Industry Commentary

Digital Voice Assistants Need to be on the BPO Radar

By November 1, 2019January 10th, 2024No Comments

Just when seasoned customer experience professionals thought that they had seen it all, a new contact channel emerges.  The reality is that so many operators were convinced that the ongoing use of voice and non-voice mediums had hit a saturation point.  However, the adoption of digital voice assistants has changed the current channel dynamic, with users eager to interact via this medium.  This is something that no enterprise can ignore, and front-office BPO providers need to be ready.  Outsourcers need to realize the potential of digital voice assistants to help cement relationships for their clients, especially as this communications tool goes mainstream.

Digital voice assistant technology is a natural part of the communications revolution that has been taking place since the 1980s. Digital mediums are playing a bigger role in our day-to-day lives. This trajectory has evolved from the beginnings of the internet through to the use of multiple means of interacting with enterprises via smart phone applications.  But, where digital voice assistants pose an interesting challenge relates to how consumers are adopting this technology in their daily lives, and determining how best to reconcile human support with automated interfaces.

Much of the growth of digital voice assistant technology has been around installation of smart speakers in homes around the world.  Not only has it proven a straightforward method for finding out basic information (such as weather forecasts or sports scores), but it is also morphing into addressing more complex needs as consumers become comfortable with this automated, voice-recognition technology.  This raises the question that has been on the lips of contact center professionals for what seems like an eternity, in the context of digital voice assistants – at what point does the automated interface need to recognize that a live agent should take over an interaction using this medium?

And this raises another issue, related to voice-driven interactions using digital voice assistants.  It is clear that most digital voice assistant platforms have matured sufficiently to support fully- automated self-service interactions, but there is little flexibility beyond that. To date digital voice assistants, for the most part, are extremely limited in their capacity to directly support a voice interaction between a customer and a call center agent. As more brands embrace digital voice assistants for their customer interaction scenarios, and as consumers feel more comfortable interacting with this channel, voice assistant platforms will need to become more responsive to live front-line customer experience requirements.

This was highlighted in a jointly-published report by Anikanov.com and Ryan Strategic Advisory, which identified the significant penetration of digital voice assistant devices in homes across North America and Western Europe (e.g. – one quarter of US homes and one fifth of those in the UK have smart speakers). It finds that customer experience delivery via this platform is a case of when not if.  Being able to partner with enterprise clients to assist in choosing the right strategies to ensure robust automated exchanges, in tandem with the best talent to manage live interactions, is an opportunity that should not be missed.  And, helping incorporate digital voice assistant technologies alongside those of others in the channel mix will be important for firms eager to maximize their communications reach with their consumers.  No enterprise can afford to be without digital voice assistant as a channel platform, and no BPO can afford to be without a digital voice assistant solution for its clients.