Voice-enabled mobile phone
Aug 31, 2021
7 MIN READ

Why We Should Expect More From Our Voice Assistants

When talking about the helpfulness, convenience, or capabilities of our voice assistants, too often we compare their performance to that of a human. We forget that these disembodied voices are actually sophisticated artificial intelligences that can process speech, turn it into meaning, and deliver results from information in the cloud as well as information stored on the individual device. Given their advanced nature, shouldn’t we expect more from our voice assistants than to perform as glorified music players that can set timers and report the weather conditions? 

While the first voice assistants were designed to make it easier to turn on music and replace the need to pick up a mobile device to get information or set a timer, today’s voice assistants have been integrated into cars, customer contact centers, mobile apps, TVs, smart home devices, kiosks, and a wide range of other devices. Their capabilities have surpassed our ability to adapt and learn everything they can do and so we default to getting the weather and asking for the simplest of functionality.

User education programs are now surfacing as critical elements of a voice AI roadmap for companies hoping to elevate user experiences and realize the true potential of their voice assistant integrations. It’s no longer enough to expect your users to learn what your voice assistant can do from a friend or from seeking the information themselves online, businesses have realized that user education programs are a critical element of voice assistant strategies.

Based on the rapid rate of adoption, one can assume that consumers already understand that voice assistants provide easier, hands-free methods of interacting with technology. What users may not recognize is that voice AI is more than just a substitution for a button, a screen, or a keyboard. The potential for voice assistants to improve our lives lies in their ability to think, process and store information, understand context, and deliver answers and assistance that are personalized to the user.

We’ve identified a few areas where intelligent, conversational voice assistants exceed the abilities of humans to deliver a level of service not previously possible. Let’s take a deeper dive into the real value of voice assistants across a handful of use cases:

  • Frictionless mobile experiences 
  • Personalized experiences
  • Faster, more hygienic service
  • Greater efficiency

Voice-enabled mobile apps offer frictionless experiences

More users are turning to voice assistants to initiate interactions with their favorite apps. The promise of these voice-enabled apps includes improved functionality, filtering, and efficiency that surpasses what can be achieved by simply swiping, tapping, and typing. 

According to Voicebot.ai, 56% of U.S. adults used a voice assistant on a smartphone in 2020, compared with 51.5% in 2018, showing that users are increasingly using voice-enabled mobile devices.

56% of U.S. adults used a voice assistant on a smartphone in 2020, compared with 51.5% in 2018.

Voicebot.ai

What the research doesn’t reflect is the depth or breadth of the user’s interactions on their mobile apps. Are they simply opening the app and using the voice assistant resident on the phone, or do they continue to use their voice to interact with the app? If users aren’t benefiting from the full functionality of voice-enabled apps, where is the hesitancy coming from? Or is it just a matter of understanding all the advantages of voice user interfaces?

Mobile apps’ lengthy and complex menu trees can often be a time-consuming and frustrating experience for users who must scroll through too many results to find the item they’re looking for. What these users may not know is that they can ask their voice assistant to find an item in the same way they would ask a store representative, but describing it in their own words. The benefit of using the voice assistant is its access to up-to-the-minute inventory information and the ability to quickly locate the correct size, color, and quantity of the item.

Pandora’s Voice Mode, powered by Houndify, is a great example of a mobile app using a voice assistant to offer a frictionless navigation experience. Users can search for specific playlists, songs, and artists or even go beyond normal queries and ask for something like, “Play workout music” to receive a playlist customized to their tastes and preferences. The voice assistant can look through song history and quickly analyze trends to determine what the user would like to hear, a process that is calculated quicker than any human user could on their own.  

Many users are unaware of a voice assistant’s capabilities, and brands are realizing the importance of educating users on the many features that voice assistants can offer. Pop-up notifications when a user logs into the app or targeted email campaigns can call attention to specific use cases the voice assistant can provide and inform users of the intelligent, hands-free experience they now have access to. 

Voice AI contact centers provide personalization

A survey by Vonage revealed that 61% of consumers believe IVR leads to a poor experience. The top reasons for dissatisfaction include:

  • The reason they’re calling is not listed 
  • They’re forced to listen to irrelevant options
  • Menus are too long
  • The need to repeat themselves

Instead of having to sit through a long and complicated menu, conversational AI can simply personalize the interaction from the start, thereby saving time and reducing customer frustration. 

The ability to access account records and reach a resolution without forwarding the call to another agent or putting callers on hold while information is being accessed are some of the ways that conversational AI increases efficiency by eliminating frustration with legacy IVR systems. 

61% of consumers believe IVR leads to a poor experience.

Vonage

Voice assistants in call centers can also offer personalized experiences to millions of users, something that cannot be achieved by customer service representatives on a large scale. While some people have already experienced conversational AI as a vehicle to direct them to the right department, pay a bill, or answer FAQs, intelligent, conversational voice assistants can reach well beyond these basic functions to offer personalized experiences for users. 

By using specific identifying information, such as a phone number tied to an account, a voice assistant built on a conversational AI platform can greet customers with a phrase such as, “Hello, am I speaking with Sam?” With a simple yes or no, the voice AI can then pull up relevant account information instead of requiring the user to give their account number, birthdate, zip code, or other private information in a painstakingly long process that may need to be repeated several times during the call with a series of agents.

Knowledge is a vital part of call center interactions, and voice assistants can cross-reference, analyze, and access information faster than any human customer service representative can. According to a study by Microsoft, 61% of respondents have stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service, and have identified the most important part of a good customer service experience as a knowledgeable representative. 

Being put on hold while a customer service representative searches for relevant information or asks a superior, wastes valuable time and creates customer dissatisfaction. Intelligent voice assistants create a frictionless, personalized environment. During the call, or once the call has ended, the voice assistant can accurately record the interaction—including providing a sentiment analysis based on the tone and attitude of the customer or even an accurate transcription, if needed.

Voice-enabled kiosks provide faster, more hygienic service

Self-service kiosks are already widely used in stores, hotels, and QSRs as a convenient, fast, hygienic, and accessible means of placing orders or making other transactions. According to Allied Market Research, the global interactive kiosk market size was valued at $14.76 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach $32.51 billion by 2027, showing that users are increasingly turning to kiosks to avoid long lines and complete transactions. 

The global interactive kiosk market size was valued at $14.76 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach $32.51 billion by 2027.

Allied Market Research

Voice-enabled kiosks can access information, fulfill orders, and provide service quickly and more hygienically through a touchless interface. Common queries such as looking up a product location in a retail store, adding items to a menu in a QSR, or checking a guest in or out at a hotel have become standard interactions with kiosks. Voice AI technology can help take those interactions to a new level when they allow guests to access the information without touching shared surfaces—a growing concern since the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

For example, a voice-enabled kiosk in a QSR can swiftly bring up nutritional and allergy information on menu items, knowledge that many employees don’t have readily available. For hotels, voice AI kiosks can access a multitude of information on amenities, local activities, and restaurants that would require the knowledge of several employees to achieve. All of these questions can be answered promptly and hygienically, without having to wait in long lines. 

Smart home technology improves efficiency

Smart home technology is on the rise for its ability to improve lives by saving time and money as well as improving accessibility and efficiency. According to Global News Wire, the global smart home market size is projected to reach $622.59 billion by 2026, showing that more households are using smart home technology to manage everything from their air conditioning and TVs to their appliances. 

Smart home devices are often used for routine queries, such as turning on or off the lights, closing the blinds, playing movies, and turning on or off the air conditioning. What makes these voice-enabled devices exceptional is being able to access multiple devices from a single central hub, preprogramming devices to turn on or off at specific times, and controlling devices away from home. All of these elements save time and money and create greater efficiency in everyday life. According to Digitized House, 57% of Americans say that having smart home technology saves them 30 minutes per day, and 43% save an average of $98.30 per month. 

57% of Americans say that having smart home technology saves them 30 minutes per day, and 43% save an average of $98.30 per month.

Digitized House

For most consumers, their smart home centers around the smart speaker, the source of music, weather, timers, and the occasional trivia question. But, voice AI has the power to elevate the smart home beyond just a collection of individually operated smart devices.

By connecting smart home devices to the car or mobile device, users can access their smart home technology even when they’re away from home. Using only their voice and from anywhere, people can turn on the air conditioner, open the garage door, set the alarm, or preheat the oven, redefining luxury and convenience. 

In addition to improving smart home efficiency by acting as a central hub to connect to multiple devices, controlling the lights, air, drapes, and more, smart TVs can extend the entertainment experience to include shopping and purchasing opportunities through interactive ads and proactive and responsive suggestions.

Vizio’s Voice Remote, powered by Houndify, makes it easier to search for entertainment beyond a specific show or movie by allowing users to perform complex searches, such as, “Find movies starring Emma Stone that are PG-13, rated at least 4 stars, are comedies, and less than 2 hours long.”  Ongoing user education will be key to extending use cases and unlocking the real power of voice AI beyond simply turning on and off the TV or adjusting the volume.

Companies looking to provide exceptional user experiences should consider the immense capabilities of voice assistants in providing quick navigation, personalized experiences, fast, hygienic services, and greater efficiency. As voice assistants continue to evolve and learn, they’ll continue to contribute a unique set of skills that will increase brand loyalty, generate positive reviews, and improve customer satisfaction. 

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.

Kristen is a content writer with a passion for storytelling and marketing. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking, reading, and spending time with her nieces and nephew.

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