Multi-Assistant Voice AI Strategy
Apr 08, 2021
7 MIN READ

Why Your Brand Needs a Multi-Assistant Voice AI Strategy

What are the top business challenges for creating a voice AI strategy? According to a survey by Opus Research, 38% of business leaders from 8 key industries are struggling with the decision to either build a custom voice assistant or rely on a third-party platform, such as Alexa or Google. These same respondents identified “Having a consistent experience across product lines and company” as the number one factor of their future outlook for voice AI. 

Achieving future goals and delivering on the promise of engaging omnichannel voice experiences requires independence from general purpose voice assistants. Instead, businesses are developing strategies to create multi-purpose, customized voice solutions that can be embedded in hardware, serve as the voice of customer service, voice-enable mobile apps, and more.

38% of business leaders from 8 key industries are struggling with the decision to either build a custom voice assistant or rely on a third-party platform, such as Alexa or Google.

Opus Research

Voicebot recently reported that as of January 2020, 87.7 million U.S. adults are using smart speakers—up 32% from the year before. The growing adoption of smart speakers in the home, and the knowledge that their customers are already comfortable interacting with third-party interfaces are two factors driving brands to implement voices that aren’t their own. While this strategy may increase initial engagement by providing the familiarity, comfort, and functionality of Alexa or Google, it also requires sacrificing brand awareness and product control.

The angst so many business leaders are feeling around the choice of a voice assistant is easily alleviated by the implementation of a multi-voice assistant strategy. Allowing two or more voice assistants to exist side by side (assuming that one of them is a brand-owned assistant) checks all the boxes for delivering the familiarity and comfort of a known voice user interface without the risks. Without a custom voice assistant as part of the mix, companies face brand dilution, lack of ownership of customer experiences and data, and possible loss of their competitive edge.

If you’re like the two-thirds of Opus survey respondents, who are unsure about the value of a custom voice assistant versus a presence on a third-party app, consider allowing more than one voice assistant to reside in your products.

The angst so many business leaders are feeling around the choice of a voice assistant is easily alleviated by the implementation of a multi-voice assistant strategy. 

Still unsure? Here are 5 reasons a multi-voice assistant strategy might be right for your brand:

  1. Protect your brand identity
  2. Own your product roadmap
  3. Give customers a choice
  4. Multi-channel marketing opportunities
  5. Roadmap to omnichannel voice experiences

Protecting your brand identity and your customers

According to the research conducted by Opus, 78% of companies feel that a custom, branded wake word is essential to their voice AI strategy. Branding the wake word accomplishes more than just enabling a gateway to your voice assistant. It serves as a brand identifier and a bridge between the customer and the company.

A branded wake word also contributes to the consistency of the voice experience and helps to deepen connections with users. When users are talking to your product, a custom wake word opens up all the product functionality and informational domains associated with your product.

Customers feel more secure talking to your voice assistant when they know that the data generated during their interactions with your product won’t be used for marketing or sales efforts by a third-party. 

A branded wake word also contributes to the consistency of the voice experience and helps to deepen connections with users.

In a multi-assistant environment, customers have the ability to invoke their home voice assistant by name to conduct familiar actions. While some users may prefer to access both voice assistants, compelling experiences with the custom voice assistant will likely change behavior over time and lessen dependence on the guest assistant. If the custom assistant can perform the same tasks, complete transactions, and provide faster and more accurate answers, customers will learn to rely more on the branded voice assistant.

Instead of choosing between implementing a third-party platform and your own voice assistant, brands can offer multiple assistant experiences without sacrificing ownership of valuable customer data.

In the past 7 years, Alexa and Google have used the data they’ve collected to expand and improve. In some cases, the data they’ve acquired has given them a competitive advantage over other brands offering similar products and services. 

If the custom assistant can perform the same tasks, complete transactions, and provide faster and more accurate answers, customers will learn to rely more on the branded voice assistant.

Brands who retain ownership of their customer data have the opportunity to use that data to improve voice experiences, discover customer pain points and sentiment, while informing their product and business roadmaps.

Own your product roadmap

Initially, it may seem easier to implement an established voice assistant into your product. Developing a few skills or actions to control your product is a lot easier than designing a custom voice assistant, until it’s time for a product upgrade. If you don’t own the voice user interface, any product changes or updates may be contingent upon the third-party voice assistant provider. In addition, unless you have control over the voice experience, it’s difficult to design product interactions that mimic the way your users would naturally speak or ask for things.

Owning your voice experience means that product updates, improvements to the voice experience, and other changes can be made according to your product and voice roadmaps. If you have to share the key functions of your product with another entity, even if it’s only for voice access, you’re giving away important details of your brand’s technology that may limit your ability to be competitive in the future.

Owning your voice experience means that product updates, improvements to the voice experience, and changes can be made according to your product and voice roadmaps. 

Preserving the proprietary nature of your product’s technology and operational information through a brand-owned voice assistant reduces the risk of unwanted competition. Product updates and voice experience improvements are easier and can be made independent of third-party interference. The voice experience can be designed based on extensive user data to include the geography, languages, accents, specific terms, and the lexicon of your users.

If you’ve chosen a multi-assistant strategy that doesn’t include a custom voice assistant, the challenges of product functionality and updates are multiplied—requiring considerable coordination between organizations and creating a drain on people and resources.

Custom commands and speciality domains help improve the speed and accuracy of brand-owned voice assistants, while delivering experiences tailored to the customer’s unique wants and needs. Partnering with a voice AI platform provider that extends the value of your product or service with an extensive library of domains eliminates the need for a third-party assistant in most instances. 

However, having Alexa or Google onboard can be another selling point for your brand and a way to make your customers feel more comfortable using a voice interface. If you’ve decided on a multi-assistant strategy, it’s important to ensure a third-party voice assistant supplements your customer experience without supplanting it.

Give customers a choice

According to 83% of business leaders surveyed by Opus Research, providing a better customer experience is the top benefit of a voice-enabled product or service. A majority also indicated that they hope to provide consistent customer experiences across product lines in the future. Achieving these goals hinges on having control over the voice experience and the power to decide where it will reside, how it will sound, and what its functionality will be. 

However, a better customer experience may also mean the need to give users the option to make a purchase on Amazon via their Alexa account or invoking Google Nest to check on home security. The key takeaway here is that implementing a voice assistant that provides the convenience of familiar assistants or owning your customer relationships, valuable data, and voice experiences doesn’t have to be a choice—businesses can deliver both.

Establishing a custom voice assistant opens the door to the omnichannel experiences that 62% of business leaders have already included in their voice strategy roadmaps. The common goal of consistent experiences across channels isn’t likely to be realized without brand-owned voice assistants.

Implementing a voice assistant that provides the convenience of familiar assistants or owning your customer relationships, valuable data, and voice experiences doesn’t have to be a choice—businesses can deliver both.

A multi-assistant strategy requires voice AI technology that includes multi-phrase technology, allowing multiple assistants to exist side-by-side—each with their own wake word or wake phrase. Using this technology, brands can create multiple wake phrases in one model with minimal CPU impact—thus avoiding burdening local systems. Once implemented, users can trigger their voice assistant of choice without interrupting the flow of the conversation.

The common goal of consistent experiences across channels isn’t likely to be realized without a brand-owned voice assistant.

Multi-channel marketing opportunities

In some organizations (22%), the marketing team still owns the budget and makes the decisions on voice strategy. In these instances, we can assume that third-party platforms are being used for marketing, advertising, and sales efforts. For many companies, adding a skill or action onto Alexa, Google, or other platform is a first step into the voice-first era. The next step typically involves voice-enabling a mobile app—according to the research.

While a marketing-only approach to voice technology has worked for some companies in the past, it’s becoming clear that this strategy for voice is not going to be sustainable in the future. Budgets are shifting to the R&D, innovation, and engineering teams for the majority of companies (72%). Along with the shift, is a focus on the benefits and measurable value of brand-owned voice assistants. 

In many companies, the relative newness of the technology is creating a disconnect between teams. According to the analysts at Opus research, survey results revealed, “a lack of communication and the need for project managers to communicate the value of voice assistants up the corporate structure to inform goals set by departmental and C-level executives in marketing, sales, and advertising.”

While a marketing-only approach to voice technology has worked for some companies in the past, it’s becoming clear that this strategy for voice is not going to be sustainable in the future.

Aligning goals and moving from a “marketing only” strategy will require a muti-assistant approach that meets the needs of the product and customer support teams for a consistent, branded experience. In parallel, brands must consider the marketing team’s desire to expand messaging channels through available voice assistant platforms. Solving for both of these needs is easily accomplished with a multi-assistant voice AI strategy.

A voice experience with room for growth

If you’re like 67% of companies, you’ve already implemented a voice strategy of some type—the majority started with a voice-enabled mobile app. From there, a custom voice assistant gives you room to grow your voice footprint.

Create a consistent experience by adding the same voice assistant resident in your mobile app into your product hardware, customer call center, or internal operations. Similar experiences across channels will help cement customer relationships and encourage brand affinity.

If you’re like 67% of companies, you’ve already implemented a voice strategy of some type—the majority started with a voice-enabled mobile app.

If your research reveals that the best voice experience for your customers includes access to Alexa or Google, add them as auxiliary voices to your branded experience. Their presence beside your own voice assistant won’t interfere with your ability to update your products or grow your voice experience into new channels. 

“Opus Research has made the empirical observation that implementing VAs on smart speakers effectively fragments concerted efforts to maintain brand consistency. Brands must maintain separate projects surrounding an Amazon Alexa skill, a Google Action, and so on—while building custom voice assistants that meet the unique needs of their users.”

– Research Report

Recently, Opus Research published a research report based on a global survey of 320 business leaders in 8 industries conducted to get the pulse of the state of voice assistant implementation and the trends toward custom voice AI solutions. You can read the report in its entirety and see the on-demand webinar to learn, “The Business Value of Customized Voice Assistants”.

Interested in learning more insights from the report?  Visit our blog to read:

At SoundHound Inc., we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore Houndify’s independent voice AI platform at Houndify.com and register for a free account. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

Karen Scates is a storyteller with a passion for helping others through content. Argentine tango, good books and great wine round out Karen’s interests.

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