By 2020, 30% of searches will be carried out without a keyboard or screen1. Customers will talk to their devices, skipping the “tedious” process of typing or scrolling through information. Empowered by voice technology, data from past interactions, and pre-set commands, the devices understand a handful of phrases to answer questions, make purchases, and even get dinner going so it’s hot by the time they get home.
It sounds like a scene from Star Trek, but voice recognition is already being used by some brands to transform the customer experience.
Voice technology in banking
Skip the tedium of providing PINS and being shunted from one department to another.
The Spanish bank Santanders mobile app lets you log in and give a short voice command: “Pay Paulo $100 tomorrow.” The app will execute your request. You can also ask for your latest transactions and report a lost card. The Swedish retail bank Swedbank also employs “Nina”, an intelligent virtual assistant who answers website queries in a conversational way.
HSBC, Barclays, Citi and Manulife are also using voice biometrics to validate your identity when you call.
The impact on customer experience: Your voice is now your password. This eliminates the waiting and friction customers experience when they verify their data and explain their concerns to customer reps. No more typing or scrolling on sites or devices without keyboards and no more phone trees. Just tell the digital assistant what you want.
Voice technology in leisure and hospitality
Hilton partnered with IBM to create “Connie”, a digital concierge who answers customer questions like “Where is the Elm conference room?” or “What time does the dinner buffet start?” At the Henn na Hotel in Nagasaki Japan, you’ll find a front desk “manned” by robots using facial and voice recognition software to help you check in. The robots can translate languages and have encyclopedic knowledge of the area. The travel portal, Kayak also uses voice-enabled, natural language technology to help travelers pinpoint their next trip.
The impact on customer experience: The entire leisure industry is built on pampering the customer with round-the-clock service. You shouldn’t have to lift a finger – even if it’s only to swipe for information on your phone. Tourists can create a completely personalized experience, down to getting info in your native tongue, to instant instructions to the nearest family-friendly restaurant in your budget.
The smart home
Whirlpool has teamed up with Alexa for voice-activated appliances. You can ask your oven how long you need to preheat it, and it will remind you that your pie will be ready in five minutes. Amazon is also in a race with Google Assistant and Apple Siri-powered Homepod to provide the best voice-controlled smart phone. Then there’s the more specific players — like Canada’s Ecobee vs Nest. The (not uncontroversial) Japanese company Gatebox has created a holographic anime character who recognizes voice commands. She will get you out of bed, remind you to bring an umbrella due to rain, as well as set home temperature and lighting levels.
The impact on customer experience: So far voice technology and Internet of Things promises a new level of convenience and customization. Home is home because of a hundred personal and familiar things, from how warm you like your bedroom to be, and how many eggs your family can finish in a week. As machines learn what you like, and then gain the voice technology to take commands and decipher what you mean, brands feel less like a purchase and more like a concierge who works hard to make your life easier.
Just say the word
It’s no wonder that brands are now using and investing in voice.
According to an eMarketer survey of business executives, 30% are already using these solutions. “More and more online experiences are prioritizing voice as a method for interaction,” said Dr Chris Brauer, director of innovation at Goldsmiths, University of London. “Smart IoT (Internet of Things) devices, from lights to kitchen appliances, will function far more effectively using voice than through a screen. There is potential for the slow demise of the screen as an interaction methodology, and brands will have to think about how they position themselves in a voice-dominated world of interaction.”2
In the same article, UK Head of Sales for Bing Ads Ravleen Beeston said, “[Voice] captures long queries and more complex questions, painting a more detailed picture of its user and their needs. This enables the user interface to act in an anticipatory manner, predicting what consumers want or need—for brands, this trust and reliance help bring them closer to their customers. And with trust comes increased use, enabling it to become smarter and, therefore, produce better results.”
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