Resource type: Blog

Could Voice Technology Benefit your Business?

Voice technology is changing the ways we interact with our smartphones and laptops, enabling us to complete a number of different tasks, such as checking the weather or ordering a taxi, using just our voice.

And now the same technology can transform how we work, offering the potential to enhance how businesses are run and how they interact with their customers and employees. So, what could it do for your business?

Currently, voice assistants such as Alexa, Cortana and Siri are the most popular use of voice recognition software. Their capabilities are still growing but in the office they can complement the work of human employees by taking responsibility for repetitive, time-consuming tasks and allowing employees to focus their energy on more high-priority activities.

Another growing adoption of voice technology lies in the use of voice commands to search online. Indeed recent research by ComScore predicts that, within two years, half of all online searches will be undertaken by voice.

In turn this will lead to the increasing importance of voice search optimisation – a specific technique for optimising a website to respond to this new trend for voice commands.

Voice search optimisation is already important for both large and local small businesses. People often use voice search while driving, asking questions about business locations, store hours, etc. In addition, they’re also looking for information about deals and sales, personalised tips, information about upcoming events, customer support, and more.

Using voice search optimisation effectively will, therefore, be key to ensuring that your business figures prominently in the list of search results generated from these increasing volumes of voice searches.

Business applications for voice

Currently productivity and management tools tend to dominate in the business environment.

Of the companies using voice assistants, a recent study by Spiceworks found that 46% use them for voice to text dictation, 26% for team collaboration, 24% for employee calendar management, 14% for customer services and 13% to assist with IT help-desk management tasks.

Voice is also ideally suited to complement or replace text based frequently-asked-questions (FAQs) or product tutorials. For example, a UK accountancy practice, Paul Austen Associates, has launched a skill called ‘Tax Guru’, which answers common tax questions.

Assistants can be used to enhance sales channel and improve customer service. Although the advent of smartphones and mobile platforms has made online commerce ubiquitous, it still hasn’t made it entirely frictionless, with a heavy dependency on a keyboard and interpreting the output via a screen.

Voice-assisted commerce has the significant advantage of making the product search process a dialogue instead of being a one-sided search by the customer. Voice commerce can make the shopping experience more engaging at the same time as providing you with the ability to make more intelligent, real-time recommendations based on what the AI-based digital assistant is learning from its interactions with the customer.

It may seem counter intuitive that an automated system could increase the levels of service and sales over and above the personal service you and your staff can give to customers, but this is certainly an area where voice could deliver real benefits. Indeed Gartner predicts that businesses that redesign their websites for voice and visual search will increase their e-commerce revenue by 30% by 2021.

Concerns

However, it’s certainly not all roses as far as voice technology is concerned, particularly for some of the more innovative uses and many experts feel it has not yet reached the level of maturity required for company-wide adoption. Nevertheless accuracy levels are improving with Google increasing its word recognition accuracy rate from below 80% to around 95%.

There are also privacy and security concerns associated with voice-enabled devices. For instance, any device using voice as a biometric identification factor is vulnerable in the sense that the device can be tricked into mixing up who the actual owner of the device is, or the owner’s voice can be intercepted and the voice print used for other purposes.

There are various approaches by which protective measures can be taken against such risks. The implementation of security systems that make use of multi-factor authentication instead of depending solely on voice is one approach. So authentication could require voice plus, say, one other biometric approach (a fingerprint) or a more conventional password.

Summary

As a business owner, voice technology will present you with a range of opportunities. And it may well be the case that your competitors are already taking advantage and gaining an early edge in the market.

o keep up, you will need to prepare your business by identifying how voice systems can help to streamline your processes, engage more customers and generate more sales. You will also need to identify suitable technology partners to make your vision a reality.

As voice becomes the tool of choice for search and communication, your business must follow suit to take full advantage of these developments.

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