The UK Government-commissioned Digital Radio and Audio Review has proposed new regulation that would force smart speaker manufacturers and voice assistant providers to guarantee free access to radio stations. read more
Divergence within the conversational AI market is necessary. It creates differentiation. Here’s a look at how that’s happening, where it’ll converge in future and why that’s important.
Is Amazon’s latest device, Astro, the world’s first widely available house robot, just a talking Hoover? Or is there more to it? read more
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.
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.
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.
There are two problems with this:
- 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.
- 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?”
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.
Here’s why you’re thinking about conversational AI all wrong and why it’s more transformative than you think. read more
With approximately 427m voice searches made on mobile per day, what does it mean for your business? And what can you do to capitalise on it?
Google Contact Centre AI (CCAI) services are becoming bundled into almost every contact centre you can find. Here’s why that’s a super-smart move from Google. read more
Here’s why ‘containment rate’ isn’t the right way to measure the success of your chat bot or IVR bot and the 3 things you should use instead. read more
Is being first to adopt conversational AI worth it? Or should you wait?
The people that go first tend to make mistakes that the rest of the market can learn from.
The concept of the fast follower is a very real concept, which is that, if you go second, you tend to learn from the mistakes made by the people that go first.
But that’s no reason not to go first.
I’ll give you an example: the very first railroad track was laid in 1821 in Stockton-on-Tees, where I’m from, and it went from Stockton to Darlington.
The UK, Britain, was benefiting from having railroad transport from 1820, all the way through to 1870. I think the next one might have been in China in 1870, and that was a narrow gauge track, laid by the British.
Yes, now there are far better rail systems, far faster trains. The one going from Shanghai to Beijing was laid and opened in 2011, and gets up to 217 miles an hour with those bullet trains.
India has got fantastic trains, so I’m told. Italy, the one going from Naples to Rome is absolutely rapid.
There are far better systems in place than the ones, and the tracks, that exists in the UK. And that’s because the infrastructure in the UK was laid a long, long time ago. We can’t get massive wide trains that go 200 miles an hour down most of our tracks.
But, we’ve benefited from transporting goods and people for 200 years, and the rest of the world hasn’t.
And so when you relate that back to conversational AI, there’s a lot of people creating conversational AI, a lot of people implementing it, but there’s a lot of people sitting on the fence and thinking “Well, we’ll just wait. We’ll wait and see what happens, we’ll wait to see what unfolds.”
Now, obviously, in the next five years, things will be better. Technology will be better and it will be far easier to do things.
But starting now and being first within your industry or your vertical, means that you get the benefit over the next five to ten years.
In the same way as the UK was getting the benefit of the railroads from 1820 onwards, you too will have the benefit of conversational AI from today onwards, if you do it today.
And the difference with infrastructure that is nailed to the ground and spans across geographies is that it’s very hard to change. Conversational AI; you can constantly improve, you can constantly iterate, you can constantly bring in and out, and swap tools as new and better technology becomes available.
And so there really isn’t an excuse for waiting. There’s no excuse. Doesn’t make any sense.
If you start today, you’ll get the benefit today.