creative business

Conversational experience: An upcoming customer preference?

Responses from Ravi Sundararajan, COO, Gupshup 

EITN: How has consumer behaviour changed in recent times? What are the latest trends you are observing, and how do you see these evolving over the next few years?

Ravi: In the aftermath of the pandemic, customer preferences are rapidly evolving; so are the number of digital tools available. The trend of businesses going where their customers are, has grown significantly over the last two years. It’s now become an important driver to be able to predict their next steps, communicate with them and deliver great customer service.

People are using their smartphones and other devices more and more, integrating them into their everyday lives. They are spending a lot of time on popular social media and messaging channels – like WhatsApp, Instagram, SMS and more. In response, many of our enterprise customers are engaging with their consumers on these channels using our AI-enabled conversational engagement solutions.

We believe it’s just a matter of time before millions of businesses jump onto this wave, and start offering conversational experiences to consumers anytime, anywhere – like what we saw with the website boom a couple of decades ago.

EITN: Would there be any new or disruptive tech that you are anticipating influencing conversational AI adoption?

Ravi: Conversational AI, or AI in general is an evolving science. So yes, we will see several innovations in the coming days. Social media and messaging channels, as well as conversational experiences on these channels, are getting richer and far more powerful. Think of messaging apps as the new browsers, and conversational experiences as the new websites. The messaging app is emerging as a single super-app that lets consumers interact with every business, replacing dozens of other single-use or single-brand apps. And the very same messaging app is enabling almost all kinds of business-to-consumer interactions – spanning marketing, commerce and even service/support.

Look at WeChat, in China, for example.

Using AI, bots are increasingly getting better at delivering human-like experiences. So we’ll see more human-like conversations, with bot memory and context. For example, imagine chat/voice bots you can talk or text with, in any language, that can help you get more info in a particular area – money management, fashion trends, career advice, so on and so forth. What if these could be highly personalized and made instantly available to you, whenever and wherever you need, just like how a best friend shows up when you need him/her. Customer delight will take a new meaning then, right.

Customers are using their smart devices for not only online banking and digital payments, but are also embracing ‘smart living’, which includes a smart home for example. Applications range from voice messaging, route navigation to simple commands through our mobile phones. Voice is also playing a part in security and access control in retail banking.

EITN: Why is adoption of conversational AI increasing for APAC? Do you see parallel industries also picking up as a result ie. translation tech?

Ravi: There has been tremendous growth in the conversational AI market within the APAC region, particularly after the outbreak of COVID-19. Businesses are now looking at taking a more empathetic approach in the way they engage with consumers. With users seeking personalized, interactive and always on engagement with brands at every touchpoint, we see many companies realize that the only way they can manage this, at scale, is via conversational AI.  

As for parallel industries, in Southeast Asia there is a rise in emerging financial technologies, voice activated technologies and speech recognition tools to enhance the way customers operate on a day-to-day basis.

Customers are using their smart devices for not only online banking and digital payments, but are also embracing ‘smart living’, which includes a smart home for example. Applications range from voice messaging, route navigation to simple commands through our mobile phones. Voice is also playing a part in security and access control in retail banking.

EITN: How do you position your conversational AI technology into the overall omnichannel experience for customers?

Ravi: Omnichannel engagement experience journeys streamline the communication that customers receive from a brand and ensures consistency across multiple communication channels such as SMS, voice, email, newsletters, websites etc. It broadens the scope of customer engagement for businesses that are diversifying their online presence to ensure 24/7 service across platforms.

Our omnichannel API helps businesses to instantly gain presence on over 30 messaging channels and provides the convenience of development just once. This allows businesses to provide relevant content after having a clear understanding of the customer’s purchasing patterns. To strengthen our customer service capabilities, we recently acquired OneDirect, the leading omnichannel customer service platform for businesses in Southeast Asia and other emerging markets like India.

Even today, we are seeing businesses employ multiple disparate solutions from several providers (e.g. one for their voice solutions, another for messaging and so on). This causes inconsistency in the overall experience delivered to customers, and also results in higher costs. This is where Gupshup comes in. We are building the most advanced conversational engagement platform.

Our omnichannel API helps businesses to instantly gain presence on over 30 messaging channels and provides the convenience of development just once. This allows businesses to provide relevant content after having a clear understanding of the customer’s purchasing patterns. To strengthen our customer service capabilities, we recently acquired OneDirect, the leading omnichannel customer service platform for businesses in Southeast Asia and other emerging markets like India.

EITN: How does conversational AI automate customer experiences?

Ravi: Let me explain with a couple of customer examples. We worked with two leading personal care brands – Livon and Vicco – to enable an end-to-end shopping experience to their consumers on Instagram, via a smart chatbot. Consumers can easily discover products and add them to the cart, make payments as well as get service/support instantly – from right within their Instagram channel. This is one of the first such solutions, where consumers are offered an end-to-end complete and seamless conversational commerce experience on Instagram.

Doubtnut, a subscription-based EdTech platform, is another good example. The EdTech company helps students clarify doubts in STEM subjects. Previosuly, students had to click pictures of their questions and upload them to Doubtnut’s website/mobile app. However, the EdTech platform realized soon that limited access to high-speed mobile internet connectivity was hindering their service. We worked with Doubtnut to develop a smart WhatsApp chatbot to tackle this. Today, students just send questions via WhatsApp and receive links to videos with the answers, in a language of their choice, in about 10 seconds or less.  

With Gupshup, businesses are making conversations an integral part of their customer engagement success. We will continue to focus on helping brands reach consumers on any channel and consistently deliver richer, more personalised experiences.

EITN: Voice solutions are gaining popularity. How does your acquisition of Knowlarity help your enterprise customers?

Ravi: By acquiring Knowlarity, we are offering the industry’s best mix of voice, video and messaging solutions to enterprises, empowering them to drive multi-channel conversations over voice as well. Knowlarity’s voice solutions combined with Gupshup’s messaging capabilities are helping several businesses reimagine customer experience.

Let me share an example to give you an idea on the potential of voice + messaging capabilities for an enterprise.  Many of us have dialed a cab aggregator’s customer care for a quick query and were put on hold for several minutes to get through to a customer care executive.

Imagine if the cab aggregator offered a smart voice-enabled chatbot, on WhatsApp or any other frequently used messaging channel, to alert you about customer care executives being busy, but instantly give you an option to resolve your query on WhatsApp itself. Imagine just stating your issue via the voicebot, and getting your issue resolved in no time on WhatsApp itself, via a text confirmation. This seamless interplay of voice and messaging interfaces can help brands change the way they deliver customer service altogether.

Many enterprises are already using our enhanced technology stack of voice and messaging solutions. These businesses are reporting reduced costs in customer acquisition as well as service/support, resulting in more profits.