One in six Americans currently have a smart speaker, and 30 percent of smart speaker owners report that the device is taking up time they’d otherwise spend watching TV. It’s no longer enough for a brand to just advertise through smart speakers – companies need to be a real-time resource for their audience through audio platforms as well.
The future of touchless interfaces
Whether customers choose Alexa, Siri, or Google to read them the weather and play music, smart speakers have become a necessity in the homes and lifestyles of plenty. Gartner predicted that by the end of last year, 30 percent of all of our interactions with technology will be through “conversations” with artificially intelligent machinery and eMarketer estimates that the number of US users will grow by 129 percent this year. Rather than take the time to look up information on a computer or even a smartphone, VUI gives consumers access to information instantly and fit our propensity for multitasking.Some brands such as the airline KLM have realized the potential of voice-activated customer interactions, letting consumers book and change flights simply by talking to their smart device. They even offer a packing assistant that reminds users not to forget certain travel essentials, delivers weather updates, and recommends products specific to the user’s travel itinerary. But KLM is an outlier. Deterred by the difficulties and setbacks that come with any new technological frontier, too many brands aren’t taking full advantage of the customer service benefits that touchless interfaces present.
Most AI still can’t pick up on tones of voice or inflection the way a human agent can, and smart speakers often misunderstand regional dialects, synonyms, and the context of commands. Think of how often you’ve had to correct Siri when you ask it to call your aunt Sally and it dials your friend Callie. Smart speakers also must be activated by certain “wake” words and commands and don’t always follow human thought patterns. It’s understandable that brands would opt for human customer support agents to avoid the confusion and frustration that are an inherent side effect of VUI’s technological limitations.
Why messaging is the answer
Fortunately, there’s a natural line of assistance that brands can implement. By integrating messaging apps with VUI, consumers can have a much more natural and organic conversation with agents through smart devices. Apps pair the ease and convenience of VUI with the expertise and understanding that only human agents can bring. Eighty-one percent of consumers have higher digital customer service expectations than they did last year, and as technology evolves, this number will likely grow. Consumers’ patience for long hold times on the phone and email response delays is waning, and 66 percent of consumers will even switch brands if their service experience is poor. A consumer’s opinion of a brand comes from a sum of all of the experiences they have with that brand, and customer service interactions play a starring role in influencing customer’s opinion. It’s up to agents to provide the knowledgeable, easy, real-time assistance that consumers expect, a task that’s near to impossible without the use of messaging apps.
"It’s up to agents to provide the knowledgeable, easy, real-time assistance that consumers expect, a task that’s near to impossible without the use of messaging apps."
One thing is certain: VUI isn’t going anywhere. When your audience calls upon Alexa or Siri for help, the brands that integrate messaging apps will have an advantage in providing reliable, accurate care and thus ensuring consumer loyalty.