Just as 2010 was the year that mobile-first technology took hold, 2020 will be the year of voice-first technology. Alexa and Siri have found their home in households across the globe. As more consumers turn toward smart speakers to make their lives more convenient, Amazon’s voice-activation devices now control around 70 per cent of the US market share, with close to 100 million units in American homes.
But voice technology isn’t just for ordering groceries or making personal appointments. It can also be a vital tool for businesses – and those who utilise the technology will help ensure they will remain relevant and competitive in the coming decade.
The voice of the generation
Generations Y and Z account for more than one-third of the US workforce today. This figure is expected to rise to more than half over the next decade. While millennials are known for being digital-savvy, the younger Gen Z is digital-native, having grown up with the world wide web and personal computers at their fingertips. In fact, according to an Institute of Business Management report, 66 per cent of Gen Z cite using more than one internet-connected device at a time.
Far more so than their parents, both of these generations fully expect to use advanced technologies in their everyday life, whether shopping, applying for jobs or booking a healthcare appointment. This trend is set to continue, as 1.5 million U.S. children already reportedly use smart speakers at least once a month. To maintain their business now and in the future, organisations must be prepared to keep up with their digital expectations.
Creating the optimal customer experience
Digital assistants are expected to reach around 8 billion units by 2023 – more than the entire world population today. This rapid rise in uptake means that people are becoming increasingly familiar with such technology.
For businesses of all sizes, this spells opportunity to build powerful relationships with their customers, which was previously only possible through speaking on the phone or face-to-face with a customer service representative. Google reports that more than 40 per cent of smart speaker owners admit that talking to such devices feels like talking to a friend or another person. When used effectively, voice-activation technology enables businesses to offer highly-personalised, human-like service, with the speed and efficiency of a chatbot – utilising the best of both worlds, for the optimal customer experience. It should come as no surprise to any business that Capgemini expects that in the near future 70 per cent of consumers will not only prefer communicating with companies through voice technology, they will expect and demand it.
Running a more efficient business
Voice-activation technology is not only important for businesses to remain relevant for their target audiences, but also for internal business operations. The technology can be used to streamline manual processes, saving employees valuable time. Routine tasks, such as sending basic emails or setting up meetings, can be done faster, with less effort, and completely screen-free using a simple voice command. This enables employees to multitask, thereby increasing their productivity. Moreover, freeing employees from hours-worth of daunting administrative tasks offers them more time in their day for strategy meetings, brainstorming sessions, and other tasks that require creativity and a human touch.
Furthermore, at a time when we're more conscious than ever about the spread of germs, viruses and pathogens, voice technology offers employees a hands-free solution to accomplish their daily tasks, therefore reducing unnecessary instances of touching contaminated surfaces in the workplace. In fact, one study reported finding 3,000 micro-organisms per square inch on keyboards in offices and over 1,600 bacteria per square inch on computer mice. In order to keep their employees safe and healthy, it’s imperative for businesses to utilise voice technology systems wherever possible throughout the office to limit the contact employees have with germs.
One way businesses can implement voice technology is through voice-assistants. Most employees are already using them at home, so it isn’t a big jump to request they use them in the workplace as well. In fact, Gartner predicts 25 per cent of workers will use virtual employee assistants daily by next year.
Alexa for Business, for example, allows users to manage calendars, make phone calls, and control conference room equipment, with only a voice command and completely screen-free, which can be personalised to the business’ unique needs. Microsoft Cortana, another voice-activated assistant for businesses, integrates seamlessly with the full Microsoft Office Suite and can set reminders, recognise natural voices without the need for keyboard input, and answer questions using web results. As technology develops and voice assistants become more accessible, every business, regardless of size and budget, are in a position to implement voice-activated assistants into their daily operations.
In addition, many companies are utilising conversational CRM’s that allow employees to make vocal updates to their CRM, as opposed to manually typing in every conversation with a lead or manually updating their information. This not only enhances the productivity of the employee it also improves the backend of customer experience, ensuring customer details are always up to date.
Businesses can also utilise voice technology to improve information sharing between employees. For example, if an employee has a standard question about company policy or a business procedure, they can get the answer they need instantly from a voice activation device which is programmed to know, rather than having to ask a colleague or manager who may not have time to assist them.
Embracing this technology is in turn crucial to making a workplace attractive to new recruits, particularly from Generations Y and Z. A poll by Microsoft and SurveyMonkey found that 93 per cent of millennials regard up-to-date technology as one of the most important aspects of a workplace.
Empowering your business to become voice-focused
Businesses of any size must seize the opportunity to utilise voice-activation technology – both to improve their customer service and enhance their business models. Any business which embraces voice can expect to reap the rewards of increasingly engaged customers, an efficient organisation and, most importantly, a competitive business for years to come.
Adi “Didi” Azaria, CEO, Workiz