As 2018 presented several significant milestones for voice technologies, primarily within the smart speakers’ domain (“Amazon Echo Dot is Still the Most Owned Smart Speaker”, “Google’s smart speaker Rise Narrows the Gap from Amazon”), voice tech trends are being expanded well beyond this use case. Voice is now everywhere, whether in practice, or designed to be. online, offline, across various segments, and use cases. Now is the time to look ahead and discuss the future of voice solutions, technology, trends and user experience.

I will focus on the following aspects of the voice evolution and how they’ll grow during 2019 and onwards:

  • Voice at the Enterprise and Data Ownership Aware.
  • Customer Experience Plays a Major Role.
  • Voice at the Edge, Brick and Mortar Retail and Beyond.

Voice at the Enterprise

While during 2017-2018 voice technology was mostly around making the smart speakers devices part of many homes (in the US, later in Europe), and helping with audience education for the power of voice interfacing and services accessibility (mostly music and simple updates as a weather updates), it becomes clear now that organizations of any segment are exploring ways to apply the Voice User Interface (simply: VUI) within their products or service. We see this is happening mostly in Retail (in store and online, see under Next Generation eCommerce, item 23), Financial Services (from Banks to insurance) and edge devices (from ticketing solutions to smart office interface). This trend is clearly described by Jon Stine in a recent post.

While Smart Speakers eco system has a fairly basic framework (build a “skill” or an “action” to let the consumer’s approach the brand’s service) – leveraging voice functionality within the Enterprise, imposes some fundamental challenges which must be addressed properly to support a healthy VUI adoption and growth:

  • Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and GDPR – the voice functionality within the Enterprise must comply with privacy regulations and should avoid using user’s personal information during the voice transaction. This is a major challenge since the services provided by these organizations will involve user’s personal data – e.g. bank account or insurance account services are strongly tied with the user information. See for instance Google fine for a recent GDPR breach in France and Amazon Alexa and GDPR here.
  • Business Data Ownership Aware – while applying voice interface for consumers or employees with an Enterprise data platform, it’s imperative to keep the data flow process in full control by the Enterprise. Since valuable business information is being processed, no organization can allow that data to be left un-handled, openly available to the platform vendors and external voice services. To my opinion, this is why we don’t see tight integration of voice solutions yet – within fundamental services given by insurance companies for example (link), and more. On the other hand, we saw that Salesforce tries to lead the way for voice within the CRM segment by collaborating within the smart speakers arena – see here, again a limited offering.
  • Additional information concerning Privacy in general with regards to the various digital solutions available in many aspects of our lives is available through this great piece of the New York Time.

 

Customer Experience Plays a Major Role

Customer Experience in the age of digital transformation and disruptive technologies plays a crucial part in user adoption of these new solutions & services. As technology itself  – referring to the Voice tech – reaches maturity, in terms of accuracy levels, supported use cases, and so on, a major part is users’ adoption of the new technology is the Voice User Experience, or Voice UX.

One can witness several growing design agencies, aiming at helping organizations with their Voice UX design, to make their application appreciated, adopted and used by their respective users. This is a fundamental step in the voice technology evolution, which is still in its infancy stage, and it will continue to grow, until a comprehensive paradigm for designing and implementing voice UX is available as best practice in the industry.

More on VUX, within retail and smart speakers, you will find in this article by Luminary Labs.

Voice at the Edge, Brick and Mortar Retail and Beyond

Mainly in retail, but not just, we witness a significant effort to make the edge device, in the commercial use case, smarter. For various (and obvious) reasons, this is very well manifested within the physical store, or the brick and mortar in retail, where major retailers are either deploying (see Amazon Go), building (See Walmart IRL) or designing smarter shops, for a futuristic in some extent, or technologically advanced in general- shopping experience.

Voice, as the new operating system, is bound to be part of this phase, as eventually the purpose of all tech enhancements and devices deployments is to attract more people to the physical stores, and provide them with a superior experience while shopping. This is true not just for the retailers but also in other segments, from ticketing transportation to vending machines and smart offices.

Applying the voice at the edge device is not a new concept, but with the recent advancements of computational linguistics and NLP, these devices can now add real value to the users, while in the store.

Voice interfaces can and will be used for enhancing the in store experience when it comes to the point of sale (payment inquiries, self service, FAQ), shelf devices (upselling, product information), kiosk stations (in-store navigation, product search) and more.

While store of the future implies reducing staff needed to operate the store and serve customers, the employees’ time will be used to address additional challenges, which will be part of the migration to the technology enhanced store. Voice will play a part on this as well, providing employees with new tools and new tasks – from social media activities, to logistics and support.

Closing Remark – Following this article, describing an intense technology shifts we are currently experiencing, we should also take a moment and consider a less invasive interface alternative, when it is applicable in our lives. Read FJORD insightful report on this matter.

What you should do next?

If you’re in charge of customer experience, innovation or product – you need to start planning your voice strategy, and there are several articles about it online. Or you can talk to us.

Tukuoro is the Voice Open Platform. Every use case and suggested solution described in this article is already deployed at Tukuoro’s customers, or can be deployed using Tukuoro Voice Open Platform technology.

Reach out to us and learn how to make your interface Voice enabled.

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