Think The Voice Channel Is Dead? Think Again
by Amy Livingstone , Op-Ed Contributor, June 21, 2017
These days, when people have a question or concern about your products, they almost always reach for their mobile device. But what they do next may surprise you.
Research shows that digital channels such as Web chat, Twitter, email and mobile apps are must-haves for interacting with today’s consumers. So when consumers reach for their smartphones, it’s easy to assume that they’re going to launch your app, message you on Facebook or visit your mobile-friendly Web site.
But often, in reality, they’re still dialing a number. According to a 2016 Forrester Research study, 83 percent of U.S. adult Internet users had a phone conversation with a customer service representative in the past year. Sixty-three percent of them also reported using the voice channel for self-service, such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems whose Conversational AI capabilities enable callers to converse with a virtual agent as if there were a human rep on the other end.
It’s not that one set of research is wrong. Just the opposite: Digital interactions are growing exponentially, but not at the expense of voice engagement. Savvy marketing and customer service professionals are balancing their strategies and budgets accordingly. Here’s how.
Your Customers and Bottom Line Deserve a Modern IVR
For starters, they apply the same overarching goal to digital and voice channels: meet their customers’ needs with an experience that is easy, intuitive, fast and convenient. In the case of voice, that means investing in an IVR solution that supports advanced features like Conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Understanding (NLU), and voice biometrics. Bonus: Many of those advanced features can be extended to digital channels, thus maximizing your voice solution’s RoI and effectiveness.
Conversational AI equips the IVR with added smarts by enabling it to know who is calling, listening to the voice input, understanding what the caller wants, and either responding intelligently with the needed information, or directing the caller to the right destination to provide optimum customer service. Conversational AI solutions are powered by Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology, which eliminates a common hassle: wasting time listening to a menu of options, selecting one and then enduring another menu . . . and another . . . before finally getting to the right destination. With NLU, callers can simply tell the IVR what they need, just as if they were speaking to a live agent, streamlining the experience.
Conversational AI solutions give consumers the freedom to use everyday language — even mispronunciations, slang and heavy accents — because it can recognize more than just a limited set of industry-specific terms. This means that customers of a TV service, for example, don’t need to predict specific words the IVR system is looking for, but are free to say “My cable box is frozen and I need help re-starting it.” In the case of one leading Canadian insurance and financial services company — whose upgraded IVR is powered by conversational AI and NLU in both English and French — its customers can simply say things like, “I need to change the address associated with my bank account” or “I lost my debit card, can you help me?” in the same way they would speak to a live agent.
This same company’s modern IVR also knows who is calling through intelligent authentication, which leverages voice biometrics, to enable the IVR to authenticate callers by analyzing their voice. Voice biometric authentication is so secure that it can reduce call center fraud costs by 90 percent, according to research conducted by Coleman Parkes and Opus.
Voice biometrics helps make the voice channel experience effortless by eliminating a top consumer gripe: having to remember, repeat and reset security credentials such as PINs, and passwords. One way businesses enroll their customers in voice biometrics is by having them record a passphrase, such as “My voice is my password.” This recording becomes their voiceprint, and every time they call the IVR or access a mobile app, they simply repeat that phrase to gain access.
Already major global brands — from leading airlines to financial institutions — are offering advanced, modern IVRs that leverage conversational AI, NLU and voice biometrics to provide customers with fast, effortless experiences. Will yours be next?