Choose the right technology partner for your voice assistant
May 02, 2021
7 MIN READ

How to Choose the Right Voice AI Technology Partner for Your Voice Assistant

In a recent VUX World podcast, “How we Built the ‘Hey Mercedes’ Voice Assistant,”  host Kane Sims and Mihai Antonescu, Group Product Manager, Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, discussed the world-class MBUX infotainment system, and the custom voice assistant that was first launched in the A-Class in 2019 and is now available in a range of Mercedes-Benz models, including the C-Class, E-Class, and new S-Class.

During the show, Mihai gave advice to anyone implementing a custom voice assistant:

  1. Start with knowing your customer and market
  2. Think about whether your offering is strong enough to support a voice assistant
  3. Choose the right partners

Here’s a snippet from the podcast:

Knowing the criteria for selecting the right vendor, technology provider, and even life partner is key to making a decision that will result in a lasting and fruitful relationship. If you’re unsure where to start, here are 5 keys to making sure you choose a voice technology partner that will help you achieve the types of results top brands like Mercedes-Benz are enjoying.

1. Match your customer’s needs to knowledge domain availability 

Before you embark on developing a voice assistant, you’ll need detailed customer data, including geographical location, an understanding of your customer’s unique needs and challenges, which languages they speak, which accents are common, and how you can best serve them. Putting the customer at the center of your voice assistant development is critical to a successful outcome, helping to first create your voice AI strategy and then keeping it on track.

When you begin looking for a voice AI technology partner, you’ll need to know a lot more about your customers and prospects than you already know. Important consumer research includes identifying core use cases for your voice assistant. Core use cases are the questions and requests your users are most likely to ask. Getting these right from the beginning will set the stage for establishing trust with customers and increase adoption rates along the way. Once you’ve gained their trust, customer satisfaction and increased engagement normally follow. Of course, you’ll need to provide customer education and onboarding as you would with any product or service.

Putting the customer at the center of your voice assistant development is critical to a successful outcome, helping to first create your voice AI strategy and then keeping it on track.

Voice experiences are dependent as much upon the availability of the right information and functionality as they are on the underlying technology. The right combination of public and private domain knowledge will increase the accuracy and usefulness of your voice assistant, while delivering a unique, branded experience. In addition to an extensive library of existing  public content domains, seek a voice AI partner who can help you develop private domains and custom commands. 

Deep knowledge of your users and the right partner can help you create experiences that respond to the unique phrasing of your users and understand the lexicon associated with your product or industry. Customizable commands give you the flexibility to meet your customer’s needs without asking them to rethink how they naturally ask for things.

Knowing your audience and putting them at the center of your voice assistant strategy is a critical first step to finding the right voice technology partner—one who can help you meet your customer’s unique needs for information and product functionality.

2. Find a scalable and customizable voice AI technology platform

Knowing why you’re embarking on a voice-first strategy is critical to choosing the right partner. You’ll want your voice technology partner to understand your business goals and work to help you achieve them. 

In a recent survey of 320 business leaders across a variety of industries, Opus Research reported that respondents rated better customer service, improved customer satisfaction, and hands-free access as the top benefits to their end-users and the reasons they decided to include voice as an interface. Your reasons may be the same, or they may be very different, the key is to determine your goals and proceed from there.

Once you’ve established KPIs, determine where your voice assistant will reside. Long-term plans should probably include all channels, including mobile devices, customer service centers, and even your website. Depending on the strength of your product, that same voice can add functionality and convenience for your users through voice control with or without cloud connectivity.

The majority of respondents to the survey had already implemented a voice user interface on their mobile apps. Since the hardware already exists—and most brands already have a mobile experience—adding a voice assistant to existing mobile apps can be an easy first step to embarking on a voice-first strategy..

If you’re just now getting started, or even if you’ve already implemented a voice-enabled app or device, find a partner with scalable technology. Together, develop a voice assistant roadmap that allows your company to grow a branded voice experience that extends across all your channels.

Adding a voice assistant to existing mobile apps can be an easy first step to embarking on a voice-first strategy.

Global companies with products and services available in multiple countries or even in more than one region in the US, will want to find a partner that can offer a voice assistant that will provide accurate answers, even in the presence of imprecise speech, accented language, and multiple languages.

3. Get buy-in across the organization

The recent Opus Research survey found that respondents in different areas of the organization had varying opinions about the voice roadmap. Every respondent except the C-level executives plan to invest in voice ads and voice-enabled shopping, especially engineering leads. Still, the C-Suite considers monetization a higher priority than other goals, like brand awareness and increased convenience. When it comes to whether or not the voice assistant will have varying cloud connectivity, there is little consensus among teams. Even the importance of a custom wake word is in dispute, depending on the respondent’s position on the org chart.

While the voice AI initiative can begin anywhere in the organization, implementing one that meets overall business goals as well as departmental goals requires some consensus about the present and future plans for the voice user interface. 

For many companies in the beginning stages of building their first voice experiences, it may be tempting to develop the voice AI roadmap along the way. Although there will be room for iterations as the voice assistant is in development, those changes should be a result of user data and not fluctuations within the company. If teams cannot gain consensus on the voice assistant roadmap within the organization, it will be even harder to communicate with a voice technology partner. 

The right voice AI platform provider can help lead your organization in the development of a voice strategy that fits your goals. Using knowledge gained by working with top companies, voice AI experts will help by asking the right questions and guiding your roadmap. In other words, if delivering a consistent brand experience is important to all your stakeholders, then shouldn’t your voice experience begin with a custom wake word?

If teams cannot gain consensus on the voice assistant roadmap within the organization, it will be even harder to communicate with a voice technology partner. 

When monetization is an important element of measuring the business value for your company, you need a partner who can offer opportunities to develop voice-enabled shopping, voice ads, or other monetization strategies. Ask your potential partner in voice how they envision monetization on your investment in the future.

4. Compare short-term costs to long-term value

Adding a voice assistant to your company roadmap is an investment in time and resources. While developing an assistant in partnership with an independent voice AI platform provider will take less time than developing one yourself, creating customized experiences takes time. There are no near-term shortcuts that result in long-term savings.

Realizing the imperative to voice-enable their hardware, mobile apps, and services, some companies are opting to insert branded third-party platforms, like Google or Alexa, as their voice assistants. While the relative costs of using these platforms may provide some early cost savings, the loss of customer data and relationships may hobble these brands from meeting the needs of their customers in the future.

Creating customized experiences takes time. There are no near-term shortcuts that result in long-term savings.

Companies that started implementing voice assistant experiences in the last three years are already measuring value through improved Customer Satisfaction (CST) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS), according to Opus Research. Depending on the industry, some are growing their market share through inclusivity and greater access to their products.

Next steps for these brands are more monetization opportunities, increased product sales, and growth in customer satisfaction and brand loyalty that will continue to have a direct impact on the bottom line.

Choosing a voice AI technology partner with superior technology and a strong roadmap of its own will serve as an insurance policy against future irrelevancy. While large companies with legacy technology may seem like the sure bet, recent arrivals with platforms built on newer, proprietary technology will be poised for a future where we interact with everything around us the same way we do each other—by talking.

5. Choose collaboration and responsiveness

What do existing and past partners say about the voice AI partner you’re considering? Most companies can get some positive feedback from any business partner. However, testimonials—like voice assistants—are not all created equal. Listen to what existing partners are saying about the voice AI provider. Do they emphasize the technology, the working experience, and the result? In addition to providing the technology the meets your goals and exceeds customer expectations, you’ll want a true business partner who shares your urgency, understands your goals, and can provide the expertise you’ll need.

Here are some keywords to watch for in customer testimonials:

  • Collaborative
  • Fast to respond
  • Easy iterations
  • Extensive knowledge
  • Expert team

If you’re considering implementing a custom voice assistant for your brand, get your technology partner on board early in the process. They should have the experience and expertise that will help you determine your approach to a voice user interface and help you carry it through.

A few years ago, voice assistants provided a novel experience for users who were surprised and delighted when a device would understand what they said and respond with a reasonably accurate answer. Today, the voice experience has moved from a nice-to-have feature to a necessity for all brands, and the companies already implementing voice assistants in at least one channel have the advantage. Organizations who have yet to get on board need to assess their audiences and make a decision within the next two years, or risk being left behind. Having the right voice AI technology partner will help.

At SoundHound Inc. we have the technology and the expertise to help any brand get started with voice AI. 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 you bring your voice strategy to life.

You can hear the VUX World podcast in its entirety here, or get help creating your conversational AI strategy in less than a week with a conversational automation sprint.

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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