An unidentified employee of the HSBC call centre attends to a call in the call centre in Hyderabad (Photo by DIBYANGSHU SARKAR / AFP)

An unidentified employee of the HSBC call centre attends to a call in the call centre in Hyderabad (Photo by DIBYANGSHU SARKAR / AFP)

Can conversational AI make your customers happier?

Conversational AI (artificial intelligence) is now becoming a sought-after technology as businesses look to improve their response speed and also provide better services to customers.

However, despite the advancements in technology to perfect conversational AI, businesses in Southeast Asia are still struggling with implementing the software in their business. The biggest problem for conversational AI in APAC is the language itself.

Conversational AI refers to the use of artificial intelligence on chatbots or voice assistants. Using large volumes of data, machine learning, and natural language processing, the AI helps imitate human interaction by recognizing speech or text inputs and replying to them based on a set of predetermined replies.

The tech is expected to help businesses speed up their customer service processes and also reduce the reliance on human customer service agents, especially for simple and mundane requests. Some conversational AI can be embedded into intelligent workflows, helping businesses scale operations and improve their employee productivity.

A robot from the Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Systems (AIIS) laboratory of Italy’s National Interuniversity Consortium for Computer Science (CINI) is displayed at the 7th edition of the Maker Faire 2019 (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Integrating AI in business 

Some of the industries that have implemented conversational AI in their workloads include banking and financial services, government agencies, retail, and eCommerce, as well as healthcare. For example, eCommerce websites in Southeast Asia are already using bots to reply to customer queries.

In banking, AI is being used to push out solutions designed for certain demographics, like Singapore’s UOB Banks’s TMRW, an AI-powered mobile-only bank offering a full suite of solutions for the millennial market.

Developing conversational AI can be challenging. Tech leaders like IBM’s Watson Assistant and NVIDIA’s Jarvis are some of the biggest AI providers around the world. While these services are also used by businesses in APAC, the challenge is getting the natural language processing to understand the local dialect of certain regions and locales.

For example, a conversational AI bot can be trained to understand the English of a native American speaker. However, applied in the Asian market, the AI solution may not be able to comprehend the localized dialect or slang of the same language.

An APAC survey by Forrester showed that 32% of chatbots were most effective in resolving customer queries. However, the survey also showed that 80% of chatbots produced more negative than positive experiences, while 75% of virtual assistants and 85% of speech-enabled virtual assistants also led to poor customer experience.

Conversational AI in APAC

To solve this, regional conversational AI providers are now developing conversational AI models that can support and understand local languages, slangs, and pronunciations. provides AI-powered voice virtual assistants across markets in Southeast Asia. The human-like voice AI bots can understand sentiments, intent, and past behavior. It can modify pitch, tone, excitement, and more, to suit customer sentiment and intent. The bots can natively converse naturally in more than 100 languages across text and voice, such as Bahasa Malay, Bahasa Indonesia, Tagalog, Mandarin, English, Tamil, and more.

Another provider, Uniphore, has developed next-generation capabilities in advanced AI, machine learning, automation, and voice and video technologies to drive the transformation of contact centers and enterprises in APAC.

Ai-Chat is a Singaporean AI-powered conversational platform. The service provides online visitors automated instant responses to commonly asked questions, educating them about products and services, and also enhances the chat experience.

Chatbot Malaysia is a simple chatbot integration software-as-a-service (SaaS) that helps small and medium enterprises scale and grow their business through automation and digital marketing. Similar to conversational AI, Chatbot Malaysia leverages omnichannel messaging automation platform and WhatsApp Chatbot Builder to keep businesses in touch with their customers.

While the use cases of conversational AI continue to grow and improve the interaction with customers, businesses need to understand the technology is not meant to replace their workers. Instead, customer service agents should collaborate and leverage the technology to better improve their productivity.

As chatbots deal with mundane queries and help customers with simpler tasks, employees are still needed to deal with more sophisticated queries. Eventually, the tech may catch up but for now, it needs to be able to respond to customers and ease the workflows of employees.