Luxembourg start-up SoftBrik is developing an artificial intelligence-based system for capturing customer feedback via voice messages. One of the winners of the StartupsVsCovid19 competition, the company is also transforming its solution into a tool helping doctors receive and respond to messages from patients in a timely and efficient manner.
After three decades as an entrepreneur and executive of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Andreas Traut, SoftBrik’s Go-To-Market Advisor, knows much about the importance of receiving feedback from customers. “Client feedback is essential for businesses to grow and make their products evolve, but is it difficult to obtain. Most people find it annoying to fill in feedback forms or answer phone surveys, and when they do respond, it is often to vent about what they do not like. I saw the need for a simple, cost-effective way for SMEs to receive representative feedback from all types of customers who could give input without hassle at any time.”
Smart voice messages: make it easy
The initial idea to work with voice messages actually came from his son. “Kids don’t bother to type any longer, they just speak!” says Mr Traut. “When I asked my son why, he said ‘because it’s easy’. I wanted to make it just that easy for customers to give feedback to companies.”
He started to discuss his idea and explore possible technological solutions with a few friends in Luxembourg, including Frederik Andersen, a computer engineer with over 20 years’ experience in software development. “We decided to use the power of cloud solutions to make our system dynamic,” explains Mr Andersen, today SoftBrik’s co-founder and CEO.
I wanted to make it just that easy for customers to give feedback to companies.
The start-up team developed a tool that captures voice messages and turns the resulting audio streams into text, so companies have the choice between reading and listening to the feedback provided. Machine learning algorithms then analyse the emotions transmitted by each respondent and provide a visual indication of whether a message is predominantly positive or negative. They also detect common topics brought up by different respondents and group similar messages together to make it easier to answer and improve the productivity of the service team.
The feedback tool can be embedded into any website or app. Users click on the voice icon and record what they want to say without having to install anything on their hardware. It is also possible to put their answers in writing if they prefer.
Facilitating doctor-patient interactions
Once a prototype had been finalised, SoftBrik started to market its solution to prospective telecom, insurance and SME clients and met with quite some interest. However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic gave the team new ideas of how to use its technology. “During spring 2020, hospitals were full and doctors overloaded with work, which made it very difficult for them to answer calls from all their patients. We realised that we could provide a tool where patients could leave messages to their doctors that would be analysed and grouped by our algorithms,” explains Mr Traut. “The tool would allow doctors to go through the messages when they have time and use the artificial intelligence-guidance provided to see which ones are most urgent to answer and which patients speak about similar symptoms. This relieves doctors from some of the pressure, and patients do not have to spend a lot of time in phone queues.”
Armed with this idea, SoftBrik submitted an application to the StartupsVsCovid19 competition launched in spring 2020 by the Ministry of the Economy and Luxinnovation. After pitching its idea to a jury, the start-up was one of 15 companies to be awarded a grant of up to €150,000 to turn their ideas into viable products.
The SoftBrik tool primarily focuses on COVID-19 patients with early-stage symptoms, but tests are also being done in the field of prenatal care. It is currently being tested to make sure that the symptoms described by patients are analysed as accurately as possible. The ambition is to finalise the product for the end of the year. “This is not an emergency management tool,” Mr Andersen underlines. “For emergencies people should call their doctor directly, but if they can wait half a day or a day for the answer, this can be really useful.”
The most valuable help
While working, the SoftBrik team has benefited from the support offered by the Luxembourg ecosystem. “Luxinnovation’s start-up advisors have been incredibly kind and helpful, and very generous with sharing insights from their experience in mentoring hundreds of start-ups,” says Mr Traut. “We entrepreneurs focus on how we can succeed, but they have seen all the ways in which start-ups can fail. One thing they kept pointing out to us last year was the importance of maintaining a healthy cash flow. When COVID-19 hit, we really saw how right they were in that the availability of cash is what makes a company survive or not in times of crisis. This is probably among the most valuable help we received throughout our entire journey.”
Luxinnovation’s start-up advisors have been very generous with sharing insights from their experience in mentoring hundreds of start-ups.
After having completed the administrative work related to getting the company up and running, SoftBrik is now planning to expand its team. “We are looking to hire a full-time developer and a full-time data scientist,” says Mr Andersen. “Our next step is to accelerate and grow.”
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