Most of us have talked to voice assistants, whether it’s Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant. Some even interacted with artificial intelligence-powered customer service agents through chat.
AI Talkbots have been adopted by enterprises around the world to deliver customer service at scale. The ASEAN market, however, represents a major challenge for AI chat companies due to the many languages and dialects spoken in the region.
Wiz.I.I. CEO and co-founder Jennifer Zhang saw an opportunity. When we started in early 2019, there was no one bringing voice AI products to Southeast Asia,” she said. CASIA. “Doing this in Southeast Asia is very challenging, but we want to use this market as a starting point to create our competitive technological advantage.”
Singapore-based startup Wiz.AI develops conversational AI technology. Its solutions serve all levels of enterprises in the region. The firm, which has offices in Nanjing and Jakarta, closed a $6 million pre-Series A round led by GGV Capital in May last year. Wavemaker Partners, ZWC Partners, Insignia Ventures and Orion Fund managed by K3 Ventures were part of the investment.
Conventional AI “is a programmatic and intelligent way to deliver a conversational experience that mimics conversations with real people through digital and telecommunications technologies,” according to Deloitte Digital. The company It expects the total conversational AI market to reach $17.64 billion by 2024, accounting for a compound annual growth rate of 30.2%.
Automated customer service
The first step to having a natural, smooth flow of conversation between an AI chatbot and a human user is to recognize the speaker’s speech style. This means understanding her language, or dialect, fluency, as well as line inconsistencies and interruptions, Zhang explained. The process involves automatic speech recognition to convert spoken words into text, running alongside natural language processing to interpret the meaning of that text.
The next step is for the chatbot to provide an accurate answer. To this end, Wiz.I.I. has a dedicated team that performs “conversation design” to create conversations that resemble real human-to-human interactions. The team developed sounds and sounds for different situations to provide a “better sense of participation,” Zhang said.
For example, a middle-aged woman’s voice—gentle and comforting—is preferred in a healthcare setting, Zhang says. In another common scenario, talkbots can answer customer questions like: How much do I have to pay? Or Where to pay? In fact, you can “negotiate” with the customer, leading them to the lowest acceptable payment. If the speaker does not speak clearly, the chatbot will ask questions Is this what you mean? Or Can you repeat yourself? And of course, it asks and records all the necessary information from customers.
Wiz.i has developed talkbots that can communicate with customers in multiple languages, including English, Mandarin, and Indonesian. They also cover things like Sinhalese, a mixture of Singaporean language and English, as well as Manglish, an informal form of Malaysian English. Currently, the company counts more than 30 customers from various industries, including healthcare, insurance, banking, telecommunications, e-commerce and government.
AI voice assistants are optimized to answer customer questions, Zhang said. For example, for healthcare customers, Wiz.AI talkbots can proactively communicate with patients, monitor their symptoms and help them schedule health visit appointments. For another client, Singapore virtual telco Zero1, talkbots call users to deliver promotions. And answer their questions.
Wiz.AI conducted a survey and found that 97% of medical patients are comfortable taking calls using talkbots, Zhang said. CASIA. Instead of sending emails or using online chat clients, most people still prefer to make phone calls for complex communications.
Even so, the company offers automated chat applications to its customers. On top of that, Wiz.I provides customer relationship management software for clients to track and manage their customer demand information.
‘Last Mile Delivery’
Wiz.AI has its work cut out for itself.
When asked about competing with big tech players such as Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft that make similar applications, Zhang responded metaphorically. “They are doing the freeway, but we are handling the last mile delivery.” Wiz.AI positions itself as a service provider in the “untapped and difficult Southeast Asian market, which may not be a priority for large companies.”
Over the past year, Wiz.AI’s talkbots have gotten faster and faster use cases. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the operations of many call centers around the world. Budget cuts have meant that staff who service these facilities have been laid off or laid off. That’s when Wiz.AI products are filled, replacing fleets of human operators.
Although there are challenges in integrating Wiz.AI talkbots with some enterprises’ infrastructure, startups are using these opportunities to test new application scenarios and adapt their products by connecting their talkbots to more people around the world.
This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where KrASIA writers talk to founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.