example, there’s the smart answering machine that can understand what a caller is asking for and either forwards the call and/or collects all the pertinent information needed to follow up later. Work is underway to plug the Vocal Cookie into the call center operator’s station and automatically fill in a CRM tool.

But what about the wizards?

The team, now 22 (including two freelancers), is split between Paris and Le Mans. Besides the founders, engineers and marketers, there’s wizardry going on in Le Mans. This is where the scientists devise all the new Allo Media magic. Extensive research is needed to optimize the Vocal Cookie; the best use of AI is obviously one of the outstanding challenges. The wizards include senior engineers from the laboratoire d’informatique de l’Université du Maine (LIUM), a European leader in vocal reconnaissance. And they do indeed call themselves the wizards, with pointy hats and all (well, not all the time).

What’s next?

Current users are now advocates for Allo Media, and the company has been picking up speed since last January. Funding is on the way and will lead to new staff being recruited. The team strives to become the leader of immediate vocal analysis. One of their motto is “assimilate, imitate and invent” to stay ahead of the game. One of their goals is also to change the idea of the “cookie” (not the yummy variety) from a snooping piece of software to a vital enhancer of communications.

And, of course, the next big thing is adapting the trademark tool to English to reach a broader user base. Talks are currently underway to bring Allo Media’s offerings to the US, where the Vocal Cookie could work its magic for millions more customers. Already a trailblazer in France, Allo Media’s investors see cracking the American market as the key to becoming one of France’s next unicorn startups.

[UPDATE NOVEMBER 2017: Allo media has raised an extra 8 million Euros this month! Want more cookies?]