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Why the UK Gov latest smart speaker recommendations are dangerous

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Google’s Assistant strategy and what it means for your brand

Google’s Assistant strategy and what it means for your brand 1800 1200 Kane Simms

Google’s recent integration of Google Assistant with Technicolor set-top-boxes further shows that Google’s strategy for Assistant is more than timers, alarms and web searches.

You might think of Google assistant as the thing that you use to search the web on your phone or the speaker you use to play music at home. But with every new partnership, Google adds another string to its assistant’s bow that sees a slightly different Google Assistant appear on different surfaces. All the while, the Google Assistant umbrella expands and it edges closer to becoming the default assistant in your life and the default access point to the internet.

For example, the partnership Google has with auto manufacturers like Ford, Volvo, Nissan and more, sees Google gain in-car control capabilities. You can turn your heating on, check your tyre pressure or wind your windows down, just by asking Google Assistant.

You can still do the standard things you’d typically do with Google Assistant on your phone or smart speaker, like play music, get directions and ask questions, but its appearance in the car gives it new capabilities, which expands its role in your life, and expands its role in the world.

The recent integration with Technicolor set-top-boxes means that you’ll now be able to control your TV, switch channels, play on-demand content and more by asking Google Assistant.

This has been possible for a while, as well as native integration with TVs, with brands like Logitech being one of the first to implement it. But as these capabilities mature, one partnership at a time, Google is drawing a vale over an increasing number of surfaces, each with their own unique flavour of Assistant.

So what’s really happening? And what’s Google’s strategy?

History repeats itself for Google

We wrote previously about Amazon’s Alexa strategy, but Google’s is slightly different, and you have you look back a few years to figure out what’s really going on.

As the adoption of the internet grew in the 90s, and the predominant access point to the internet was the web browser, Google became the default front door to the internet with its unrivalled search presence.

With #GoogleAssistant, #Google is jostling to reestablish itself as the front door to the internet by providing the default access point to anything and everything that can connect to it. Click To Tweet

Now, though, the internet is accessible from everywhere: web browsers, apps, TVs, speakers, watches, cars, household appliances and increasingly more surfaces. With Google Assistant, Google is jostling to reestablish itself as the front door to the internet by providing the default access point to anything and everything that can connect to it i.e. all connected devices and surfaces.

Think of Google Assistant as the layer that sits over the top of the internet. Over time, perhaps, your default access point to the entire thing.

What does that mean for brands?

So what does that mean for brands? Should you integrate with Google Assistant? Should you build your own assistant? Or should you sit this one out?

At this stage, sitting on the sidelines looks like it’ll become an untenable position. Brands are competing on customer experience and when the world’s largest companies adopt a voice-first, AI-first strategy (as they are), customer expectations change. Over time, those expectations will be placed on your brand. In the same way as the search box on your website is expected to work reliably. In the same way as your website should work seamlessly on mobile. So too will you be expected to offer 24/7 speedy access to products and services via voice user interfaces across surfaces and channels.

At this stage, sitting on the sidelines looks like it'll become an untenable position. #Brands are competing on #customerexperience and when the world's largest companies adopt a #voicefirst #AI first #strategy (as they are),… Click To Tweet

What about integrating with Google Assistant vs building your own assistant?

Well, that depends on the kind of brand you are, the kind of products you have and the kind of relationship you already have with your customers.

If you’re a brand that provides a high degree of utility, with a low degree of brand loyalty, low frequency of interactions on owned channels and your customers have a relatively low degree of emotional attachment with your brand, then you might as well play the game and integrate with Google Assistant.

For Technicolor, not many average people really know what the brand is. As long as your set-top-box gets you the content you’re looking for, then who cares who provides the operating system or the assistant?

Same for a brand like Whirlpool. As long as your washing machine is cleaning clothes, you’re happy. How you control it is really neither here nor there.

However, for brands like Nike, Apple, Tesla, NatWest; people have emotional connections to these brands, a high degree of brand loyalty, the brands have a high degree of traffic on owned channels, and, yes, while they do provide utility, they also have an experiential nature of the product or service and customer experience matters. So, for these brands, it might make more sense to invest in your own assistant.

It doesn’t have to have a name or be a character like Domino’s Dom, Capital One’s Eno or Vodafone’s Toby. That’s surface-level stuff. What matters is your strategic approach to the future of brand and customer engagement.

Your #voiceassistant doesn’t have to have a name or be a character like Domino’s Dom. That's surface-level stuff. What matters is your strategic approach to the future of brand and customer engagement. Click To Tweet

You may have a presence on Google Assistant for some use cases, but that would be an extension of your assistant, rather than it’s home.

In the same way as Google Assistant expands into new areas and acquires new capabilities, so too would your assistant as it expands from owned channels onto voice assistant platforms.

Considering the temptation

The temptation though, when you see the increased presence of Google Assistant across a wider range of surfaces, is to run to the shiny new thing. So you’d be forgiven for riding the wave.

What matters most, though, is that you consider your options and make the right call for the right reasons based on your brand, your customers and your desired future.

Why is Microsoft acquiring Nuance, really? The bigger picture

Why is Microsoft acquiring Nuance, really? The bigger picture 1800 1200 Kane Simms

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Step up your chatbot and voice assistant game

Step up your chatbot and voice assistant game 1800 1200 Kane Simms

There’s too many average conversational AI implementations that are ill-designed and not greatly useful. Don’t fall into that trap.

This short story is about a generally less than desirable experience with a chatbot, that sums up where I think the industry is as far as a) use case identification (solving real customer problems) and b) conversation design (solving real customer problems successfully) is concerned.

I found a training course online, ran by a conversational AI provider (naming no names). When I clicked to find out more, up popped a chatbot to say hello. A chatbot, powered by the companies own technology, presumably.

Wanting to enquire about the training, I chatted with the bot. The interaction, though, wasn’t what I expected.

Expectations

When I click a button that says ‘enquire’ or ‘contact us’, that triggers the opening of a chatbot, my first impression is ‘cool, I can ask it a few questions’.

Instead, what happened was that I was walked through a lead-gen form. It asked me three questions, said thanks, we’ll be in touch, and bye.

It asked:

  • Name:
  • Email:
  • Company:

The problem?

There are two problems with this:

  1. It’s not delivering on what the promise was when I clicked the button. When I click to contact or enquire, I have a question in mind. I expect to have the opportunity to ask it.
  2. It’s not a better experience than a traditional online form. In fact, it’s actually quicker to fill in a form than it is to use a chatbot for this use case. With a form, there’s no need to wait for bot responses and no need to confirm what you’ve entered. Just type, tab, type, tab, type, return and you’re done.

The biggest problem

Perhaps a bigger problem than choosing an ill-fitted use case, is the fact that the bot didn’t even understand that “Yep” means “Yes”.

For example, it asked me to confirm my details:

Bot: “Here’s what you said… Name: Email: Company: Is this correct?”

“Yep”, I said.

It then confirmed my details again:

Bot: “Here’s what you said… Name: Email: Company: Is this correct?”

Me: “Yes”

Bot: “Great…”

So not only is one of the leading providers of conversational AI technology finding use cases that are slower than an online form for its bots, it’s also not even trained its models on ‘Yep’.

It’s symptomatic of the conversational AI industry

Yet this is symptomatic of where I feel we are right now. Technology-led, headline-grabbing, ‘just build a chatbot’ mentality.

There’s not enough focus or attention on finding the right use case, that’s quicker, easier and better in conversational form. Nor is there much focus on designing highly successful conversations that deliver on that promise successfully every time.