Customer Service And Sales: AI’s Role Alongside Its Human Counterparts – Forbes

Customer Service & AI
As AI becomes more sophisticated, how will we maintain the symbiotic relationship between its technological capabilities and human expertise? I recently sat down with Aaron Lee, the co-founder and CEO of the customer engagement platform We discussed the balance of humans and AI in customer service, the power of zero-party data for small businesses, and how his experience as the former CTO of Home Depot informs the culture and mission.
Gary Drenik: Tell me about your newest venture,, and how it’s leveraging AI?
Aaron Lee: Over my career, I’ve worked hard to figure out the unique needs of small and medium-sized businesses. One of the hardest pieces for a small business owner, when they are off doing the “must do” tasks of running the company, is managing their front-line customer response. With my background in AI, I saw an opportunity to reimagine a different type of customer engagement that could parallel or exceed high “in-house” standards. My co-founder, Justin Maxwell, and I started to make sure that every call, chat, and text is responded to and that every customer feels heard.
Most virtual receptionists, answering services, and traditional call centers rely on scripts. We’ve all experienced how they feel forced, distant, and inflexible. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even our clients at tell us their own customers can’t tell our staff from theirs when we share phone-answering duties. We can accomplish all of this because of AI.’s proprietary AI technology provides our human staff answering calls with prompts and relevant business information that is custom tailored for each business throughout the length of each call. Our AI is also trained on over eight years of proprietary customer engagement calls, long before generative AI was mainstream. We also transcribe and record calls, so if a client opts in, they can have a searchable record of all caller engagements. As part of these transcriptions, we’ve incorporated technology that automatically identifies and blocks out personally identifiable information (PII) like social security numbers and credit card numbers, and we actively block over 20 million known spammers and robocalls. We even do this blocking for free for our clients.
Drenik: Which types of companies would benefit the most from working with
Lee: We work with high-value clients including home services companies, law firms, professional services, finance, and health and wellness companies who offer very specialized services. They need to understand, often very quickly, the nuances of their potential customers and whether they can serve them based on unique criteria. But gathering that information takes time and skill. We often manage callers in very emotional situations, such as divorce or a flooding basement, to objections to a consulting fee that we have to navigate.
Typically, the businesses that gain the most from our services are the ones who prioritize maintaining a high level of customer service, while also benefiting from the time savings of bringing on a dedicated provider to manage frontline customer engagement.
Drenik: What customer data do you prioritize, and how do you ensure it’s proteted?
Lee: Our priority is capturing data that qualify business leads. This will typically be zero-party data that our receptionists collect during intake calls, information such as a home address, budget, and needs. Ultimately, our clients want to know the information about their customers that allows them to accept the most suitable new customers and provide the best possible service for them.
On a broader scale, we can analyze this anonymous data to support our clients. For example, we can use tracking numbers that are tied to a specific Google Ads campaign so we can see how a particular search term translates to call volume, which in turn allows us to fine-tune staffing models for each new client we onboard. We follow industry data requirements to keep our data secure and compliant.
Drenik: Outbound sales seem like a natural industry to take advantage of better data and AI. How has your tech stack adapted your strategies?
Lee: Outbound sales was highly requested by our clients as they know fast follow-up is the key to securing new business. Data shows that to convert 90% of leads, sales teams or outsourced providers need to make five call attempts.
But the benefits of this service go beyond just ROI and newly acquired customers. We gather deep call intelligence insights that help our clients understand details like what ZIP Codes callers are from or what days see the highest volume of calls. For our clients who do marketing, this allows them to take a more targeted approach like which cities to target or how to optimize SEO and retail media ads. If you are a personal injury lawyer and find that “car crash” is used more frequently in local parlance than “car wreck,” you can easily adjust your SEO and capture a larger share of local leads seeking legal services.
Drenik: How critical is the human element to your services? Would you ever fully automate it?
Lee: No algorithm can replicate the human ability to empathize. According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics Survey, over 80% of people prefer to interact with a live person over an AI chatbot when seeking help with a financial or health matter. We experience this firsthand every day, handling these and other highly sensitive topics. Effective customer engagement means capturing the nuances of being human: the subtle frustrations or quiet indications of urgency, fear, doubt, and hesitation. Human agents, guided by AI, best navigate these interactions because compassion and emotional intelligence is innate and ever-present, particularly when selected for and nurtured as we do in our recruiting, screening, and training processes.
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Drenik: You have an extensive resume including previously serving as the CTO of Home Depot. How have these experiences shaped what you’ve built at
Lee: I’m very grateful for the time I spent as CTO at Home Depot. I learned many important business lessons from my mentor, the former Chairman and CEO of Home Depot, Frank Blake. I’d often heard from home services professionals that it was hard to be good at what you do if you didn’t have time to do it. I created to help many industries beyond home services, but I’m proud that we’ve built technology that addresses this specific challenge.
The value of what humans can bring to a role is deeply rooted in our culture, and Home Depot gave me that framework. They provide lots of training and promotion from within. We try to do the same here, and I’m proud to say that nearly every specialized team and management role is filled by former agents who moved on from frontline roles to customer success, recruiting, training, product, and sales. We also offer an “assistant account executive” role that includes an in-house training program, giving our agents a formal way to shift into business development. We do all of this 100% remotely. As we expand our operations and explore the realm of AI-assisted customer engagement, I strongly believe that the prosperity of our internal culture directly contributes to the success of all our clients.
Drenik: Aaron, thank you so much for your time and insights today. I’m excited to see how continues to expand its technological capabilities and support even more businesses with inbound and outbound customer engagement.