Cross-Department Voice AI Buy-In
May 18, 2021
7 MIN READ

Why Getting Stakeholder Buy-In is Crucial for a Successful Voice-First Strategy

Since their introduction into the marketplace as part of the Apple iphone ten years ago, voice assistants have proliferated in our homes and cars and are increasingly showing up in contact centers, IoT devices, and mobile apps. 

According to a recent survey by Opus Research, an overwhelming majority (80%) of the two-thirds of companies that have already implemented or are in the process of implementing a voice assistant did so in the last three years. The research also revealed that there is a lack of consensus up and down the corporate structure making the atmosphere around adoption of voice technology a little confusing.

Currently, voice experience strategies include a variety of approaches and have been initiated from a wide range of departments across organizations. In the last three years, companies have shifted from solely addressing the technical side of implementing a voice assistant to focusing on how voice AI can improve customer experiences at every touchpoint. The trends toward omni-channel voice experiences are creating a greater need for company-wide buy-in and communication.

If you’re in the 67% of those already implementing a voice assistant or if you’re among the 33% who have not yet begun, it’s time to build consensus. Begin by designing a voice roadmap that matches overall corporate goals and helps accomplish the KPIs set by marketing, product, and customer service departments.

The trends toward omni-channel voice experiences are creating a greater need for company-wide buy-in and communication.

Work cross-departmentally to determine voice AI goals

Regardless of where the voice AI initiative begins, goal setting should include every department in the company. The Opus Research survey revealed voice AI strategy budgets are currently owned by a wide range of departments, mirroring the great variety of voice assistant strategies.

Departments owning the voice AI budget in large organizations:

  • R&D/Innovation Team – 41%
  • Product/Engineering Team – 31%
  • Marketing Team – 22%

These results reveal more than just budget control. While some organizations are focusing on using voice as part of an overall innovation strategy—indicating a preference for a custom voice assistant that’s part of a larger push to find new solutions—others are adding voice user interfaces into their product roadmaps, and a third group is using voice as another marketing channel.

A very small percent of respondents (under 5%) indicated that the voice AI budget resides in the customer support team or with the IT team. 

Regardless of which department controls the resources, all of them have a stake in the outcome and should be included in discussions of voice AI implementation, roadmaps, and KPIs. When the needs of all departments are taken into consideration, a voice AI strategy can be designed with long-term product, marketing, and customer service needs in mind.

“Voice and natural language will make it easier for technology to understand and provide better solutions for customer demands.”

Opus Research Survey Respondent

Goal setting and the resulting voice AI roadmap should be clearly communicated to team members at every level. The C-Suite, VPs, and department leads should all understand the immediate and long-term goals for the voice experience and be able to articulate a uniform plan.

When the needs of all departments are taken into consideration, a voice AI strategy can be designed with long-term product, marketing, and customer service needs in mind.

Agree on resource and budget allocation for voice AI implementation

Who owns the budget now and who will own it in the future? In truth, an omni-channel voice assistant may require budget allocation from several departments. If a custom voice assistant is on the horizon and under the direction of the innovation team, marketing will want to be involved in the decision-making process from a branding perspective. They may also have a separate budget allocation to use third-party platforms as advertising and marketing channels. If a multi-assistant strategy is on the roadmap, these efforts need to be closely aligned or risk confusion in the market.

At the implementation level, the amount of overall budget allocated to a voice assistant strategy will depend on the approach. While it may seem cost-effective to take the entire project in-house, most organizations find that the time to develop the technology is too long. 

In an effort to expedite the process, some organizations are adopting voice assistants owned by third-parties, such as Google and Amazon. While these solutions eliminate the need to develop technology in-house, brands taking this path must accept the consequences of handing over their valuable data and customer relationships to another entity that may, or may not, become a competitor in the future.

While it may seem cost-effective to take the entire project in-house, most organizations find that the time to develop the technology is too long. 

On the other hand, if your organization decides on priorities that include growing a voice experience over time, you’ll need a wholly-owned, branded voice assistant. The right custom voice AI platform partner can provide the technology and engineering expertise to help you build it. The ubiquity of voice assistants and the move toward more control and ownership of the experience is evidenced in the 78% of respondents who noted that they are either using a voice AI platform vendor or combining internal teams with external vendors to build their own voice assistants..

Once you’ve brought on an outside organization, they should become part of your organizational communications, since they are now stakeholders in the outcome.

Set your voice assistant roadmap

Between the C-Suite and team leads in the innovation, R&D, and engineering departments, Opus discovered a big discrepancy in future plans for voice assistants. While only 43% of C-level respondents indicated that they do plan to invest in voice ads or voice shopping, 66% of engineering leads and 55% of executives at the VP or SVP role indicated that they plan to monetize their voice assistants through advertising and ecommerce. 

These results indicate an understanding of the potential for voice assistants among those closest to development and implementation and the perceived intrusiveness of advertising by those at the helm. 

Interestingly, the respondents in every job function up and down the organization agree on the importance of monetization as compared to other goals—like brand awareness and increased convenience. How they’ll reach those goals is uncertain at this time and voice ads and voice shopping are still the largest contributors to income from voice experiences for customers. In the future, monetization models that are less intrusive and that create helpful scenarios for users may help align bottom line goals with customer experience considerations.

But, plans for monetization are only part of the voice AI roadmap requiring organizational consensus. Other considerations include:

  • The role of voice in hardware devices on the product roadmap
  • Voice AI as part of a sonic branding strategy
  • The importance of a custom wake word
  • Creating an omni-channel customer experience with voice AI
    • Voice-enabled mobile apps
    • Voice assistants in customer service centers
    • Voice control for products
    • Voice assisted website experiences
  • Extending voice experiences to the cloud
  • Benefits of a custom, branded voice assistant
  • The role of third-party voice assistant as marketing and sales channels
  • Voice AI for employees and internal operations

Planning for the future of your voice assistant doesn’t mean you have to get there in one giant leap. Find a place to start and grow your omni-channel experience from there. Many organizations find that voice-enabling mobile apps is a cost-effective and quick way to get started with a voice assistant—since the hardware platform already exists with the ability to accept voice commands.

In general, better solutions, more accuracy, less response times, and innovation are the main drivers which will help the users and companies as a whole to promote the use of speech.”

Opus Research Survey Respondent

In fact, the Opus Research survey revealed that many organizations have launched their voice experiences with voice-enabled mobile apps. From there, customer-facing solutions normally follow through integration into cars, refrigerators, headsets, or other hardware devices. Regardless of what your voice roadmap looks like, get buy-in from every stakeholder in the company and keep them abreast of updates through regular communication.

Planning for the future of your voice assistant doesn’t mean you have to get there in one giant leap.

Measure voice assistant success

How will you measure voice assistant success? What challenges are you solving by voice-enabling a mobile app, hardware device, or customer contact center? What outcomes do you expect at the corporate and departmental level?

Deciding on the Voice Performance Indexes (VPIs) for your voice assistant is a critical step in determining the roadmap. Identifying which challenges are greatest for your company as a whole—and at the departmental level—will help you decide where to deploy a voice assistant first. For example, if your customers are consistently unhappy with your customer service center wait times or outcomes, you may want to voice-enable that first.

If you’re like 43% of those surveyed by Opus Research, a “quick start and rapid deployment” may be your greatest challenge. In that case, you may want to choose the low-hanging fruit of a voice-enabled mobile app. 

Likely, you’ll find that individual departments have different challenges from those identified at the corporate level. In that case, it’s essential that voice teams get cross-departmental buy-in to goals that align individual challenges to the overall corporate goals. Both types of goals should be included in the voice AI roadmap and individual stakeholders should understand and agree from the beginning where their needs are ranked and how they’ll be addressed.

Once you know what you want to measure, you’ll need a unit of measurement. A majority of the survey respondents named greater customer satisfaction and convenience as drivers for business value. To measure the voice assistant against these goals, business leaders looked to voice assistant performance, customer satisfaction (CSAT), and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) to measure progress and outcomes.

While you may experience an immediate uptick in positive customer reviews, the voice assistant should be given a reasonable amount of time to show results and ROI. If you’re looking for an immediate impact on the bottom line, discuss monetization opportunities with your voice AI provider.

Find the right voice AI technology partner

Once you’ve set your internal goals and have consensus for the voice assistant roadmap up and down the organizational chart, find a voice AI technology provider that will help you achieve those goals and then make them part of your team.

Include the engineers and account representatives in internal conversations and inform them of decisions. After a decade of experience, providers of voice AI technology can provide expert advice and help you avoid common pitfalls, if you let them. 

As with any other partnership, the outcomes of the collaboration between you and your voice AI platform provider will only be as good as the communication between you. Build in regular check-ins at every level of your organization and with the voice AI company. 

Nearly half (46%) of survey respondents are looking for a full-service solution that includes guidance on developing a voice strategy, creating a customized voice assistant designed with their unique customers in mind, and the ability to easily make changes and receive ongoing support. If you’re part of that cohort, you’ll want to ensure that our partner is as invested in your outcomes as you. Find out how the organization handles changes. You’ll want a partner that can quickly pivot to provide changes when necessary without creating unnecessary paperwork and delays.

As with any other partnership, the outcomes of the collaboration between you and your voice AI platform provider will only be as good as the communication between you.

Your journey into the voice-first era begins with communication and stakeholder buy-in. The success of your voice assistant will depend on your organization’s ability to continue to communicate and implement iterations based on the agreed-upon goals and a roadmap that is both consistent and flexible to meet changing customer needs.

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”.

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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