The smart speaker ownership rate has jumped 40 percent over the past 12 months meaning that more than one in four (26.2 percent) U.S. adults are using them in their homes.
According to new research from Voicebot and Voicify, 66.4 million Americans now own on average two devices such as Amazon Echo, Google Home Assistant and Apple HomePod as the current installed base for the U.S. is 133 million.
“Just as we forecasted at the beginning of 2018, the adoption curve for smart vocal assistants is the steepest for any consumer technology device yet – they’ve only been on sale for the general public less than three years,” reflects James Lee, Head of Digital Strategy, TSC, Sitel Group’s digital experts. “Just like the smartphone, smart speakers are working their way into people’s daily lives and this means brands must take notice – fast.”
In fact, the study shows that these devices are starting to change consumer behavior. Smart speaker ownership is leading to a spike in smartphone voice assistant use.
At the beginning of 2018, 56.7 percent of U.S. adults said they had used the likes of Siri or Cortana or Google Assistant on their handset but by January this year the stat jumped to 70.2 percent.
Much of this growth has been driven by owning a smart speaker and wanting to carry on the vocal experience on other devices. Only 19.1 percent of consumers who don’t own a smart speaker use their smartphone voice assistant on a daily basis. However, 39.8 percent of daily smart speaker users are also daily smartphone voice assistant users.
“This is simply a reflection of how intuitive voice is,” Lee says. “Just like typing is faster than writing with a pen, speaking is the fastest and smoothest interface of all. It’s why when a customer has a moment of truth with a company he or she reaches for the phone.”
And it’s in the area of customer experience (CX) where owners could be interested in using their smart speakers. The most common use for these devices is for asking questions and 31.4 percent of owners say they’d be interested in using their devices for customer service and a further 30.4 percent say they’re open to the idea.
In particular they would like to resolve issues by asking their device questions and when the issue is too complicated, being transferred to a customer service representative.
“If we look at how chatbots are being deployed for customer experience, a move to voice bots is the logical conclusion,” Lee points out. “Today the chatbots we build can answer a host of questions and resolve a majority of customer issues and when they can’t they transfer the customer to a person, along with the conversation history for a seamless experience.”
Eight in 10 owners have used their device to ask a question and 66 percent ask a question at least once a month (36.9 percent ask every day) and when the question subjects are broken down there is more evidence to support that smart speakers have a role to play in CX.
Twenty-eight percent of users ask for how-to instructions, 24.8 percent ask for product information, 22.6 percent want to know about retail store opening hours, 16 percent want health and wellness advice and 10.1 percent ask questions about local businesses.
“These are all areas that brands with a clear channel strategy would already be serving with self-care content,” Lee explains. “Those brands should now make optimizing that content for voice a priority.”
Another area where brands looking to create voice apps need to focus their attention is on publicity. Consumers interviewed for the study revealed that discovering third-party apps is a challenge – to the point where 51.3 percent of users have never tried one. Yet, 92.6 percent of those that do try a third-party app start using it on a monthly basis.
“The key to discovery is to leverage social channels,” says Lee. “The research shows that the most common ways that people find out about a voice app is from friends and family or social media. Therefore, you have to get your brand’s online ambassadors to start spreading the word. Their opinions will flow into customers’ social news feeds and the buzz can build naturally and authentically from there.”
However, if you want to move from discovery to active use, your voice app needs to meet a genuine user need and genuinely add to your existing customer experience.
“It’s crucial to develop a strategy, considering the unique qualities of voice as an interface, how it can reduce customer effort and build more personal relationships between businesses and their customers,” warns Lee.
So, if brands want to start seriously debating a voice strategy, they first need to listen.
“Here, Sitel clients already have a head start,” Lee points out. “They have amassed valuable experience through listening to customer service calls. That’s a great foundation to truly ‘hear’ customers and begin to define which apps or skills will provide value.”
This also helps create something that delivers in terms of voice’s specific characteristics and in a manner that’s authentic. “Design is important,” Lee continues. “Voice is a path to offering a unique customer experience and reducing customer effort. It’s a unique touch point in and of itself.”
In addition to designing for a new experience, skills and apps have to be perfectly aligned with the customer and the business strategy, something that can require a substantial effort to get right.
“For many organizations, the clear answer will be seeking out independent partners with the expertise to integrate voice into the customer journey and create value-added interactions,” Lee concludes. “This will also help your brand constantly refine, improve and scale up your voice strategy in line with new innovations and capabilities and, of course, adoption rates.”
TSC has a dedicated voice technology team whose mission is to deliver voice experiences that delight users but still stay true to each client’s brand identity and business case. For more information about voice technology, download and read our latest white paper – Voice: Speaking for your Business, and find out how this exciting new channel could revolutionize the way your brand engages with its customers and how Sitel Group can make sure your message is heard and understood.