Voice Search Sees Business Boost

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Among consumers, half of all web searches will soon be done by voice, according to research from AppDynamics, an application performance management and IT operations analytics company. The enterprise side isn’t moving as quickly, but the upward trend is certainly strong, speech technology experts agree.

In fact, 61 percent of IT decision makers expect voice commands to completely replace manually typed commands for finding information on the internet, AppDynamics found recently.

Enterprise voice search is starting to gain traction for many of the same reasons that are propelling its growth on the consumer side. The first is ease of use, as people want the same technology that they use at home to be available to them when they go to work.

This is particularly true for younger workers who have grown up using voice-enabled intelligent assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, or Google Assistant; voice-activated television remotes; and similar technology around the house.

“The younger generation wants to be able to access information the way they need to, and voice is a big part of that,” says Jen Snell, vice president of product strategy and marketing at customer engagement technology provider Verint Systems.

The second driver is the ability to use natural language understanding to query ever-growing enterprise knowledge bases and other internal company data repositories for customer, product, or procedural information and experts to bring into conversations. Speed is also a factor, with voice searches often producing results faster than text-based searches.

Some advanced voice search systems can pick out keywords from both sides of a conversation, starting searches for relevant information as discussions happen, speeding call completion that much more.

“Intelligent agents help agents better serve the customers,” Snell says. “Voice-enabled intelligent agents can help shorten calls and reduce handling times.”

While human agents can type in search requests, using voice with natural language understanding is just as capable of sorting through internal knowledge bases and data repositories as well as external information sources, according to experts. This is particularly important for companies that have several similar products with different technical specs, making it unlikely that agents could access the right information without assistance.

The need for faster, more comprehensive search capabilities on the enterprise side becomes more pronounced when companies expand their product lines organically or through acquisitions. Those deals typically result in expanding knowledge bases distributed between many disparate systems with different typed commands, taxonomies, grammars, keywords, and system accesses needed to access them. Voice search can greatly simplify the process.

As products grow in complexity, it becomes increasingly important for agents to have technology that helps them accomplish tasks and deliver the fast, efficient, and correct service that customers have come to expect, Snell says. “A lot of technology and apps are hard to understand and use. It’s not a natural experience.”

Enterprise voice search can also help shift contact center agents from reactive to proactive customer service, says Ian Firth, vice president of product at Speechmatics, a speech recognition software provider. “With it and continuous intelligence, you can up-level the customer experience.”

Consumers today expect faster responses from customer service agents, Firth adds, while companies often don’t have the time to adequately train agents on all of their products and services, particularly given the high turnover rate in contact centers.

The complexity faced by customer support isn’t limited to the technology arena either, Snell adds. For medical insurance, for example, there are different codes for different types of procedures. Entering the wrong code through a transposition of numbers or reading the wrong number off of a list means a change in billing, insurance reimbursements, and other issues.

With voice search and an integrated billing program, agents or billing clerks don’t need to know all of the codes for every procedure. The technology allows the person to say the name of the procedure and the technology automatically retrieves the proper code and fills it into the correct spots on the forms.

Vocera is one technology vendor that makes a voice-activated “badge” that doctors and other medical personnel can wear to query hospital systems, locate and connect to colleagues, and pull appropriate data from electronic hospital records and other systems and push it to the right caregivers during patient consultations. The badge looks like a cross between a Bluetooth earpiece and a phone and can be clipped to clothing or worn around the neck.

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