Speech Technology Magazine

 

Adding Speech into the Cross-Platform Mix

Conversational interfaces that operate across platforms are a customer service must-have
By Phillip Britt - Posted Jul 2, 2018
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To be successful, today’s companies need to be ready to communicate with their customers when and where they demand. People use a variety of devices and channels, many on a daily basis, depending on where each individual is at that moment. A person may use a desktop at work, switch to a tablet when at home, and use a smartphone in between. Increasingly, an Amazon Echo may replace the tablet—or even the desktop computer. And your customer may choose to interact with her smartphone via Siri. As voice-based conversational interfaces become a bigger part of the customer journey, they too need to function across platforms and play well with others.

Consumer behavior has evolved, explains Priya Iyer, chairman and CEO of Vee24. “An Accenture survey shows that 83% of consumers prefer having a conversation to solve an issue, while 45% of consumers are willing to pay more for an efficient conversational interaction. With the significant information overload that consumers are experiencing, it is businesses that create seamless conversational experiences that will win the next wave of customer loyalty.”

A cross-platform conversational interface maintains the flow of communication when a customer switches between devices. What does this look like? It means there’s no need to ask a customer to repeatedly offer information like name, address, and account or to restate a problem after being switched from a virtual agent to a human, or from a contact center worker to a specialist. Providing seamless communication is critical to providing excellent customer service, a key component of customer retention.

The McKinsey study Customer Experience: New Capabilities, New Audiences, New Opportunities found that 56% of all customer interactions occur during a multi-event, multi-channel journey, and 38% of all customer journeys involve more than one channel of interaction. A cross-platform conversational interface is critical to track these journeys.

What Is a Cross-Platform Conversational Interface?

“Conversation interfaces help companies control the digital experience and maintain a special relationship with their customers,” Iyer says. “In fact, this relationship can be a barrier to entry for competitors. Conversational interfaces can work on top of messaging platforms. Users have adopted many such platforms, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Twitter. In many cases consumers adopt more than one messaging platform.” And that’s where the cross-platform part comes in. 

These cross-platform conversational interfaces help with maintaining and promoting brand awareness, building sales, and providing customer service, much like in-store staff has been expected to do in the brick-and-mortar environment, Iyer explains. “Imagine a consumer’s service or buying journey: They are looking for something specific and come to your online property. Do you have an online greeter who orients them and sends them in the right direction? Do you have an expert at that destination to meet them and ask them about their specific needs—showing them products or solutions and answering their many questions? Once they are ready to buy or accept your great solution, are you completing their journey in the best possible way, upselling appropriately or creating brand loyalty and a longer-term relationship with them?”

This is what cross-platform conversational interfaces provide, Iyer says, relying on the same backbone to provide seamless interactions across devices and leaning on chatbots for much of the two-way communication with external and internal customers. 

In essence, cross-platform conversational interfaces should solve the issues that arise when people work on many different devices by ensuring the movement between the devices is seamless. 

Cross-Platform Conversational Interfaces Get a Voice

“Intensely digital customers are also intensely impatient,” according to the Accenture report. “They’re also not as wedded to digital experiences as we would like to believe. To keep this fickle and fast-moving group engaged, companies simply can’t give them a reason to leave. That means they need to focus less on luring customers with digital marketing and sales and more on dazzling them with superior service.” And that means keeping up with the new platforms, channels, and devices that they want to connect with you on. 

The popularity of Amazon Echo, Google Home, and other digital assistants has led to the creation of cross-platform conversational interfaces that work across these devices. It’s no longer good enough to be on your customers’ desktops, tablets, smartphones, and smartwatches—now you have to be ready to speak with them on their favorite digital assistant. For instance, Versay has expanded beyond its initial involvement in IVRs to provide technology that works across these voice platforms to engage customers with the same brand feel as promoted in the company’s multimedia marketing materials. For example, if one uses a digital assistant, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home, to call Progressive Insurance, the chatbot on the other end mimics the speech patterns of the “Flo” character from the company’s television commercials.

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