The Future of CX & Customer Service?

AI-driven voice technology allows companies to improve customer and employee experience alike. But is it something customers want?

Voice-recognition applications are nothing new, but artificial intelligence-driven digital voice brings a level of sophistication to the table that has been unheard of before.

Whereas most people do not like using interactive voice response (IVR) technology (“For English, press 1. For Spanish, press 2.”), finding them to be annoying, time-consuming and unhelpful, today’s AI-driven voice applications are changing customer service and call centers.

Natural language processing (NLP) and conversational AI are often combined with machine learning and natural language understanding (NLU) to create sophisticated applications that enable machines to communicate with human beings in a natural, conversational manner.

How Has Digital Voice Changed?

Like many other types of technology, necessity is the mother of invention. In this case, the last two years of the pandemic forced brands to find ways to deal with a shortage of workers.

“Labor shortages during the pandemic made it difficult for many restaurants to find enough labor to keep their doors open,” said Thibaud Denolle, director of innovation and marketing at Acrelec, a CX-focused tech company. “An influx in mobile and pick-up ordering only complicated things further. Many companies are turning towards AI-powered automated ordering systems to solve labor shortages and backed-up orders, a potential game-changer for next-generation drive-thru.”

The restaurant industry is using the same digital voice technology as virtual assistants — such as Siri and Alexa — to improve the ways customers interact with brands during the ordering process.

For example, the Acrelec Ordermatic’s AI Microphone uses this tech to offer inbound noise and echo cancellation, according to Denolle. “The intelligent microphone and wideband audio perform 92% better than the competition in capturing the customer’s voice for speech-to-text processing.”

Related Article: Examining the Core Components of an Effective Voice Strategy

Digital Voice in Customer Relationship Management

One digital voice solution, Skit.ai, is changing the experience of AI-driven voice bots. The brand’s Augmented Voice Intelligence Platform can have natural-sounding conversations through the use of advanced spoken language understanding systems, speech-first behavioral modeling and natural and fluent response production systems. It can also hyper-personalize interactions to deliver fast and reliable solutions for customers, and its multilingual capabilities eliminate the frustrations caused by misunderstandings or ineffective communication.

Through the use of Skit.ai’s AI-driven voice platform, contact centers across industries, including insurance, banking, finance, retail and ecommerce, experienced up to a 40% reduction in average call handle time, leading to a 50% reduction in companies’ operational costs, according to Sourabh Gupta, CEO and co-founder of Skit.ai.

A 2020 Statista survey revealed that voice remains the preferred method for customers to contact customer service, with 42% of respondents stating that they prefer phone calls to resolve customer service problems.

“Voice has forever been the preferred means of communication between brands and customers, despite the advent of a number of other channels,” said Gupta. “The modern consumer looks for empathy and personalization in every interaction. If a brand wants to provide the best experience in every voice touchpoint, in every call, they need to invest in a solution that is purpose-built to handle human voice conversations.”

Digital voice AI is now able to enhance the customer service experience while freeing human agents to handle more complex issues. “By leveraging voice AI, brands not only improve the basic experience a customer encounters when they dial a support number, but they are also able to present a superior brand experience at scale, consistently,” Gupta explained.

“AI-powered voice agents are trained to understand specific intents that the customer might be calling with (‘where is my order?’ or ‘I lost my credit card’), as well as the subtle nuances of human speech, ensuring quick and seamless assistance, without human intervention.”

Along with providing customers with the ability to help themselves, digital voice allows them to obtain immediate results rather than having to wait for a live agent.

“For customers, this means no more waiting for help,” said Gupta. “They can immediately reach a voice that’s there to help them and intelligently navigate their issue. Should more help be required, AI-powered voice agents can transfer calls as well as context to their human counterparts.”

Do Customers Prefer Live Agents Over Digital Voice Responses?

Customers typically prefer to talk to a live agent over a digital voice system for reasons based on convenience and speed. Most IVR systems over the past few decades were antiquated, slow, tedious and time-consuming. People don’t want to have to explain their situation more than once, and by talking to a live agent, they know they’ll be more easily understood.

With AI-driven voice technologies, however, systems can understand the nuances of a conversation and gain instant access to a customer’s information and order history.

“One of the biggest challenges that brands face is finding AI that can hold a productive conversation with a customer,” said Brian Podolak, CEO at Vocodia, a conversational AI solution provider. Vocodia, according to Podolak, uses hyper-realistic AI with a human voice to establish a more comforting experience.

“AI-driven digital voice systems positively affect the customer experience by eliminating hour-long holds (effectively serving more customers), the tension between call center workers and customers and unhelpful conversations with service reps,” he added.

Because today’s customers can do business with a brand 24/7, they expect the brand to offer customer service around the clock as well. And voice AI makes that possible, without the need for assistance from customer service teams. “Making AI-powered voice agents the first line of defense ensures faster resolution while giving human agents a break from repetitive calls and mundane workflows,” said Gupta.

Digital voice also facilitates the personalized and consistent experiences that consumers demand from the brands they do business with, added Gupta.

“Additionally,” he said, “by automating outbound calls to customers — such as recommendations, updates and reminders — brands can take a proactive approach to CX, delivering curated experiences, anticipating customer needs and helping them before they can even ask! This makes a direct impact on a brand’s CSAT scores, customer loyalty and retention.”

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