Bridging the language diversity gap with Voice AI

Ernest Lee

Marketing and Communications, AI Rudder

“Excuse me, can you speak English?”

In today’s increasingly globalized society, refrains like these are commonly heard in our everyday conversations. The ability to speak English is often a fallback when we can’t find any other common language. Sometimes, out of necessity, we find ourselves conversing in English where neither party is a native speaker. These conversations, predictably, lack the efficacy and comfort level that is naturally present in our first languages. For consumer-facing businesses and service providers, language barriers can be a major inconvenience that may cause customers to leave you for competitors. In an increasingly digital-first world, however, this challenge is becoming ever more prevalent.

And while English might be the most dominant language in the world, only an estimated 20% of the world’s population speaks the language. And in regions like ASEAN, known as a melting pot of diverse cultures and communities, the number of languages and dialects spoken are plentiful. Just in Singapore alone, more than 18 dialects and languages are being spoken and often used interchangeably. Similarly, in larger countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, there are over hundreds of living languages.

This poses a problem for any business wanting to improve its customer experience (CX). Aside from the daily logistical challenges of running a call center, it’s near impossible to train or hire a team of agents that speaks every language, slang, and dialect you might require. This was the main inspiration for AI Rudder to create a product that helps businesses overcome linguistic barriers.

Communication remains key to an excellent customer experience

Despite being in a landscape where companies are heading towards digital-first channels, human communication and meaningful interaction remain critical pillars of business success and customer experience.

Language is an incredibly vital part of communication between customers and customer service agents, and such language barriers can easily cause frustration and misunderstandings on both sides, preventing businesses from providing efficient and seamless support to their customers.

Unbabel’s 2021 Global Multilingual Report reveals that one in four customers would not spend money with a business that did not offer support for multiple languages. A recent study also found that over 68% of consumers would be more willing to support a business that provided customer support in the language that they spoke in, making it abundantly clear that language is inextricably linked to good customer communication.

Thus, making sure that call centers can provide customers with multilingual support is key to increasing customer retention and brand loyalty. Especially on the back of growing customer expectations of native language support and localization, it is more important than ever to ensure that a brand’s CX continues to improve to meet the needs of its customers by offering multilingual services.

How conversational AI can help overcome linguistic barriers

A natural solution to this problem is one that many businesses have implemented — utilizing artificial intelligence (AI), and natural language processing to bring multilingual support to their contact centers. However, there are challenges, such as the problem of scalability or that such AI assistants can come off as stilted and robotic to customers.

Customers desire human connection and empathy in their conversations, and 71% of consumers believe that it’s important that the brands they support are able to represent them in their native language. This is one of the key differentiators of AI Rudder – to develop AI-powered voice assistants with unmatched linguistic mastery. We believe that with voice AI, businesses may harness the power of voice to supercharge their customer experience.

As a voice AI start-up located in Southeast Asia, our conversational AI assistants can understand and speak more than 16 languages and regional accents. In conversations with customers, they can also automatically switch between multiple languages, ensuring that multilingual customers can best communicate their needs without language barriers getting in the way. These nuances in our technology ensure that customers will receive intuitive, empathetic customer service, and maintain a human touch throughout their conversations.

For instance, AI Rudder’s customers in Indonesia have implemented AI-powered voice assistants to communicate with their customers. In addition to speaking to customers in Bahasa Indonesia, our voice AI solution is able to understand and communicate in multiple Indonesian dialects. AI Rudder has worked closely with our Indonesian customers to leverage these language capabilities of voice AI, helping them reach and activate a broader consumer base from diverse communities, and improving their overall customer experience.

The opportunity to celebrate diversity and build communities

Of course, voice AI assistants are not the be-all and end-all solution to overcoming linguistic barriers. Businesses still need to train human agents to take over more complex and sensitive calls, as well as ensure that their contact centre operations can be scaled to support operations in other geographies.

Today, voice AI technology is one of the most promising tools that businesses can use to aid their brand in building a broad and diverse customer base. Instead of struggling to overcome language barriers, voice AI gives brands the opportunity to celebrate linguistic diversity and connect communities that have otherwise been excluded from the mainstream due to the language they speak.

As customers begin to feel more seen and heard by connecting with them in their native languages, this only serves to increase the trust and satisfaction they have towards a brand, benefitting business growth in the long run.