Artificial intelligence

How Voctiv is Transforming Call Center Operations in Southeast Asia with Conversational AI

Call Center Operations in Southeast Asia

Voctiv is revolutionizing the way businesses interact with their customers in Southeast Asia. Its virtual agents are so advanced that 99% of respondents can’t distinguish them from human operators. I had an insightful conversation with Alexander Kuznetsov, the CBDO and co-founder of Voctiv, about their remarkable journey, the obstacles they’ve overcome, and their forward-looking vision.

Thank you for joining me today, Alexander. Can you tell me a bit about Voctiv and what you do?

Thank you for having me. Voctiv is a company that develops and provides conversational AI solutions for various industries. Our mission is to empower businesses with smart and human-like communication tools that can automate and optimize their processes, improve their customer experience, and increase their revenue.

What’s the origin story of the startup? 

My path crossed with my co-founder, Nikolay Kravchuk, at a telecom company where I worked before. Nick, the CEO of our partner, collaborated with me on several voice projects in the telecom industry. We quickly discovered our shared professional interests and personal affinities. Bonded by our passion for technology and a unified vision for its potential, we naturally evolved into not only colleagues but also good friends. It became apparent that our skills and strengths were not just aligned but complementary. This realization sparked the idea of launching our own venture.

We envisioned a company that wouldn’t just offer solutions to problems but would also captivate and delight its customers. Our goal was to develop AI that mirrored human interaction – that would sound and behave like a person, not a machine. Moreover, we were determined to ensure these solutions were user-friendly and seamless to integrate, steering clear of unnecessary complexity and cumbersomeness. We were committed to crafting voice AI solutions characterized by their scalability and adaptability, moving away from anything that felt limited or rigid. That’s how Voctiv was born.

How does Voctiv stand out from other AI providers?

There are several factors that make us stand out from the crowd. First, our service is very easy to use and integrate. We offer a turnkey solution that enables the creation of complex products for our customers, coupled with a user-friendly interface. This interface allows our clients to effortlessly manage and monitor their campaigns and conversations through virtual agents. We also have a flexible API that can connect with any CRM, ERP, or other system. Second, our service is very scalable and reliable. We can handle millions of concurrent conversations and ensure high availability and security. Third, our service is very intelligent and adaptive. We use advanced natural language processing, machine learning, and speech synthesis technologies to create realistic and engaging conversations that can understand the context, intent, and emotion of the customers, and provide relevant and personalized responses. We also continuously learn from the data and feedback to improve our performance and accuracy.

As a CBDO who took the business international and convinced clients to adopt a technology that had long been met with skepticism, can you highlight your most interesting projects and their key to success?

Absolutely. Let me share a few examples that stand out. In the fintech sector, we collaborated with a leading online lending platform in the Philippines. Our goal was to enhance their debt collection rates, and we achieved this by significantly improving their operational efficiency. It was a remarkable success, showing how effective our solutions can be in streamlining processes.

Another exciting project was in the real estate domain in Vietnam. We worked with a major property portal to amplify their lead qualification process. Our approach enabled human specialists to focus on ‘warm leads,’ significantly increasing their efficiency and potential for successful deals.

Lastly, the most outstanding example is in the telecom industry. We have developed a voice assistant that helps subscribers avoid missing important calls and enables them to receive one even if the subscriber is unavailable or cannot answer. This service benefits both subscribers, by protecting them from spam, and the telecom operator, by saving voice traffic.

The key factors to our success in these diverse projects boil down to a deep understanding of local specifics and the ability to adapt. We tailor our strategies to each market by closely considering their unique business culture and pace. This involves building strong local partnerships, gaining an in-depth understanding of the regulatory landscape, and exercising patience throughout the decision-making process. None of this would have been possible without the outstanding technology developed by our tech team. Their innovation and expertise are what truly drives our ability to deliver these impactful solutions.

Sounds exciting! Can you share more about these projects? How did you utilize Voctiv AI assistant in fintech?

When we first engaged with financial organizations in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and the Philippines, we were surprised by the operational inefficiencies we observed. Many call center operators were working using basic equipment like button phones and spreadsheets for managing calls. They spent about 60% of their time just dialing numbers manually and dealing with dropped calls, which was a huge waste of resources.

This observation led us to identify two key areas for improvement: operational efficiency and cost. Our approach was particularly effective in the collection services for microfinance organizations in the Philippines, where the demand for small loans is high. These organizations faced significant challenges in debt recovery, a task our virtual assistants efficiently managed improving their debt collection rate and saving over 50% in operational costs.

We created a virtual agent that could call the borrowers who had overdue payments, verify their identity, remind them of their debt, and offer them various payment options. The effectiveness of reaching out to clients increased dramatically. Unlike the manual dialing process, our system could make intelligent call-back decisions based on the best times to reach individuals, thereby optimizing the contact rate.

Our AI agent was able to handle the majority of calls without human intervention, and only transferred the complex cases to live agents after permission was granted. It helped our clients to significantly save on operational costs and at the same time reduce employee turnover. Routine tasks, like repeatedly informing clients of their debts, can be demotivating and lead to high staff turnover. We witnessed a situation where technology could not only increase efficiency but also prevent job loss by reallocating human resources to more engaging and satisfying work.

What about the real estate platform in Vietnam?

We helped a leading property portal enhance its lead-qualification process. We made 20,000 calls in a week, resulting in more than 1,000 warm leads weekly. Let me explain how it works. For instance, the AI assistant might call a prospective client from our landing page with an offer, such as a new project launch, a special discount, or a referral program. Simple tasks like dialing phone numbers are easily automated, but when it comes to engaging in a preliminary dialogue to gauge interest, that’s where our AI assistants shine. They would qualify the leads by asking them a series of questions, such as whether they were interested in considering investing in or purchasing real estate, what kind of property they were looking for, what their budget was, and when they wanted to make a decision. Then our virtual assistant would provide them with basic information about the offer, such as the location, price, size, and features of the property. If there was interest the AI assistant would transfer the call to a live agent, who could close the deal over the phone or schedule a site visit.

Our AI agents take on the routine task of identifying potential interest and making a warm handover to a human colleague. This strategy ensures that real estate agents spend their time engaging with genuinely interested clients, rather than expending resources on routine questionnaires. Virtual agents also generate more leads, as they can call more customers in a shorter time, and use a natural and persuasive voice that could capture their attention and interest. This normally results in a significant increase in sales for real estate companies.

You also mentioned a use case for a telecom company. How does this work?

We have conducted several pilot projects in Vietnam with leading cellular operators, where we developed and implemented a completely new product for them. Our voice assistant allows subscribers to accept calls even when they cannot physically answer them.

Typically, calls that subscribers cannot answer are forwarded to voicemail, at best. However, callers seldom leave voice messages in such cases. We have developed a service that takes over the call and can communicate with the caller on behalf of the subscriber, functioning like a personal secretary. It can take important information and send it as a summary text message to the user. Moreover, the service is capable of recognizing advertisements and unwanted calls, thus protecting the user from spam. This service has only recently been launched commercially and already handles an average of about 15 calls per month for each user, engaging in dialogue for an average of about 25 seconds. Such results were made possible by the natural dialogue capabilities of our technology.

The service has proven to be highly efficient, significantly increasing voice traffic for mobile operators. As a result, mobile operators are offering this service to their subscribers for free

That’s quite innovative. How do you ensure that these AI interactions are effective and don’t come across as impersonal?

Great question. The key is in the personalization and the human-like interaction of our AI voice assistants. We continuously refine our AI algorithms to ensure that conversations are natural and relevant to each customer’s history with the service. This personal touch, combined with the efficiency of AI, creates a unique re-engagement strategy that resonates with former users and effectively draws them back into our clients’ services.

Another crucial aspect is the support for numerous Asian dialects. For instance, the Philippines has two official languages, Filipino and English, along with many regional languages and dialects, such as Tagalog, Cebuano, and Ilocano, among others. It was essential for us to ensure that our service could accommodate the languages and accents used by our clients and their customers. Additionally, our speech synthesis and recognition need to be capable of producing and comprehending natural and unclear speech.

You analyzed many countries from the point of view of technology development and population growth. Can you tell me more about how you evaluated these factors and what criteria you used?

Sure, I used a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to assess the potential and readiness of each market. We looked at various indicators, such as population, GDP per capita, competitiveness, digital literacy, and innovation capacity. I also conducted surveys and interviews with local stakeholders, such as government officials, industry leaders, and consumers, to understand their needs, preferences, and expectations regarding conversational AI solutions.

I found that some markets had more favorable conditions than others for adopting voice-activated virtual assistants. For example, I identified China as a market where technology is very highly developed and there is a large and growing demand for digital services. I also recognized that China has its own culture and regulations that may affect the perception and acceptance of voice-activated virtual assistants. We decided not to enter this market at this time.

On the other hand, we identified Southeast Asia as a market where technology is not very developed yet but there is great scope for improvement. I also found that Southeast Asia has a large and young population that is eager to use new technologies and services. Moreover, we noticed that Southeast Asia has a diverse and rich culture that values communication skills and personalization. Therefore, we decided to enter this market with our service.

In terms of operating in Asia, have you encountered any specific regional characteristics or challenges that you didn’t anticipate?

Definitely. Our experience in Asia, particularly in countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia, has been eye-opening. One striking aspect is the general receptiveness to AI and automated calls. Unlike some regions where there’s a significant pushback against speaking with virtual assistants or automated calls, which are often perceived as spam, this isn’t the case in these countries. For example, in the Philippines, there’s almost no such thing as automated calls, partly due to the practice of using text communication channels.

However, the most fascinating aspect is the diversity of these markets. Despite being part of the same region, each country has its unique business culture, lifestyle, and mentality. For instance, in Vietnam, there’s a noticeable level of distrust towards foreign companies, even though they appreciate the technology. As a result, we often partner with local companies to present our services, rather than directly entering as an international entity.

In contrast, the Philippines is quite open and friendly, even though there’s inherent competition since it’s a hub for call centers. The business decision-making process can be slower there, as companies are comfortable with the status quo and often reluctant to make swift changes.

Despite the challenges, we remain optimistic about our growth in these markets. It’s all about understanding and respecting the regional nuances while offering innovative technology solutions.

Thank you, Alexander, for these insightful details about your company’s journey and achievements. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on Voctiv’s future endeavors and the continued impact your company will have on the world of AI.

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