Throughout the pandemic, Voice AI has provided consumers with safer, more hygienic, and frictionless ways to interact

The Rise of Voice AI Adoption in a Post-Pandemic World

Ernest Lee

Marketing and Communications, AI Rudder

“Siri, schedule an appointment with my dentist.” Talking into your mobile phone to schedule appointments may sound like something from a sci-fi novel twenty years ago. Today, voice is already one of the most transformational technologies for Generation Alpha. They are the first generation of kids to grow up with voice assistants and the majority of them will not know a life without them.

The use of voice assistants has continually been rising since its introduction in the early 2010s. According to Statista, a research firm, voice assistants are forecasted to exceed the number of humans on earth in a few years. There were 4.2 billion voice assistants in use as of 2020; by 2024, that number will possibly double to 8.4 billion. This means that each person will use more than one voice assistant. It won’t be unusual to speak to Alexa at home, and Siri on the road.

With the rise of contactless transactions throughout the pandemic, consumers and businesses will likely continue the trend in a post-pandemic world. Voice-activated processes will not only help humans avoid contact with surface-borne pathogens, but will also help us juggle daily tasks in a hyper-connected world.

Increasing volumes, increasing complexity

Since 2020, contact centres have been facing increasing pressure to deliver. Data from Salesforce, a CRM platform provider, shows that 75% of customer service professionals are continually challenged by the growing number of customer care cases. Many companies will consider turning to automation and AI to meet this uptick in demand. The easiest tool to deploy is AI-powered instant messaging, or what we now know as chatbots. Thanks to natural language understanding and conversational AI, queries that come through messaging platforms will be responded to in real-time by machines. Whether on social media or native to the company’s website, chatbots have saved the day by fully or partially automating the process of answering frequently asked questions.

While chatbots are helpful, many service providers and companies understand that their customers prefer to use voice channels for urgent issues. Talking to an agent gives customers a chance to explain their situation in-depth and exchange information more thoroughly. Voice channels also enable customers to talk through an issue while simultaneously working to resolve it, particularly a technical glitch or an unforeseen problem. Further, voice channels are also where opportunities for Voice AI lie.

Having bots to field voice calls can help streamline the resolution process, allowing AI to route tickets to the right agents with the right expertise quickly. Live agents can then walk customers through resolving their concerns more effectively and efficiently.

As the world transition to endemicity, the usage of digital platforms is unlikely to go down. Consumers have grown accustomed to online shopping and frictionless services, and many expect to continue using them for convenience in years to come. With that, Voice AI has proven to be a natural choice in the next step of our digital evolution.

Voice-first digital interactions

Gartner, a technology research firm, forecasts 2023 as the year when 80% of consumer apps will become “voice-first” (AI and ML Development Strategies Motivators and Adoption Challenges, 2019). Instead of just talking to Siri or Alexa, we may be interacting with our favourite mobile apps like Shopee, Grab, and Deliveroo by next year. What could this look like in real life?

For banking and finance, Voice AI can be deployed for first-level verification processes when a customer calls a helpline. This is most helpful for urgent issues like a lost or stolen card or suspected fraud, where cases can be logged automatically and routed as high importance. Businesses can also use Voice AI to send personal reminders, such as personal information updates, or urgent notifications, such as suspicious activity. In addition, people are more likely to respond to a call rather than an SMS or email when it comes to banking alerts—and customers will appreciate the timeliness of these calls.

In the telecommunications industry, Voice AI can step up to become the technical support everyone wishes they had. Voice bots can help customers troubleshoot common technical issues like network settings, rebooting routers and modems, or updating devices. This will free up technical service personnels’ workload to focus on solving tougher problems and providing better customer service. Voice AI can also be used to schedule service appointments and follow-ups on technical concerns, to give customers that extra attention they need when their internet or phone connection doesn’t seem to be cooperating.

In the post-pandemic world, leisure travel will be back with a vengeance, and voice bots will help the hospitality industry to keep pace with demand. Personal voice assistants that streamline the booking, check-in, and check-out process will make stays more pleasant and memorable. Voice assistants can also help you cancel or reschedule a booking as travellers demand flexibility post-pandemic.

Backed by customer data and voice recognition technology, voice assistants can go the extra mile by providing recommendations or suggesting activities for guests. For example, the same voice assistant can book restaurants or tours for truly end-to-end frictionless service delivery.

Hyper-personalised customer experiences

The hospitality example illustrates how voice assistants can supercharge customer satisfaction and experience. More and more, people are looking for exceptional service tailor-made to their preferences. Brands will do well by leveraging big data and AI to enhance personalisation and customer service across multiple channels. How well you know your customers will soon define how well you do business.

It’s not just what you offer, it’s how you offer it. AI-driven predictive behavioural routing based on voice AI can facilitate better call outcomes and better customer experience by matching callers to agents based on personality and communication styles. When a customer feels like the person on the other end of the line gets them, everything seems so much more pleasant.

In the future, Voice AI might even mirror and mimic real persons—say, a relationship manager—giving customers a sense of familiarity. These bots can even converse in regional dialects to help customers ease into the conversation and reach new markets. Backed by sentiment analysis and analytics, AI-powered voice channels have the potential to change the way we interact with brands.

Man and machine

While Voice AI will undoubtedly shape how we work, it won’t be the only thing driving change. Voice bots and other AI tools are a small component of the digital ecosystem. After the pandemic, synergies between AI and human agents are critical to creating thriving, forward-looking businesses.

Combining the abilities of humans and AI supercharges your company in many ways. The most obvious benefit is efficiency. Automation takes the painful, tedious processes away from people and lets machines process large amounts of data. Further, AI increases effectiveness such as optimising your human capital by routing calls to the right people. Voice AI also delivers business intelligence and makes your contact centre audio data more valuable through automated transcription and analytics.

With millennials now making up a huge chunk of the purchasing population, speech technology will only rise in popularity. Compared to generations before them, millennials are more likely to embrace the use of Voice AI, simply because they spent their youth with Siri and Alexa.

As this demographic’s purchasing power continues to grow, companies and businesses should look to communicate with customers via speech-enabled devices. Sooner than later, Voice AI will pave the future of customer experience and elevate it in new ways. 

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