Voice technology: the new frontier in customer interaction
New technologies can give a new voice to your business: a voice for interacting with customers that’s powered by AI but very human
A virtual assistant is an application able to understand voice commands and carry out certain tasks for a user.
Virtual assistants are not only changing the way we live our everyday lives, but also the way in which businesses communicate with their customers.
In response to this development, brands have started exploring voice as a channel for interaction, particularly through the use of digital devices.
It’s by no means a trivial phenomenon. Verbal interaction online is something that’s already widely used, especially by young people, in other words millennials and generation Z, who feel comfortable with this easy-to-use and informal technology. Indeed, many predict that in future voice technology will increasingly be used to build relationships with customers.
The situation is even clearer when you look at the data:
- 27% of the global online population uses voice search daily
- 90% think that using voice to find information is much easier than doing so online
- 93% of people are satisfied with their interaction with voice assistants
To truly get the most from these new technologies, you need to know their features and opportunities so that you can tailor a strategy to your business.
The use cases for voice technology
When talking about voice and digital, the first thing that comes to mind is often voice search. Yet voice offers much more than this.
A behavioural revolution is underway online that is having a clear impact on marketing and the way businesses interact with the public.
One such example is voice technology, which enables humans and machines to interact as intuitively and naturally as possible. This technology is the perfect combination of three components that interact with one another.
- Hardware connected to the IoT (Internet of Things)
- Artificial intelligence that processes language and information (AI)
- User experience (UX) design
Its success lies in its naturalness.
As human beings, we’re used to communicating with words and we do so effortlessly. Things become more complicated with writing and other methods of interaction.
Research conducted in 2020 in the United States by eMarketer shows that voice assistants are mainly used to ask for information on the weather, news, music, appointments and recipes; what’s more, 22.7 million Americans use voice commands to make purchases.
When it comes to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to a study by BrightLocal, 58% of people have used voice search to look for information about the location of businesses. Their analysis also shows that consumers want to make greater use of voice technology to:
- Make reservations
- Ask for pricing information
- Discover new products
These numbers confirm an established and growing trend that can’t be ignored.
Differences with similar technologies
As we’ve already touched on, voice technology is based on artificial intelligence that combines natural language processing with machine learning to enable devices to converse in an intelligent and natural way. In fact, voice technology falls under a broader field called conversational AI, which includes all the tools behind conversational experiences with computers, not just those that use voice.
Which brings us to technology that’s already well known in the marketing world: chatbots. But before we go any further, it’s important that make a distinction between conventional chatbots and those based on conversational AI:
- Traditional chatbots work using pre-set keywords and therefore need to be configured manually. For interactions that go beyond these keywords, the system will either direct the user to a physical assistant (for example, a call centre agent) or to other sources of information (for example, a website’s FAQ page) because it won’t be able to provide an answer. Furthermore, interaction only takes place through text input by the user.
- Chatbots based on conversational artificial intelligence are able to process language in messages from customers and respond in a natural way that isn’t pre-packaged. Their greatest strength is that, thanks to AI, they can learn from every conversation and adjust their answers based on experience.
So, it’s clear how these technologies help customers to answer questions, make purchases and get support quickly, while communicating in a natural way, without the use of dedicated staff.
The key tools for building your conversational AI chatbot are Boots.ai and Indigo.ai, which enable you to put together a virtual assistant without having to know how to code. An alternative for those who want to make something more advanced is Dialogflow, the Google platform for creating apps based on conversational AI. This software supports 14 languages and can be integrated into major text and chat platforms.
Audio branding for improving customer relations: what it is and who does it well
An area adjacent to voice technology is audio branding. It’s an aspect that’s gaining more attention because it helps to create a natural, human environment that’s more conducive to interaction as it enables customers to identify with who they’re talking to.
With voice or audio, brands can experiment with new ways of grabbing people’s attention.
We often talk about the importance of defining a brand’s characteristics and personality. This includes defining tone of voice, which is fundamental in the emerging field of voice technology. Here, branding must focus on audio identity, which has almost the same importance as graphic design in overall brand identity.
All this will help improve the customer’s experience and their perception of the company and brand by drawing on a number of key elements.
- Tones or sound effects on your website, in your app or in your products (including packaging). One agency that does this well and has been talking about audio branding for some time is Audio UX. The firm works with customers to create sounds that best represent their identity and fully express the character of their products.
- Smart speakers can be used to design dedicated apps and offer people a different user experience. This is exactly what popular Italian recipe site Giallo Zafferano has done. It lets you follow recipes step by step through Google Assistant, giving you ingredients, cooking times and practical tips, as if you had a sous chef with you in your kitchen.
- Playlists shared through Spotify or Amazon Music can also be used to promote your brand’s personality. This is what Barilla had done with Boom Bap Fusilli, a playlist that ends when it’s time to drain your pasta, helping you to cook it perfectly al dente.
The companies that can offer this type of experience through voice technology and audio branding will have an edge when it comes to building strong customer relationships in tomorrow’s marketplace.