The New Year is less than a month old, but 2019 is already shaping up to be the year voice assistants go mainstream.
In the same week that Amazon revealed there are 100 million Alexa-enabled devices in use, Google announced that its own artificial intelligence (AI) enabled vocal assistant, Google Assistant, will be active on 1 billion devices from smartphones to smart speakers, before February.
“The figure may seem huge but the fast adoption rate is simply a reflection of how intuitive voice is as a channel,” explains Geoffrey Boulakia, General Manager EMEA TSC, Sitel Group’s digital CX agency. “The best interface is no interface. Speaking is seven times faster than typing. Consumers of all ages from children to seniors are comfortable with voice – there’s no need for user training or a learning curve – and that’s why it is poised to be so disruptive.”
The car as a customer channel
Like Amazon, Google has the automobile in its sights and is launching a range of plug-in in-car devices that will let users access Google Assistant directly while driving without having to connect to or unlock their phone. The average American currently spends 46 minutes a day in their car and much of that time is spent in traffic; and a number of tech firms have been looking to fill this void.
With direct access to Google Assistant, commuters will do more than talk directly with Google Maps. There’s an opportunity to use voice to compose everything from emails to shopping lists, be more efficient.
On January 3, Amazon announced its partnership with Telenav, a connected car and location-based services provider so that Alexa users can use the voice assistant to plan their journeys and so that more carmakers will be able to build Alexa directly into the dashboards of their next generation of vehicles.
“The mantra within customer experience is to always be where your customer is, even if the customer is moving faster than you are,” says Boulakia. “This is why customer services is evolving to include channels such as social messaging alongside traditional options like call centers and email. And as the Internet of Things becomes mainstream, potentially any device could be considered a touch point in the customer journey. With Google and Amazon’s latest products and partnerships they are essentially turning the car into another channel.”
Removing friction from vacationing
Beyond in-car integration, Google also revealed users can now check in to flights using nothing more than its assistant (starting with United Airlines). It means no need to remember confirmation numbers or booking references. By asking the smart speaker to check you in, it automatically retrieves the information from your inbox and does the heavy lifting.
And the same goes for finding somewhere to stay. In the coming weeks, it will be possible to book a room via Google Assistant at a number of hotel chains including Choice Hotels, InterContinental and AccorHotels.
“Consumers increasingly book trips and accommodation last minute and then rely on their smartphones for planning their itinerary in-destination,” notes Boulakia. “By adding these new features, Google is essentially removing a friction point from the customer journey, making it even easier for travelers to take advantage of a great travel deal or to undertake a trip with less stress and panic.”
Speaking your language
Google Assistant is already compatible with more languages than any other smart speaker on the market, but now it will be able to break down language barriers. A new Interpreter Mode will let owners use their smart speaker as a real-time translator, meaning they’ll be able to have a conversation with someone from another country.
It supports 27 different languages and Google offered the example of a hotel lobby or check in desk as an ideal space for the speaker to break down language barriers. However, the new feature could just as easily enable businesses in one country to start marketing their products and providing support in another.
However as innovative as these new features sound at an event dedicated to the future of technology, their usefulness is yet to be confirmed in real-world scenarios.
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.