At a time when people are spending more time online, there is a growing need for an efficient and unified customer support system for industries that can provide users with a seamless experience. Alice Labs PTE Ltd., a start-up based in Singapore and Dhaka, with current operations in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Nepal, specializes in using cutting edge technologies of Artificial Intelligence – Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing and Voice Recognition to offer innovative solutions across multiple industries. ICE Business Times caught up with Shuvo Rahman, CEO of Alice Labs, to learn more about this state-of-the-art company that is revolutionizing customer care support one country at a time. The Future Is Here
PUTTING THE CARE IN CUSTOMER SUPPORT The Future Is Here
Alice Labs was established with the desire to solve critical real-life problems with the use of modern technology. The idea to revolutionize customer support was borne out of a personal experience the young CEO of the company, Shuvo Rahman faced while trying to communicate with his bank, one time from home and one time from abroad.
“When I called my bank to resolve a certain problem, I got frustrated waiting for my turn in the queue and having to repeat the same process from scratch a couple of times since the calls dropped mid-conversation. It consumed a lengthy 40 minutes of my time.”
While abroad, he observed that it was not possible to establish communication over the phone which prompted him to use Facebook Messenger and email. However, the response from the bank was a day late making the issue obsolete by that point. Shuvo realized that the interpersonal relationship between businesses and consumers had plenty of room for improvement. The Future Is Here
Upon further investigation, he learned that first, there aren’t many solutions around to assist businesses in this regard. And second, it’s expensive to provide support to the huge amount of people businesses need to interact with on a regular basis.
“This gave rise to the idea of utilizing artificial intelligence by collecting real-life data over time and building an AI repository that is capable of aiding companies in this aspect. That idea of having an AI system that caters to all customer queries and provides solutions to great effect while saving a significant amount of costs and simultaneously establishing a friendly relationship in the process with the consumers is what drives Alice Labs to this day,” explains the young entrepreneur.
CATERING TO CLIENT NEEDS
Although the idea stemmed from improving the financial industry initially, Alice Labs didn’t want to limit itself to assisting only one industry so that every consumer-facing business can benefit by leveraging top-notch customer support. With serving prominent client names such as Unilever, Telenor, Ooredoo, Coca Cola, Nestle, Mutual Trust Bank, Maybelline, Giordano, Star Cineplex to name a few and providing them with satisfactory results through its products, Alice Labs paved its way into redefining the customer care arena.
The start-up obtained the following feedback from clients: sales increased up to 30%, customer support costs reduced by a significant 60-70%, and customer satisfaction improved by 20%. Shuvo mentions, “At Alice Labs, our consistent emphasis on improving our technology and ensuring data-driven results for our clients, set us apart from other players in the market.” The Future Is Here
TEACHING ALICE TO TALK
Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a branch of artificial intelligence that deals with the interaction between computers and humans using the natural language. It has three parts with the first part being the Natural Language Processing i.e. understanding and processing what the customer is saying. From a machine perspective, it’s making sure the inputs being received, be it voice or text, are structured. The second part is Natural Language Understanding (NLU), determining the kind of value being derived from the structured data. Lastly, the Natural Language Generation (NLG) is providing human-like responses to the customers.
For instance, a consumer is interacting with Star Cineplex through Facebook Messenger and says that they want to buy movie tickets. The NLP allows the machine to understand these queries and show the movies running at the time and how to buy tickets and so on. The ultimate objective of NLP is to read, decipher, understand, and respond to the human languages in an effective manner. Alice has the capability to comprehend not only the common languages such as Bangla, English, Burmese, Nepalese, Bahasa but also mixed languages like Banglish and Myanglish. Other languages can be incorporated into the existing model as per client requirements.
DEBUNKING A MYTH The Future Is Here
There is a buzz around the industrial sector regarding the advent of AI and the potential losses of jobs. However, the dynamic entrepreneur explains, “What AI will essentially do is make some repetitive jobs obsolete and pave the way for a more creative workforce. AI will also create jobs as there will always be the need for technically sound professionals to build and maintain these AI systems.” The promise of AI is that it will make room for humanity to think and work more creatively. The Future Is Here
TAILORING SOLUTIONS AND CREATING IMPACT
Regarding the company’s client portfolio, Shuvo mentions, “Unilever has been one of our biggest clients. Initially, we started with one of their brands but the number has grown over time and currently, we’re working with 10 of their brands. We are also in talks with Unilever India, Nepal, and Myanmar.”
The idea behind the partnership is to always bring substantial value in terms of sales, cost, and user experience. Shuvo explains, “We built an AI system that was able to understand consumers’ needs and serve them accordingly. For example, if you interact with Sunsilk, in addition to providing you with any information you might need, our AI system is able to identify your buying pattern and push similar kinds of products or services.
Thus across all of their brands, the customer satisfaction score increased radically as consumers felt a more personal attachment with the brand. AI is also equipped to provide sentimental analysis to clients.”
Alice Labs is also breaking the barrier in Myanmar, where the government recently announced that all telecom operators had to re-register their users, or else they would be deactivated, which could cause huge revenue losses in the telco industry. That in itself is a mammoth task, notwithstanding that the country was going through a pandemic like the rest of the world. Shuvo explains, “For Ooredoo and Telenor, two of the biggest Telco’s in Myanmar, we set up our AI system in their Facebook Messenger and Viber channels which allowed users to re-register their sim cards by providing all the necessary documents and information while staying in the safe confines of their homes.” The Future Is Here
The AI company has also helped Nestle Myanmar facilitate a three-month long campaign through their social media channels. This included processing more than 5 million codes that were submitted. Nestle also managed to gather significant consumer insights through this campaign. Alice Labs also set up a whole e-commerce platform in FB Messenger for Capital Hypermarket, one of the biggest chain supermarkets in Myanmar. During this pandemic, this platform allowed users to shop for their daily necessities straight through the medium of their choice.
At the home front, financial institutions such as Mutual Trust Bank Limited and National Bank Limited, deploy AI systems built by Alice Labs to allow customers to access information about banking services, apply for different products and also fulfill their required transactions, from transferring funds to paying utility bills. Post COVID-19, in the new normal world, when physical means of providing services is limited, users welcome Alice Labs’ services with open arms.
Shuvo iterates, “Thus, when people start spending more time online and interacting with your company through multiple channels, you don’t need to worry about increasing your capacity of live agents to support this growing traffic as our financial AI systems can automate a lot of the services being asked.”
Shuvo sheds light on another one of Alice Labs’ clients – an organization called Lily that is based in Kenya, Africa. Lily sought out to work with the women in Kenya and assist them with sexual and reproductive health-related concerns. Shuvo mentions, “With the help of our AI system, Lily helped women to get information about maintaining hygiene, issues related to pregnancy and how they can take care of themselves better.” With the technological help of Alice Labs, this project had an immense social impact and had been growing ever since. The Future Is Here
BRINGING THE FUTURE TO BANGLADESH The Future Is Here
The vision for Alice Labs has always been to make way for more friendly interactions between consumers and businesses. And that’s what they are constantly working towards building and incorporating new technologies to truly support consumers in a mutually beneficial manner. They have been working with voice recognition which as one might expect brings with it an array of issues as users have different accents and ways of talking.
Alice Labs is also working with video technology that’ll help put a face to the system that is assisting the users and give a more personalized experience. “Swift and smooth audiovisual interactivity between consumers and business is where the future of customer support lies and we’re confident that Alice Labs is up to the challenge,” the visionary tech entrepreneur concludes. The Future Is Here