Voice assistants in customer dialog: Service on Demand
They control household appliances, play your favorite music, read the news, and do many other useful things: voice assistants are taking up an important place in our lives. This is opening up many new opportunities for customer dialog.
In 2011, Apple integrated the first voice assistant into a smartphone. Since then, Siri has been setting up phone calls, making note of appointments and finding things on Wikipedia in response to voice commands. A smartphone can do all these things without the charming computer voice – but Siri and her descendants Alexa, Cortana and Bixby are nevertheless becoming a familiar part of our living rooms and our daily lives. In the study “Conversational Commerce: Why Consumers Are Embracing Voice Assistants in Their Lives” by Capgemini, which involved more than 5,000 consumers from the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany, 51 percent of respondents claimed to regularly use virtual voice assistants – and this number is increasing.
There are several reasons for this. For one thing, digital assistants are constantly improving how they process requests. “Technology is at a turning point: voice assistants are finally able to compete with human speech recognition,” says Martin Arnoldy, Head of Sector Consumer Products, Retail & Distribution at Capgemini Germany. Secondly, voice assistants are very handy. The user doesn’t need to pick up a device or type into an interface. What’s more, the ecosystem of services and devices is growing, which means the capabilities and possible fields of application of digital helpers are also growing.
Over the past year, Ford and Amazon have started collaborating to make Alexa a pre-installed passenger in some models. At this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, several new partnerships regarding Alexa were announced. Samsung is working on integrating its virtual assistant Bixby into televisions and other devices. And the American company Kohler, which has manufactured sinks, baths and toilets, among other things, for almost 150 years, has just introduced a new range of smart products with voice technology. If you want to take a relaxing bath, now you just have to say the word…
Voice assistants in customer dialog
How can companies use this technology for their dialog with customers? One thing is clear: in the future, many consumers will prefer to contact a business via voice assistant, rather than making a phone call or sending a written message. This has a major advantage: the digital assistant already knows some of the customer’s personal data and can take it into account during the inquiry, meaning that the customer doesn’t need to give this information again. Simple issues like a change of address or buying additional services on an existing contract can be automatically dealt with by the assistant. The result is less work for customer service and lower costs. For more complex issues, voice assistants will soon be able to call on human help too and direct the customer to a support specialist in a service center.
Voice assistants are also beneficial for technical support, because the user has both hands free to carry out the service instructions. Analysts at Gartner estimate that by 2020, a quarter of customer service will be done by virtual assistants. However, this also includes chatbots. But voice assistants are a good channel to customers in other ways too, and not just when they need service. According to the results of a recent study by Adobe Digital Insights, 22 percent of Americans who own one of these devices also use them for shopping. And naturally, Alexa and other assistants can also be used in the business environment .
Creating the required conditions
In light of all this, companies should incorporate voice assistants into their operative and strategic planning right now. It’s important to bear a few things in mind, however, otherwise the consumer and assistant will have nothing to say to each other. Integrating voice assistants into more and more everyday devices makes things ever more complex for the provider. This can mean expensive implementation of the same content multiple times, especially when a business intends to be represented in several ecosystems at once.
However, once the systems are implemented, there are a wealth of advantages – although through conversation, the assistant can’t offer the visual support that a website can, which is a challenge for creating customer-orientated dialog. Last but not least, data protection is an important issue. In a study by the German Digital Media Association (BVDW), a fifth of respondents had no concerns whatsoever regarding the use of assistants, but 1 in 3 people worried that their data might be misused or monitored by others.
An experienced service provider can help avoid these pitfalls. For example, the technology platform Arvato Conversational AI makes it possible to design the interaction with the customers once and then transfer it to different voice-assistant ecosystems. This avoids implementing the same thing multiple times, simplifies the maintenance of the system and contributes to a consistent customer journey.
Author: Editorial team Future. Customer. Image: Adobe Stock