Digital voice technology – think virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant, and so on – is changing the role of customer engagement in the enterprise, altering the function of traditional on-premises or cloud-based customer-relationship management (CRM) applications.
CRM (covering sales, marketing, and service software) traditionally had only limited voice interaction with the customer: voicemail for customer service agents in a call center setting or computer voice-driven phone directories for customers to reach the correct department. The penetration of these voice technologies was not very high for the simple reason that they don’t really add value for the customer in saving time or reaching the right person in the right department.
What changed with digital voice assistants?
Quite a few forces have come together to enable voice technologies to add more value to the customer, including cloud compute power, mobility, powerful hardware/silicon chips, and advances in natural language processing (NLP).
Let’s explore some of the ways voice assistants are changing the role of customer engagement in an enterprise.
- Marketing: Quite often, marketing spending is tracked and often cut due to poor return on investment from online ads, TV commercials, email campaigns, etc. Instead, imagine a voice activated/enabled campaign where the customer can interact with an ad through voice and get the product they’re looking for. This can lead to a higher ROI on marketing campaigns due to better customer engagement and increased conversions from ads to sales.
- Online shopping: Voice-enabled online shopping applications can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty by allowing shoppers to ask questions and get help from the retailer’s customer service department through voice commands.
- Sales: Change management is an Achilles heel with previous-generation CRM applications, because sales reps resist logging customer interactions or activities in the sales applications. This leads to a vicious cycle: what’s not recorded is not tracked, what’s not tracked is not measured. As a result, sales pipeline visibility is based on vague estimates with wide variances against actual sales, rather than accurate reporting based on hard data. However, voice assistants for sales reps can enable dictation of customer interactions that auto-populate the CRM. In addition, voice technology allows sales reps to prepare for sales calls by “asking” the CRM for vital reports and statistics before a customer visit, providing them with the information needed to close higher-value deals that add value to the customer.
- Customer service: First-time customer issue resolution is a key metric that call center agents are measured on, and voice-assistant technologies within software applications help agents find answers quicker (from the product issues knowledge base), enabling agents to resolve problems while the customer is on the phone. This technology also helps call center agents find other products or services that may benefit the customer, helping them deliver exceptional customer experiences.
- Field service: By dictating a product serial or part number into a voice-enabled application, field service reps can check on spare parts availability or order a part directly onsite, even from a hot rooftop, underneath a piece of equipment, or in another tight or uncomfortable location. This speeds part delivery, vs. the typical scenario in which the service rep has to leave the repair location, clean their soiled hands, and boot up their PC or mobile device to order the part – if they can find connectivity. This improves satisfaction for both the service tech and the customer.
- Customer self-service: Upgrading the tired self-service portal with a voice-enabled app enables customers to speak to create a help ticket for a malfunctioning machine or scan a broken part’s serial number to place an order for a new one. The system automatically assigns a service ticket and provides status notifications of the service technician or part’s arrival.
What seems like a pipe dream or futuristic is already here; it’s just that some early adopters are running with it while others are still waiting for the technology to mature. Some companies are leaping ahead of their peers by embedding voice technology into their customer service applications, aiming to increase their top lines, bottom lines, customer loyalty, employee satisfaction, and customer base.
For more on delivering what customers want, see Influencing Customers Through Infinite Personalization.