It’s hard to imagine a time when we’ll talk to objects and devices and be offended if they don’t reply. But with Google estimating that half of all searches will happen by voice by 2020, and Gartner predicting that thirty percent of all online browsing will take place without a screen by the same year, that time is very much upon us.
And what a time it is. If you haven’t heard, voice user interfaces are wiping out everything that came before them and becoming the new, improved home screen. These home screens are not like we currently know them, but are rather invisible, ambient, and made up of a plethora of voice habits and commands that trigger everything from your car to your cooker.
Sounds convincing. But apart from offering a few novelties, interactive games, and the ability to order more toilet roll before you even stand up, the potential that voice apps and assistants have to offer businesses and their customers seems to be very limited indeed.
It would be unwise, however, to discount voice on the basis of its early innovators and adopters. The technology is rapidly evolving and level of penetration is increasing just as fast, with those who have put their faith in the industry already reaping the rewards.
So before everyone catches on and the tech really takes off, let’s take a look at a few ways your business can get involved and become a part of the voice revolution.
Improve your customers’ daily life
It’s one of the first questions you should ask for any new product: how is it going to improve the customers’ life? But with voice, a paradigm-shifting medium that effectively gives everyone their own digital assistant, things are a little bit different.
First, if voice is going to be the next big interface, it doesn’t matter so much how you apply it in your business, just as long as you do. Second, it’s important to know that no matter how much value you provide, it will be lost if it’s delivered in a way that’s overbearing or intrusive. Voice has the same potential to be as disruptive as it has to be beneficial.
With those points in mind, there’s no end to the ways in which your business can improve its offering and its customers’ lives. And the good news is that often the less demanding and complex the application the more likely customers are to engage with it.
A good example is banking. Capital One’s Alexa Skill enables customers to do things like check their balance, see what bills are due, and even pay them using simple voice commands. What makes it so effective is that, as well as meaning you don’t have to fire up a browser and log in to do a 2-minute task, it’s also ideal in events such as suspected fraud or a lost or stolen card.
To discover how your business can take advantage of voice, ask, what do your customers need to be able to find out or do on a daily, bi-weekly, or weekly basis?’ It could be booking a hair appointment, checking if a parcel has been shipped or delivered, or learning a particular skill or topic. It may be that a voice app improves on an already existing aspect of your service, or that it delivers them with something that’s entirely new.
Address a common pain point
It’s no coincidence that the top Alexa skills include such gems as Chompers, Find My Phone, and Daily Cat Facts. What may seem like trivialities are in fact cleverly designed tools that address common pain points.
Okay, maybe not the last one. But take Chompers, a daily morning and nighttime show full of jokes, riddles, stories, and fun facts that’s based around getting children to brush their teeth for the full two minutes. Gimlet, the media house that hosts it, simply saw a problem of kids not engaging in brushing their teeth, and then converted it into an opportunity and addressed it with hands-free storytelling.
Similarly, Find My Phone addresses a mundane problem we all encounter at some point or other. With the simple command, “Alexa, find my phone”, the app will ring your phone without you even having to stop rummaging around for a second.
Both skills provide effective solutions to pain points, but it’s not as if they are major problems that were impossible to live with before the apps existed. What makes voice so attractive to customers and a leap forward from, say, mobile devices, is that as a hands-free, ambient-technology, it speaks to something we all value: time.
Kayak’s Alexa skill is a great example of how voice apps can save users time. According to a user’s set criteria, the flight and holiday comparison tool searches for deals and alerts users only when it finds something that meets their needs.
It’s essentially like having a personal travel agent; the app works away in the background without you needing to do anything. And so, it removes the need to be constantly manually checking prices online, while at the same time allowing users to be the first in line to hear about new offers.
As well as dealing in time, Kayak’s skill is also dealing in peace of mind. It knows its users are price conscious and extremely busy. So by letting them search for flights, manage their trips, and book hotels using just their voice, they’re providing them with much higher value than any sophisticated, web-based comparison tool ever could.
What are your customers biggest pain points? What takes them longer to do than it needs to? How can you use voice to save them time and improve their peace of mind? Ask these questions diligently and you’ll be sure to come up with one if not several ways your business can take its place in the voice revolution.
Joseph Pennington is a freelance writer and long-term traveller from the North of England. Connect with him on LinkedIn and find more articles on work, technology, spirituality, and everything in between.