By Karen Scates

Dec 16, 2019

The Impact of Voice Assistants on Customer Loyalty

This is the third in a series of blogs designed to make adopting a voice AI strategy seem less like embarking on a mission to Mars and more like the next step on your product roadmap. The first two blogs: “The Mission to Find Your Brand’s Voice” and “Make Your Voice Assistant Discoverable and Increase Adoption” addressed the challenges of initiating a voice strategy and increasing user adoption. Now, let’s look at what it takes to successfully launch and expand your voice-first solutions.

Companies looking to add voice AI to their products, devices, or apps often look to first answer the question of potential ROI. While there are many ways to show return on an investment in voice, the greatest value of having a voice user interface may come from increased customer loyalty and brand affinity.

Leveraging a voice assistant to grow customer loyalty requires a certain commitment to humanizing the interactions and customizing experiences. When voice is integrated into the total brand experience, people will build personal relationships in a way that traditional branding efforts can’t accomplish.

When designing for voice as an extension of your brand, consider these key elements:

  1. Empathy
  2. Consistency and Identity
  3. Authenticity

Creating greater empathy with voice AI

The brands we interact with as consumers have become a reflection of who we are. When we are able to connect with a brand on a personal level, we feel understood — and this helps create a deeper connection. Voice assistants are taking customer relationships to the next level, introducing a level of humanity never before possible. Through voice, brands can express humor and relatability, be empathetic and even inspirational. Tone, pitch, and rate of speech combine to become the brand’s “voice” in the market.

According to a recent study by researchers at Apple, voice assistants that mirror the conversational style of the user are more trustworthy and likable. With this in mind, brands need to work toward designing voice assistants that more closely reflect the unique aspects that define their customers. To more precisely understand their consumer’s characteristics, market leaders are looking to data to help them define audiences.

Voice assistants are taking customer relationships to the next level, introducing a level of humanity never before possible.

Marketers have understood the benefit of targeting their communications to a specific persona — an amalgamation of one type of customer imagined as a single individual. More recently, those communications have become even more personalized through the use of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) tactics. Just as these methods are based on knowledge of the customer and prospect base formed through data and analytics, so should your voice assistant be designed to reflect customer data.

Audience data can come from anywhere, but the most informative data is gathered through the actual interactions between the customer and the voice assistant. When you give your product identity to a third-party, such as Alexa or Google, they make the connections you were meant to make. Ultimately, you may give away more than brand affinity as these providers will have all the information they need to make your customers their own.

The data you gather from your custom voice assistant will help you answer these questions:

  • Where are users becoming frustrated?
  • What additional functions are they expecting that aren’t yet included?
  • At what point does the voice assistant fail to respond?
  • How are users speaking to the VUI (are they using natural language or stilted robotic phrases?)
  • What are areas for further user education?
  • How can the voice assistant offer more value?

When you own your data, your voice assistant can serve as the voice of the customer — answering customer questions while reporting back about user frustrations and proposed areas of improvement. As an integral part of your team, your VUI can create the internal and external connections that build brand consistency and customer allegiance.

Brand identity and consistency with voice experiences

Get marketing and branding teams on board as early as possible to help plan your voice-first strategy. A voice assistant designed in response to market needs and customer expectations will become an integral element of your branding efforts. A VUI designed without the benefit of branding will be less likely to create connections that resonate with your customers and prospects.

Like most personal communications, interactions with voice assistants begin with addressing the device or product by name. Choosing a name to wake up your voice assistant may be more critical than you might first imagine. In fact, the name of your VUI might be one of the most critical branding decisions you make. While it’s easy to change a color, a tag line, or a sound meant to garner positive emotions toward your product, changing a name is akin to renaming the company or a child.

The name of your voice assistant will be part of the phrase used to wake it up and will help people to make personal connections. Partnering with experts in voice AI will help you understand some of the pitfalls to avoid at this stage.

Here are a few things to consider as you embark on designing a custom, branded wake word or hotword:

  • How does your voice assistant’s name communicate your unique brand attributes?
  • Will your assistant’s voice have a gender? Which one and why? Have you considered a gender-neutral voice?
  • Will you use your brand name as the name of the assistant or in the wake word or something else?
  • Will the wake word cause false positives?
  • Does your wake phrase contain any words that are offensive in other languages?

Once you’ve decided on the parameters of your wake word, you’ll want to make sure that all aspects of your voice assistant are optimized to match the needs of your users. Your voice interface isn’t simply a replacement for other types of interfaces. In some cases, voice will work side-by-side with a screen display. In others, voice will be the primary interface. No matter where or how your voice assistant will be used, your primary goal should be to exceed customer expectations and deliver experiences not available from the competition.

Authentic voice experiences

A voice assistant that accurately reflects your company’s values and mission makes your users feel like you’re being authentic and “real” with them. Amplify this opportunity by providing voice experiences that are truly conversational — not simply speech recognition technology that requires robotic interactions. When your users forget they are talking to a machine and begin to relate to your product as they would your most experienced customer service or sales representative, you’re likely to establish a relationship that results in an experience that people want to repeat.

Creating authentic and memorable interactions with a voice assistant requires getting past the transactional nature of many voice assistants today. As people begin using voice interfaces in more aspects of their lives, they will naturally expect those interactions to become more natural and conversational — and less command and response oriented. Brands interested in leading their markets have an opportunity to create dialogues between voice assistants and their customers that sound more like the way you’d talk to another human being. The technology exists to move us beyond robot speak to real conversations and extraordinary interactions.

Creating authentic and memorable interactions with a voice assistant requires getting past the transactional nature of many voice assistants today.

Exceptional voice experiences begin with a level of natural language understanding (NLU) not available in all solutions. Houndify’s Speech-to-Meaning™ technology has taken the science of natural language to the next level with a unique technology that seamlessly combines Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) both working simultaneously. Working in much the same way as the human brain processes speech, this advanced technology accelerates the rate of understanding and the accuracy of results.

Of course, you’ll want to ensure that your voice interface is optimized for all aspects of your audience’s experience before it’s released into the market. This includes designing for personality as well as the context in which the user will be using your product or device.

When industry experts talk about the future of voice AI, they often mention the need for better, more natural user interactions. Branded, customized voice assistants that talk to your customers will have the desired effect of creating customer loyalty and affection for the voice of your brand.

Increasing customer loyalty and gaining market share through a voice-first strategy requires that your customers learn to rely on your voice assistant and view it as necessary to their lives. Meaning that your voice user interface must be conversational and responsive and deliver frictionless customer experiences. All that requires designing a VUI that provides fast, accurate responses, exceeds the most basic levels of voice interaction, is branded, and is personalized for your audience.

If you’re looking for more ways to monetize and drive value from your investment in voice AI, our guide, “Overcoming the Top 3 Challenges of Voice AI” has more advice from experts and early adopters.

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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