The AI Messaging Platform Revolutionising Social Commerce: A Chat with Asnawi Jufrie, VP & GM of SleekFlow

Written by
Aaron Oh
Last Modified on
May 13, 2024

There used to be a time when phone calls were the gold standard for customer communication. Not anymore, it seems. SleekFlow, the conversational AI messaging platform promises a better customer journey and experience – a game changer for brands. 

This is a world where customer engagements flow seamlessly across every messaging channel, driven by cutting-edge conversational AI, empowering companies to do more with less. SleekFlow is shaping this future with over 5,000 clients in 120 regions globally across industries, and at the heart of it all lies a fundamental belief: people are key. 

Aspire sat down with Asnawi Jufrie, VP and GM for Southeast Asia, to talk about SleekFlow’s journey on building a client-centric business, the power of chat-first strategy, and the importance of company culture and employee well-being. He believes that SleekFlow's success hinges on its talented team, who are passionate about their work and share a common purpose.

Aspire: As one of SleekFlow's key hires, how has your experience at Salesforce helped in your role as SleekFlow's Country GM for Singapore?

Asnawi Jufrie: I started in Salesforce as a BDA (business development associate). People often think there’s not much you can learn at the entry level. But I believe otherwise. It doesn't matter what position you're in, it's about how much you want to take from the role and give in return.

Although my BDA role was quite straightforward, I maximised the seven months there by engaging in many coffee talks.  I was very curious and went around meeting almost everybody. Those conversations served as good training from all the leaders who were incredibly open to sharing their insights. Gaining perspectives from different facets of the business actually enhanced my understanding of SaaS, sales, marketing, customer success, and support, which helped shape my view as a leader.

My initial ambition wasn't to become a GM right away. I simply wanted to learn and that built my foundations. We all want to build a Burj Khalifa, or to become CEOs or founders. But if you have a weak foundation, you can still build a house, but it won’t be a Burj Khalifa. Instead, it would be more like a small kampong. 

Building a solid foundation and understanding things at the onset is crucial. These elements greatly influence how I run my team and develop the GDM (global delivery model) functions across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and in new markets like India and Pakistan. My experience with Salesforce has been instrumental in preparing me for my role as GM of Sleekflow today.

Aspire: SleekFlow triangulates customer engagement and experience through various touchpoints. What methods/strategies have yielded the best results for companies looking to improve the customer experience journey?

Asnawi Jufrie: The most important thing is to invest in a chat-first strategy. People see chat as just support or for B2C (business-to-customer), but it’s so much more. Everyone uses chat day-to-day. Not just to talk to their friends and loved ones but to communicate with businesses as well. Every brand uses chat. Your clients and your partners are always on WhatsApp.

Brands need to pivot from considering emails and phone calls as their business tools to recognising WhatsApp and chat as valuable assets. You can use chat for lead generation and lead qualification using automation. In addition, it can be used in lead retargeting and nurturing. Simply put, chat is another revenue driver for your business.

On the sales side, what if you can use chat to improve your speed to lead? When we get a lead, instead of calling and emailing, most people use WhatsApp first. What if you can automate that process in WhatsApp? The moment a lead fills up a form, instead of having someone manually respond, it can be automated.

The next thing is to examine how you collaborate. Many customers I talk to will have different functional teams speaking with various stakeholders via different chats. What if you can pull people into one conversation and they can see the entire context? That saves a lot of time.

Aspire: Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. What has SleekFlow learned about itself through its evolution?

Asnawi Jufrie: First, trust in yourself. That’s the most important thing. For me, personally, when I landed in the role, I was the first person here. I was everything—sales, SDR (sales development representative, CSM, customer support, partnerships, and marketing. You’ve got to trust that you have what it takes to drive growth and do what you need to.

Number two is to trust the process. Let's say you aim to achieve double revenue growth or hit X amount of revenue, such as ARR (annual recurring revenue) or MRR (monthly recurring revenue). That’s the goal. However, you must establish a process to attain that. You need to delineate and work backwards.

Consider this: if you want to hit X amount of revenue, how many qualified opportunities must you generate? With that number of qualified opportunities, how many meetings do you need to schedule? And with those meetings, how much engagement do you require? Then, how many emails must you send out to achieve that engagement level? To determine that, you need to consider your inbound strategy. How many people are landing on your website, and how effective are your entry points in directing traffic there? Essentially, everything revolves around a process.

Once you have a process, then you delineate, and make assumptions. To elevate this further, what percentage should you target? You must conduct A/B testing for everything. If it doesn’t work, you iterate and change things. What works for a market like Hong Kong may not yield similar results in Southeast Asia. So you try another approach.

If you establish and commit to a process, the outcome will follow. At times, some markets may be up while others are down. I see it akin to a school of killer whales. They ascend to breathe, and sometimes they dive, but they always do it together. You must always believe and trust in the process. So even when things are down, you have the belief to get back up eventually.

Trusting in yourself and the process, you'll be fine. Incrementally, we grow and reach the targets we aim for. This has worked out very well—we've expanded from one region in Hong Kong to now seven regions.

Aspire: Given SleekFlow’s business model, there are tangible use cases for AI. Beyond customer support, how do you see AI impacting the overall customer journey and where do you think online commerce is headed in the next few years?

Asnawi Jufrie: The relationship between AI and humans is similar to the dynamics of Bruce Wayne (Batman) and Alfred. Imagine Alfred is your AI. Alfred may drive the Batmobile, sign off on some paperwork, provide strategic advice to Bruce, and even represent him in some talks. But Alfred is never Bruce, nor is he Batman. So you can think of AI as the Alfred to your Batman. You're always the hero, while the AI remains in the supporting role.

But, AI is not solely for support. It has so many use cases. For instance, one of Sleekflow’s tools is our Flow Builder. It allows you to create a customer journey via any popular chat platform, whether it's WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Line, Telegram, etc. By using AI, you can create and customise the user flow specifically for your brand. So instead of asking ChatGPT, you can ask SleekFlow and our AI can respond like how Alfred assists Bruce.

The second part is data. Consider the interactions and conversations everyone has via chat with some of their clients, partners, and stakeholders. In the future, AI will be able to read this data and help you make good data-driven decisions. It can understand the nuances, analyse what's going on in the chat, and generate an email summary to the customer. AI can recommend options directly to customers without requiring a salesperson. However, for very specific questions or negotiations, AI can prioritise and engage the necessary staff to close the deal.

Aspire: Where the benefits are not immediately apparent, educating the customer can be an uphill battle. What is SleekFlow’s approach towards less tech-savvy businesses or consumers to integrate their offline and online channels?

Asnawi Jufrie: It’s doing more with less. At SleekFlow, we don’t aim to transform every aspect of your process all at once, as that can be daunting. We do it incrementally. The best thing is that most of us are already using WhatsApp on a day-to-day basis. We’re simply transitioning it from personal use to becoming a company asset for your brand and business.

We don’t change processes, rather we enhance them. One person can only do so much. But with automation, whether AI-driven or not, productivity can be multiplied tenfold. So unlike other tech platforms, we’re not undertaking big transformative projects. Instead, Sleekflow is focused on making small changes that significantly impacts your business.

It’s crucial to reframe the narrative for less tech-savvy users: We’re not changing anything; we’re simply enabling you to do more with less. You're still using WhatsApp, Facebook DMs, Instagram DMs—tools you use daily. But instead of managing multiple channels, we can consolidate them into one platform. Nothing fundamentally changes; we enhance functionality, turning you into a multiplier, a Batman with Alfred by your side.

Aspire: Even with a single platform, it can be challenging to maintain consistency in branding and messaging across different channels. What are your key takeaways on ensuring customer engagement is done right?

Asnawi Jufrie: It’s crucial to approach chat strategy holistically as one brand, rather than fragmenting it into different teams like sales, service, marketing, fulfillment, operations, and finance. You must see it as a unified whole, and not just a standalone component. Doing it in different BUs (business units) often leads to discrepancies and clashes.  

The most important thing is internal alignment. Understanding the interplay between sales, marketing, customer success, support, and partnership is critical to creating cohesive flows and orchestrating a chat-first strategy as one company. Leaders need to understand, ‘Hey, when I do this flow, how does this impact other teams?’ Siloed approaches often lead to clashes, disjointed brand messaging, and ineffective and unnatural chat flows.

We call ourselves SleekFlow because we want things to flow as sleek and seamless as possible. Having your customer and business flows in sync provides strong synergies, resulting in coherent messages across sales, marketing, and service domains. This internal harmony is your brand’s foundation for external success.

Aspire: What is the single most important factor that has contributed to SleekFlow’s success?

Asnawi Jufrie: People. People are our most important aspect. Investing in people is investing in your business. We have great talents at SleekFlow. They are hungry, passionate, and purpose-driven to achieve goals greater than themselves. It’s amazing how having the right people enables us to accomplish things beyond our imagination.

When you have the right people and invest in them, you witness the exponential value they bring, the enhanced synergy, the mutual learning, and the collective intellect that propels a brand forward. As the saying goes, you can break a single stick, but a bundle of 20 or 30 sticks is unbreakable. So we strike a balance between the pressures of nurturing a startup and growing a brand while ensuring that our focus remains on serving our people rather than them serving us.  

I truly believe that when you love what you do, cherish the people around you, and enjoy the company of your teammates, productivity naturally flourishes. The most invaluable asset we have at SleekFlow isn’t a product—it’s our people.

Create unique experiences and supercharge your customer engagement with Sleekflow 2.0, the all-in-one omnichannel conversational platform for businesses.

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About the author
Aaron Oh
is a seasoned content writer specialising in finance, insurance and tech industries. With a writing history at S&P Global, EdgeProp, Indeed, Prudential, and others, Aaron leverages finance knowledge and business insights to help businesses improve productivity and performance.
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