Have you found your voice?

“Voice is happening, now.” That’s all Hub Institute CEO Vincent Ducrey needed to say to initiate a Hub Talk dedicated to understanding the revolutionary impact that voice technology is about to have on customer experience in the coming months.

The depth and breadth of French talent available will ensure that France will play a key role in the technology’s evolution. Still, organizations like the Hub Institute have a duty to their members to ensure they really can develop voice strategies taking customer interactions to a new level.

That’s why, according to Sitel Group co-founder and CMO, Arnaud de Lacoste, voice is already part of the toolkit Sitel offers to brands that genuinely want to optimize their customer experience. Indeed, voice is such a powerful potential interface that it will help consumers loosen their grip on their smartphones.

Echoing U.S. futurist Amy Webb’s comments at this year’s SXSW, Arnaud de Lacoste told the audience that 2018 will be, “The beginning of the end of smartphones.” Instead, consumers will move back to using multiple connected smart devices. “The smartphone will always have a central role, but its use will be more specific. We are entering a multi-device era in terms of our personal and professional interactions. This is why brands must no longer focus purely on the smartphone, but they must take into account all connected devices when considering customer experience.”

Every situation has its own voicebot

Arnaud de Lacoste – who has worked on this subject for many months alongside Geoffrey Boulakia, CEO of TSC, Sitel Group’s digital CX agency – said, “Voice is a new gateway to services and web content. It is the embodiment of how interface is transforming, particularly in terms of the Internet of Things where it is becoming the way of managing and interacting with smarter, more connected homes.”

Thanks to the explosion in demand for voice assistant interfaces in the U.S., voice will soon be everywhere and disrupting every sector.

“According to Gartner, by 2020, 75 percent of U.S. homes will have a smart speaker and more than 50 percent of web searches will be conducted by voice,” said Arnaud de Lacoste, highlighting the fact that the interface already supports performing simultaneous actions. This channel is also proving to be popular because it is so effortless to use.

It’s why for brands, this growing uptake should be seen as a huge opportunity to build stronger, closer relationships with their customers. But, to really benefit, brands must have the right strategy.

“Voice could change everything and businesses must be ready,” said Arnaud de Lacoste. “Before you start, you have to have a clear picture of the goals and expectations for your brand because every situation has its own voicebot.”

Create voice applications that really are your own

Loic de Saint-Andrieu, mobile Evangelist at Google, said the reason for Google Assistant’s success is that it “facilitates the lives of consumers.” It is already accessible via smart speakers or smartphones to 95 percent of Android device users. By the end of this year, it will be able to understand 30 different languages – bringing it closer to the consumer.

“Voice assistants are seen as faster, more innovative, more practical and more fun than other channels,” said Loic de Saint-Andrieu when explaining why users are falling for the technology.

Therefore, those brands that want to get on to the Google Assistant platform need to, “Create original applications, aimed at quickly and easily improving the consumers’ daily routines and user experience,” he explained.

To achieve this, Hicham Tahiri, CEO of Smartly.ai, a French startup voicebot and chatbot designer, said that branding strategy should be front of mind.

“Today, most voice applications fail because they are built solely by developers, said Tahiri.

However, as much as 90 percent of an application’s performance is about design rather than technical development.

An ever-improving user experience

To demonstrate how a voice app can hit the high notes, Radio France (the French equivalent of NPR), Deezer and Teads Studio talked about existing projects and future developments. Pippa Teer, Head of App products at Radio France, said, “Today’s voice interactions provide access to content, but tomorrow we want interaction to be the content.”

For music streaming service Deezer, “The next step is to analyze collected data and iterate for an ever better user experience,” said Mathieu Lima, Deezer Voice Product Manager.

Diegue Marin, Head of Teads Studio France, said that thanks to the way the voice channel works, his company can leave it up to consumers to decide for themselves how they respond to advertising suggested through its solution.

Finally, Caroline Chupin, head of Conversational Product for Oui.SNCF (one of the digital branches of French national railway operator SNCF), walked the audience through the different developments stages of its voicebot on the Google Assistant platform.

“We used the work [we had already] done on the chatbot to launch the application on Google Home,” said Chupin.

Before sharing what she felt was the biggest tip for brands tempted to embark on a vocal adventure.

“It is important to go into production very quickly, to get customer feedback as quickly as possible and to carry out user tests before launching any new functionality,” said Chupin.

So, are you ready for voice?

The biggest takeaway from the year’s first Hub Talk is the fact that asking the right questions, in the right order is crucial for anyone setting out to build a voicebot.

“Companies should order their thoughts into five overarching principles,” explains Geoffrey Boulakia. “To each their own voice; keep it simple; don’t copy and paste – it has to be your company’s voicebot; what’s the problem – how will your solution genuinely help or enrich the user; and, crucially, think big but start small and build quickly.”

Sitel Group