While it’s still all-too common to see consumers with their heads bowed over their smartphone screens, intelligent assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant are rising quickly in popularity to help their users make calls, answer questions and make online purchases simply by using their voice.
By Al Castle
A survey from Accenture found that consumers that own in-home digital voice assistant devices are using their smartphones less often for entertainment and online purchasing. “Digital voice assistant devices are challenging smartphones as the central hub for all activities in the home,” said David Sovie, global managing director of Accenture’s High Tech business.
In a recent survey, call intelligence company Invoca, found that with the increasing adoption of intelligent assistants, many consumers are “speaking more and clicking less” as they become more familiar with the device’s functionality. Almost 60 percent use them to accomplish tasks they previously would have done on their smartphones (i.e., “typing and swiping”).
Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of U.S. consumers surveyed by Invoca reported that they were making more calls to businesses than they previously did, and 35 percent reported making more calls to friends and family with their virtual assistants. As one example, 46 percent of consumers surveyed stated that they have used a virtual assistant to connect directly with a hotel, airline or travel agent.
Voice – despite many claims to the contrary over the years – isn’t dead after all. Far from it! If anything, it’s thriving, based on its ability to shift and evolve in response to new technologies and innovations like virtual assistants.
That said, voice technologies used in intelligent speakers and other devices that help users to place calls, are only as useful as the foundational telephony infrastructure that enables those calls to happen in the first place.
Virtual assistants present unique challenges in terms of their telephony audio quality; issues such as background noise or having multiple voices speaking concurrently can all impact call audio quality. For businesses, being able to deliver both reliable connectivity and strong audio quality when a call request is made through a virtual assistant can make or break a customer interaction or an important sale, putting a direct correlation between call clarity and a company’s bottom line.
Clear, reliable call quality – whether a call originates with a traditional landline phone or a virtual assistant – is also imperative for managing customer service inquiries. When making complicated or high-value purchases, or dealing with a personalized or customized order, customers most often want to speak with a live human. Voice and audio quality here are paramount.
In this scenario, what matters most to the end user is that their call is connected seamlessly, the audio is clear and strong, and the call isn’t dropped during the interaction. Customer service issue resolution becomes secondary if a customer can’t reach a company’s customer service team in the first place, or if they can’t hear clearly during the interaction. Customers don’t want to have to think about which device to contact a business with, they simply want to know it will work correctly, every time.
Some software-centric carriers provide businesses with access to advanced signaling metadata, which allows developers to gain insight into a caller’s phone line type (wired/wireless) and geographic information that can help enable innovative call routing or unique applications. In the case of a customer service department or call center, this technology could help route calls intelligently to the right destination, saving time and effort for customers looking to get resolve issues quickly.
Other technologies on the carrier side that can influence call and audio quality include adaptive call routing (i.e., the ability to re-route calls around impaired network infrastructure quickly) and direct media delivery (i.e., ensuring that calls take the shortest, simplest path to their end destination).
As consumers and businesses alike continue to adopt intelligent assistants, it’s well within reason to think they will emerge as a viable alternative to traditional telephony devices. Therefore, businesses should work closely with their communication service providers to ensure that they can deliver a clear, reliable and high-quality connection regardless of the devices being used both today and in the future.
Al Castle is the vice president of product and engineering at Flowroute in Seattle. He brings more than 15 years of operational experience in software engineering and B2B SaaS platform management. Prior to joining Flowroute, Castle was the director of engineering at Motorola Solutions, where he built and launched the organization’s first SaaS platform and IOT enterprise software system in less than five months.