Let’s talk: The tech moment of voice is here

November 5, 2020 1:45 AM

A company’s voice strategy will only be as successful as its IT infrastructure: voice responses and engagement happen in real-time

A company’s voice strategy will only be as successful as its IT infrastructure: voice responses and engagement happen in real-time, so IT-readiness will be crucial to the transition.A company’s voice strategy will only be as successful as its IT infrastructure: voice responses and engagement happen in real-time, so IT-readiness will be crucial to the transition.

By Manish Bahl

When we look back at the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the unsung victims of the devastating virus is the touchscreen. While the virus made us wary of unhygienic surfaces, the lockdown and social isolation revived our interest in interacting with a human-sounding voice, catalysing the large-scale shift towards the voice interface.

A whopping 92% of Indian businesses, which participated in a Cognizant survey, believe that the shift from touch to voice will only accelerate in the future, with voice interfaces expanding beyond smart speakers to chatbots, applications, products and services. Personal voice assistants are expected to outnumber the world’s population by 2024, and in India alone, according to a report, the voice market is expected to grow 40% in 2020.

In the future, consumers will expect to have a voice option at self-checkout counters, ATMs, automobiles, elevators and anywhere else with touch interfaces. The Cognizant study reveals that only 15% of Indian companies surveyed have a formal voice strategy in place today. Fast forward to 2022, and another 58% of businesses, compared to the regional average of 55%, will have a voice strategy. Either you embrace the new age of ‘voice’ or be prepared to be left behind.
According to the survey, data privacy (91%), developing a brand voice personality (83%) and a shortage of required talent and knowledge (80%) are the top three challenges for executing a voice strategy.

Discovery through third-party voice assistants and customers
About one billion voice searches are made each month. Nearly half of all searches will be voice-based by the end of 2020, with mobile voice searches being three times more likely than text. A brand’s visibility will depend on being found by voice assistants. In order to enhance the discovery of voice features, companies will have to optimise content and infrastructure for voice search, while rethinking existing web content.

Brands need to build meaningful “voice skills” (namely, Alexa Skills, Google Actions) that will enable customers to discover their services when they issue a verbal command to their voice assistant (for instance, adding an item to a grocery list).

Enhance engagement with users
In the enhancement phase, companies should add a voice capability to boost existing processes, products, applications and services or create voice-driven new products or services. Brands should give their voice personas a personality that resonates well with their users. Companies will also need to make voice core to their customer experience strategy. The effective use of voice-enabled applications can be a game-changer. In addition to this, a human-centric design thinking will be instrumental in delivering the desired experiences.

We are in the early days of reaping revenues through voice, but the possibilities will become more apparent as the technology matures and user confidence grows. A company’s voice strategy will only be as successful as its IT infrastructure: voice responses and engagement happen in real-time, so IT-readiness will be crucial to the transition. Companies need to ensure that their IT infrastructure is agile, responsive, flexible, secure, scalable and simple to handle voice transactions. Secondly, the success of a company’s products, services and applications will depend on how it leverages AI technologies in making interactions between humans and machines more natural.

The writer is assistant VP, Centre for the Future Work – Asia Pacific, Cognizant

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