Voice assistants and the future of customer service

04/09/2019 - Jordi Ordoñez

The number of devices compatible with voice assistants is increasing. From speakers to smartphones, it always seems like we have someone ready to answer our questions and help us. This is true in all areas, but do voice assistants also have a role in customer service, or will they?

Voice as an interface

We stopped seeing it as science fiction a long time ago, possibly because Apple launched their virtual assistant, Siri. Suddenly there was a new way for the user to interact with technology, you didn’t need to use a computer screen, just be connected with a mobile phone and it could accompany you almost anywhere on a day-to-day basis.

The learning curve for the user is practically non existent in that everything is a natural interaction, there’s nothing to learn! If the user is already accustomed to searching and typing in the correct terms that the machines can interpret, it should be a completely natural language.

Little by little, different brands and devices were incorporated that added to the voice revolution. With the popularity of smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, voice leaves mobile phones and enters fully into homes.

Adding to the fleet of devices that can be managed through oral commands, possible Artificial Intelligence and machine learning,we find accessible technology that can learn and is perfected with use and it’s not too expensive. Companies have been quick to have their eyes on it.

Examples like Domino’s pizza assistantthat areintegrated into an app and allow you to place your order without lifting a finger or Ivi, IBM’s software that manages customer service in hotels. Ivi takes care of any need you might have during your stay, from giving you the internet password to ordering a drink or clean towels from room service. Remember, you only need your voice for this.

Other brands like Burger King have used other resources likethe so-called Alexa Skills, instead of only using their apps. Thanks to a simple configuration at the start, you can place orders just by asking your Echo speaker.

What can a voice assistant bring to customer service?

It’s undeniable that voice assistants can help us be more productive, since voice chats allow us to have more interactions without using human resources.

In some aspects, they’re also more operational since they don’t have to make inquiries between departments orleave the customer waiting for a response online. They simply look for the answers quickly in their database and can even personalize them based on the customer’s purchase, payment and shipping data.

Is this the ultimate solution?

The short answer is no, but we’re going to go into it a bit more. These types of assistants share many characteristics with chat bots, with one of the main problems being the lack of empathy.

There’s no software that can mirror the added value that a human brings to communication. Agents aren’t limited to listening and executing actions, they have the critical ability to understand what the customer wants or what they need, and in many cases, they do it better than the customer. Machines don’t have the agility necessary to negotiate or sell anything that the customer doesn’t precisely specify. They are assistants but never sales people.

In addition to everything that has already been mentioned, we need to highlight some issues that come directly from the interface and mechanics of use. Being fully based on voice isn’t exactly discrete. Many times, users value the privacy that comes from using a chat or filling out a form. Can you imagine how uncomfortable it might be to use a voice assistant for customer service in places like stadiums, public transport or events?

What is clear is that the interactions with the customerare trending more and more towards a multichannel environment. Fromhere, we can see that integrating voice assistants in customer service in the medium and long term will be beneficial, but it doesn’t seem reasonable to use them as the only alternative. They should always be integrated into the strategy in a way that is complementary.

We can usetheir advantages to satisfy certain customers or streamline processes in other areas by using automated customer service in a preliminary phase or at times of high demand.

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