Advances in AI and speech technologies and rapid growth in CX expectations amid a pandemic combine to create the need for Voice AI.

One big change that businesses in the region have seen in the last couple of years is the rapid evolution of customer expectations.

Pandemic-weary consumers want more speed and flexibility in their digital interactions. In response, businesses are being forced to up the ante for investments in customer experience (CX).

AI Rudder’s research shows that 30% more businesses in Asia Pacific plan to start using technologies like speech analytics in 2022, while 25% are planning to invest in chatbots and virtual assistants.

DigiconAsia discussed these findings with Kun Wu, Co-Founder & Managing Director, AI Rudder:

Kun Wu, Co-Founder & Managing Director, AI Rudder

Why is Voice AI technology becoming prominent in the region’s CX landscape today?

Kun Wu: Voice AI technology has matured quite significantly in recent years. A big contributing factor is the vast developments we’ve seen in cloud computing and algorithm breakthroughs, which have made it easier to build better AI models across industries.

In the CX sector specifically, the previous decade was dominated by software that mainly automated workflows and processes – and the growth of Voice AI has taken that automation to new heights. For businesses, the rise of mobile-first and online services has necessitated large-scale customer service capabilities to manage the surge in demand.

Further, the need for business-process automation continues to grow, driven by the pandemic, which unfortunately is likely to continue for a few more months if not years. Support functions are oversubscribed and the urgent need to augment people, collaboration, learning and new ways of work have become more than critical.

This is where Voice AI steps in to support by intelligently automating a range of high-volume functions – from lead generation, information verification, quality assurance and debt collection to some levels of customer support – while retaining some of the human element that customers still find comfort in.

Chatbots, virtual assistants and speech recognition have been around for a while. What are the technology advancements that have made Voice AI more sophisticated and useful to businesses in the last few years?

Kun Wu: Although some automated CX technologies have existed for a while, their capabilities in the past were not as competent for wide enterprise use. SaaS models for AI-driven CX technologies were not widely available, and the cost of developing these solutions independently was simply too high for most businesses. This, together with a lack of adequate data and qualified professionals, is why most efforts failed.

However, in recent years, we have been able to harness deep learning to develop more advanced AI models that thrive in industrial use.

Additionally, there have been significant advancements in supporting tools and technologies, as well as a growing number of seasoned professionals joining the industry to drive growth.

This has contributed to the rise of a new and better generation of SaaS models, which enable lightweight, safe and compliant use of AI by companies of all scales and sizes.

What are the key benefits to businesses using Voice AI? Please share some examples or case studies from Asia Pacific.

Kun Wu: The implementation of Voice AI in business not only creates better customer experiences, but also benefits companies by optimizing performance and reducing their reliance on manpower.

In our recent study with research agency Ecosystm, we found that organizations using Voice AI in their contact centers saw a 63% reduction in processing time and 58% reduction in operating costs, while maintaining customer satisfaction and retention at 67%.

As an example, we recently started working with Toyota Astra Finance (TAF), a leading automobile financing service provider in Indonesia, to help them automate their debt collection process.

Until a few months ago, TAF’s customer contact center was made up entirely of human agents, and the company often struggled with the challenge of not having enough manpower to cover the call volume.

Today, they have seamlessly integrated the use of our Voice AI in their contact centers, alongside human agents. The Voice AI handles high-volume repetitive calls, leaving the agents to handle more complex conversations that require a human touch.

As a result, the team has been able to improve the call center’s contact rate and extend operating hours without incurring additional costs from overtime.

What are some key hurdles to adoption, and what does the future hold for Voice AI technology, especially in multilingual Asian markets?

Kun Wu: One of the biggest challenges that the AI industry is facing at the moment is the fear of the unknown.

Even in today’s digital-forward culture, AI still feels like an abstract concept or a “buzzword” to many. While businesses understand the potential of this powerful technology, they need to fully embrace it in order to experience the benefits over time.

To do this, CIOs and IT teams should work closely with core business units to fully integrate AI solutions in their IT ecosystem.

When it comes to Asian markets, there are multiple languages, dialects, and accents spoken across the region, which pose a unique challenge for Voice AI specifically. So far, no major tech company has been able to fully localize all of these nuances, although many are now taking this step.

As developers, this onus lies on us to ensure that the Voice AI we develop for this region is able to support each market’s languages to truly localize the customer experience and enable wider-scale adoption.