Businesses urgently need to prepare for the influx of ‘pitiless machines’ into customer services, warns Servion Global Solutions. As uptake of smart speakers and voice assistants continues apace, consumers are increasingly using them to shop for goods and services on their behalf, and for information and advice. Servion predicts by 2025, three quarters of customer service interactions will be driven by such platforms. The impact of smart speakers and voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home, is already being felt in sales – with the screenless, ‘brandless’ marketplace posing new challenges for brands. As these channels rapidly grow in influence, Servion warns that companies must now face up to the challenge of incorporating smart speakers and virtual assistants – which are not loyal to any one organisation – into the pre-and-post-sales customer experience, or risk being outstripped by competitors.
“Businesses need to face up to the reality that customers, particularly younger demographics, don’t want to call or email them anymore, and even chatbots will be too much for some. Consumers want the convenience of speaking to their surroundings and getting an answer quickly,” commented Shashi Nirale, SVP & GP EMEA, Servion Global Solutions. “Whether it’s asking for advice on holiday destinations, comparing mortgage rates, or querying their electric bill – more and more we will see customers using smart speakers and voice assistants to make their decisions for them. These machines are pitiless – they are not loyal to a single brand or service provider, nor are they swayed by marketing. Companies must prepare now to integrate voice into customer experiences and pre/post-sales environments or go the way other of other companies that were unable to adapt to new technologies and channels – think Blockbuster, Maplin, and Toys ’R’ Us.”
The pressure on businesses to build nuanced and predictive interactions through voice is growing as a generation of millennials – armed with disposable income and a healthy scepticism of traditional sales and marketing – enters the marketplace. Organisations from utilities, to public sector, to healthcare companies, need to understand this generation’s communications preferences – younger generations are even reticent to use text and chat to communicate with a company. As speech recognition and neurolinguistics continues to advance, humanoid, natural conversations with machines will become normal and familiar. This means that the user’s trust in a voice assistant to make a purchase decision on their behalf or make a dependable recommendation will grow.
“The past 10-15 years have shown businesses what happens when they fail to respond to new technologies. Just as the shift to ecommerce killed off numerous high-street stalwarts, the evolution of smart speakers and voice assistants will kill businesses that ignore them as a channel,” continued Nirale. “Businesses and brands must realise that in an increasingly commoditised world where technology moves fast, customer experience will be everything. Business must build distinctive, relevant experiences, backed by technology that can tailor and personalise responses to each user. As we deepen our trust of, and further our relationships with, this technology, businesses urgently need to find a way to incorporate these pitiless machines into their customer experience plans.”