How important are voice assistants becoming for businesses? The answer is that the technology is now something of importance and across a range of businesses high-performing customer service departments are embracing voice technology to provide improved training, to streamline operations, to communicate more efficiently, and create better customer engagement.
Established benefits can be divided into utilitarian benefits (such as a business transaction); symbolic benefits (in conveying that the business is sufficiently robust to be able to invest in sophisticated technology); and social benefits (as part of building and evolving customer engagement).
Advocates of voice assistants in the business sector argue that such technology empowers human–computer interactions by recognising human speech and implementing commands pronounced by users. However, some barriers remain with customers although advocates are of the view that such barriers will decline as the technology advances.
Voice assistants are likely to become better accepted by customers as the technology advances. Key steps that are likely facilitate this include (as per a recent review in the Journal of Service Management):
- Increasing perceptions of humanness.
- Decreasing perceptions of artificiality.
- A better fit between communications style (such as abstract vs concrete).
- Request type (such as transactional vs informational).
In addition, acceptance can be propelled through a better fit between voice assistant communications (such as information vs banter), and consumer perceptions of the voice assistant (servant or partner) plus a better fit between voice assistant communications and the stage of the customer journey is likely to positively influence customer interaction with the technology.
It is also important that the voice assistant is seen to be reacting only to the instructions of the direct user (or perhaps owner) of a device. This helps to strengthen authenticity, a process that guarantees the voice assistant to execute only the commands that originate from the voice of the owner.
There are some barriers that remain. When it comes to purchases, consumers are more likely to buy simple, lower-price, daily-use items using a voice assistant (such as groceries) compared with more expensive or complex products (including electronics). This is based on the risk of the wrong order being placed and the resultant expense to the customer.
An additional factor is with products that require visualisation (something like clothes or a hotel room) are also less considered for conversational commerce as the technology currently stands.
As technology advances, the interfaces between the artificial intelligence enabled Internet of Things becomes more important for disrupting old practices and processes. The trajectory is that voice assistants will become more common within the business community. This is provided that voice assistant technology continues to focus on the functional, social and relational elements necessary to wider drive adoption.