Innovation, Learning

Our First Set of Conversation Designers – Nurul and Su

Published 03 Sep 2019 by Isabelle Yuen


Nurul'ayn Binte Haji Mohammad Yusof and Su Noorsuzana have both been with Singtel's Customer Service for 8 years. In November 2018, they were nominated by their managers to become our first set of conversation designers in the Shirley 2.0 project, which marked the next stage of Singtel's digitalisation journey in our Consumer Operations team.

We had a chat with them to learn more about their experience in this new role.

Q. What is a conversation designer?
A.
Our role was to build our chat bot Shirley. We did this by anticipating common questions from customers and paraphrasing our own words to input into Shirley, helping her better understand what customers are asking, and to make her sound more human.

Q.
Why were you interested to participate in this project?
A.
Nowadays, everyone goes online for customer support, myself included. I don’t want to call 1688 (Singtel IT Helpdesk), if I can just resolve the issue via chat messaging. That's the stage that we're moving towards. This was also a project we took on with a challenger spirit, and it gave us an opportunity to do something different from our usual customer service.

Q.
Tell us about your journey as a conversation designer.
A.
At the start, it was difficult as there was no specific script that we could use for each question, given the nature of a human-to-human conversation. What we realised was what we say and what we type is quite different. When we're talking, we don't consciously think about sentence structure and grammar so it was a challenge to paraphrase the verbal instruction and advice we would say into the written text required when building Shirley.

However, as we trained Shirley to provide more effective responses to what customers were looking for by incorporating our product knowledge into the conversations, we saw a steady improvement in the deflection rate. That's how we measure Shirley's effectiveness at responding to customers' question. The progress that we made during this journey was what motivated us to keep going.

Q.
How would you describe AI in layman terms after this experience of being part of the team who built this AI-powered bot?
A.
One can think of approaching AI the same way you approach raising a child. Just as you would slowly teach a child how to eat by repeatedly demonstrating the act of eating using different food items and utensils, one can use AI to train a chat bot to interact better and smarter with customers.

Q.
What was your most memorable moment in this project?
A.
Using AI to train Shirley to better respond to our customers’ questions was like seeing her grow from baby to a toddler. We felt so proud of her when we saw customers writing in to compliment that Shirley is very helpful! This experience has been such an enriching and meaningful one and we are so grateful to be given the opportunity to take on this project.

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