We’re entering an unprecedented era of customer interaction. Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning are powering experiences unlike anything we’ve experienced before. And natural language processing is revolutionizing the next set of interactions with customers and employees alike as chatbots and voice interfaces open doors to more dynamic, more personalized, and more accessible interactions.
The landscape for connecting with consumers and employees is changing. Long gone are the days of a straightforward brick-and-mortar exchange as consumers have become more savvy and informed. Even the days of the website as we know it may be numbered. And everything from information seeking to retraining will shift as employees adapt to the voice interface as a primary mode of communication.
The ways we connect to our online experiences will change and those changes—if met properly—can mean big opportunities for businesses.
“Alexa, how is my business doing?”
Most of the voice interactions people are familiar with so far are on the side of fairly simple exchanges. Checking the weather, ordering a pizza, finding the answer to a Google-able question: these are straightforward and direct interactions with set parameters and outcomes. They’re incredibly worthwhile uses, no doubt about that, but there is so much more possible.
As the technology continues to evolve—as natural language processing and the machine learning that powers these interactions gets more refined and more capable of carrying on non-standard interactions—we’ll start to see much more complex use cases emerge.
And there’s definitely going to be a lot more voice interaction in the workplace.
Offices will start to see voice interfaces coming into play in a number of ways: already we’re starting to see it in the way people book meetings and meeting rooms, as well as how they adjust environmental settings within those spaces (e.g. dimming lights or sharing presentation notes). But it goes beyond those task-oriented functions.
As organizations grow their machine learning and data analysis capabilities, companies will start to look to voice for quick access to the vast tracts of information that enable them to personalize experiences for consumers.
We’re seeing this kind of capability emerge with conversational UI in the form of chatbots, but with voice it will become even more like an extension of the team. Imagine the impact of being in a meeting and asking aloud for the latest numbers on sales for the quarter or how website bounce rates have changed in the past week.
Real-time informational access that flows seamlessly into the discussion will dramatically impact strategic decision making and turn-around time, allowing companies to be more adaptable, more agile, and to provide the kind of customer experience that will be the defining feature of successful companies over the next 20 years.
Will keyboards and dashboards disappear entirely? Maybe not. But their importance will be significantly reduced as voice conversations with smart devices become more seamless.
Taking it out of the office
Voice user interfaces won’t just show up in offices and marketing meetings. Workplaces of all kinds will start to see them being used. From basic onboarding to ongoing training modules, the interactive and instructional nature of voice will mean ongoing expansion and understanding for workforces of all types.
And as with office environments, the blend of conversational UI with data analysis and machine learning will have a significant impact on how we ultimately use voice. Scenarios where hands-free is the only option—non-office environments like kitchens, labs, factories, hospitals and so much more—have enormous opportunity for integration with voice.
An integrated system of informational analysis with real-time conversational abilities means even something as well-established as car repair can be changed dramatically. Everything from diagnosing a mechanical issue to ordering replacement parts can be done while the mechanic is in position, cutting repair times down and saving costs for mechanic and customer alike.
And as the processes behind the scenes evolve and improve, customer experiences will too. Customers are increasingly adept at navigating systems and asking for what they want. Organizations that meet them where they are and with the things that they want will be organizations set up for long term success.
Studies have shown that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences. With NLP and the ability to process enormous data sets through machine learning and AI, companies will be able to offer hyper-aware, contextually relevant experiences that are personalized to the individual in a way we’ve never been able to before.
The possibilities are vast and varied for nearly every industry to connect with both their employees and their customers in new, more relevant ways.
One of the most significant impacts voice technology will have on both workplace and consumer spaces is in the accessibility of the spaces and places that access actually happens. Software is not known for its user-friendly nature. Very few legacy systems have any considerations built in for accessibility and even those that do are often high-friction and difficult to use.
User experience is increasingly central to a positive customer or employee interaction, and voice user interfaces have the power to be among the most natural interactions one can have.
In the workplace, this will open doors that had been firmly closed to those with needs that differ from the median. Even something as straightforward as a voice-enabled calendar application can be a game-changing innovation for users. And in both work and general contexts the breaking down of barriers can only help in reaching larger audiences and connecting with people who haven’t had the opportunity to engage with an organization before.
Workplaces of the future
It may feel like voice user interfaces are everywhere already, but we’ve only just started to see their impact and dip our toes into what they’re capable of. From mundane personal tasks to strategic company decisions, voice interfaces are going to drive a significant shift in the ways we do business.
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