Learn how to create a research-backed voice AI practice from one of the world’s premier voice AI teams at Comcast. read more
Frank Schneider joins us for a record 3rd time to share insights on why digital transformation has always been about voice, and discusses Speakeasy AI’s Speech-to-Intent patent.
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.
It’s ironic, but you might not have a choice about voice.read more
Sooner or later, you will realise that a conversational AI strategy is actually just an extension of your business strategy. read more
As soon as you start properly examining the potential of conversational AI and voice technology for your business, you find that potential absolutely everywhere. read more
Einav Itamar is the founder and CEO of Voca.ai, a technology company specialising in IVR automation using conversational AI. He joins Dustin and Kane to chat about how to create human-like conversations for IVR bots, the impact of coronavirus on call centre demand and how organisations are approaching automating incoming call centre calls with AI.
Need help with call centre automation? Book a free 20 minute consultation.
Designing human-like voice bots for IVR
One thing is for sure: Covid-19 hit call centres hard.
Some saw the frailty of legacy systems and infrastructure that require you to be fixed at a desk. They had to close completely, unable to work remotely.
Some could enable operatives to work from home, but they were snowed under with a barrage of calls. For some, it was well in excess of double call volumes.
A few realised what was happening and acted. They implemented (or increased their usage of) conversational AI.
Find out how they did, and how you can create human-like, automated conversations that allow you to increase self-service and scale your demand management with Einav Eitamar, CEO, Voca.ai.
A tell tale sign that you need a conversational AI strategy (don’t make the same mistakes as you did with social)
Here’s a tell tale sign that it’s time to put together a proper conversational AI strategy for your company.
Voice and conversational AI is in danger of going down the same route as call centres, websites and social media did in the early days, leading to sunken costs, inefficient management, poor customer experience and ineffective results.
You’ll avoid this with a proper conversational AI strategy that’s woven into your core organisational strategy, but you first need to spot the signs that it’s needed.
Remember when companies used to have multiple Twitter accounts that catered for different customer needs? One account for customer service, another for news and updates, another for recruitment.
These accounts weren’t set up because of a need from the user to have fragmented access. Users don’t need or want to have to deal with multiple different Twitter accounts to get their query resolved. Just like they don’t want to have to call different phone numbers to speak to the right department or search multiple different websites to get what they need.
Fragmented, channel-specific implementations owned by individual teams shows that there’s a potential customer need and an awareness from parts of the business of an opportunity. But it comes at a cost to the customer and the business if it’s not managed centrally as part of a proper purposeful strategy.
History repeats itself with voice and conversational AI
History does repeat itself and we’re seeing the same things start to happen with voice and conversational AI. Multiple teams deploying their own in-channel conversational AI.
The social media team might have a Facebook bot. The marketing team might be experimenting with Alexa and Google Assistant. The IT team might be working with Customer Services to implement an IVR bot and the Digital Team maybe working on a chat bot for the website.
There is nothing wrong with having multiple bots across multiple channels. In fact, this is inevitable when you implement a conversational AI strategy. The problem is when all of those bots are managed independently by a whole load of different teams, with different purposes, different cultures and different goals.
The drawbacks of a siloed voice and conversational AI strategy
Having multiple bots managed by multiple teams means that:
- Customers have an inconsistent experience. Both in terms of what they’re able to do i.e. if the website chat bot doesn’t do the same things as the Facebook messenger bot, and in terms of how it interacts i.e. different designers working to different briefs producing different customer experiences across each channel.
- Data is fragmented. If your Facebook bot is sending data to your social team, your Alexa skill to your sales team and your chatbot to your web team, you’re not gathering learnings from across the board. You can’t understand how effective conversational AI actually is without going to three different places to view the details.
- Business value is untapped. If your website chatbot is doing something really well, wouldn’t it be good to extend that into your IVR? Or onto Alexa? Individual departments managing individual channels means that no one is focusing on making sure the business extracts maximum value from the entire operation.
- It’s more expensive. This one is obvious, but creating and managing conversational AI agents isn’t free. Even if you built them all internally, it costs. You have staff costs, licensing and software costs, potential partnership or agency costs. If you don’t build centrally and deploy across channels, you’ll be spending far more on it than you should.
- You’re duplicating effort. As well as paying more, you’re wasting resources. All of the AI training, the design, the development, the testing, the analysis, the iterations; all of it duplicated by the amount of bots you have and the amount of teams managing them. For some, that might only be two, but even that is duplication enough. If you don’t have a strategy and you allow any team to spin-up any bot, it’s only a matter of time before you’re duplicating substantial efforts across the business.
Depending on your culture, if you let things go too far down that route, it can be hard to implement a consistent strategy, even if you wanted to. People get comfortable. Defensive, even.
Start with a conversational AI strategy
This is why you should start from the beginning with a conversational AI strategy that has the following:
- Ownership. As nice as it is to have empowered teams across the organisation, the buck needs to stop with someone. Without a person being responsible for it, you leave too much room for inconsistency, de-prioritisation and chaos. You need a lynchpin, a champion and a driver; without it being someone’s job to own it, make sure it’s a success and steer the ship, you’ll just keep drifting.
- Vision. You need to know where you want to get to and have a vision for that which you can share with the organisation. Like it or not, individuals within the organisation have their own agendas and influence. You need to be able to enthuse and empower key stakeholders with a compelling vision that the organisation can buy into and support.
- Objectives that are aligned to core business goals. Yes, it’s fine to experiment and learn. It’s fine to have baselines rather than targets. But all roads should lead to Rome. It should all be done on purpose with the aim of finding value for the business. And it doesn’t have to be cost savings and efficiencies. It can be incremental revenue, loyalty, delightful customer feedback, whatever matters to your business.
- Standards. Standards for what good design looks like. Standards for how you speak. Standards for the processes you follow. Standards for how you build, test and deploy new use cases consistently across all channels. Standards for the technology you use, build and buy. Standards for the partners you engage with. Standards for how you gather, store and use data. Having standards will allow you to keep quality high and customer experience consistent.
You already have (or should have) this stuff in your digital strategy, it’s a case of iterating it to include conversational AI. Yes, conversational AI should just be part of the wider organisational strategy!
Once you have the foundations in place, you can then plan how you’ll explore, experiment, implement and grow your conversational AI capability across all customer touch points. You don’t have to conquer the world straight away, but you need to start in the right place, with purpose.
You may still have different bots in different channels that specialise in certain areas. They might not all do exactly the same thing, but they’ll have parity where needed and consistency in their appearance and experience.
You’ll save costs and effort, consolidate your learnings easily, as well as be able to move a heck of a lot quicker in response to what you do learn.
A siloed approach works in the extreme short term, but it’ll hurt you eventually. Get a strategy, please.
You can get started with your conversational AI strategy in less than a week with our conversational automation strategy sprint.
Frank Schneider, CEO of Speakeasy AI joins us to share how you can automate your call centres using conversational AI.
Peak behind the curtain at Sony Music’s voice strategy and hear how it’s thinking about the future of music consumption. read more