January 27, 2023

Voice is the next step in conversational AI: A key functionality with challenges to overcome

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With the expansion of digital media in recent years, the customer service experience also evolved, and users began to discover new ways to communicate with their favorite companies.

What a few decades ago was an arduous task that required long waits for answers, today can be solved instantly by sending a single text message through any digital platform: Brands have a presence on almost every platform where their consumers are and interact with them in a personalized and human way, as if each business were also a person. 

As if that was not enough, Artificial Intelligence brought companies the ability to automate their customer service, resulting in hyper-connected brands, with personalized information for each user and solutions available 24 hours a day, every day. But the hyperconnectivity boom did not happen overnight, and we cannot leave aside a key milestone in the history of customer service: telephone customer service.

Companies that listen and respond

The possibility of communicating directly with brands meant a before and after in customer service. Talking to a representative, exposing a problem and receiving a solution -ideally immediate- was the true revolution in the area. So much so that telephone customer service is still in the top 3 of users' preferred options when it comes to contacting brands.

Telephone communication with companies and businesses is not a new concept at all, but Artificial Intelligence doubled the bet and showed us a way to optimize this highly functional channel for customer service. This is how Voice Chat Bots were born: with the same agility of a phone call, but now automated, scalable and with 24/7 service.

Considering that 76% of users still choose the phone call as their preferred way to communicate with customer service, we can affirm that this contact channel is far from being obsolete.

76% of consumers choose to communicate by phone when contacting customer service.

Historically, telephone contact has been one of customers' favorites. However, the new range of possibilities opened up by conversational AI applied to telephone customer service has brought about a significant improvement in the productivity and personalization of communication between brands and users.

Why should companies consider Voice Chatbots?

A voice chatbot is a communication tool that, thanks to natural language processing (NLP) and conversational AI, can capture, interpret and analyze voice input, and respond in a similar natural language. Users can interact with voice commands and receive contextualized and relevant responses.

Some key points that Voice Chatbots come to solve:

  1. Goodbye to wait times

Emerging trends indicate that users require increasingly immediate responses, and tolerance for wait times continues to decrease. Voice chatbots are self-service and available 24 hours a day to provide instant solutions.

  1. Productivity optimization

There is no limit to the number of tickets the bot can handle simultaneously. Scalability is a fundamental aspect, since it means increasing the company's productivity and decreasing the number of unattended or waiting tickets.

  1. Diversity of languages

Voice chatbots can be trained in different languages, which streamlines many processes for multinational companies. In addition, since they are available 24/7, they can receive calls from anywhere in the world without the need to take into consideration time differences.

  1. Seamless and natural communication

Being powered by conversational AI, voice chatbots understand natural language. This means they break down the intentions behind each sentence to understand how they can help users. Unlike structured flows with closed options, they have the flexibility to learn. Users can communicate all their queries and complaints without fear of not being understood by the bot.

Implement the bot and you're done?

While voice chatbots are tools with an important list of benefits for the customer experience, the reality is that it's not just a matter of putting the bot in place and that's it. For the Voice Bot to become a key part of the CX strategy, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Target audience

Knowing who is going to communicate with it is the first step. It is important to know in what language users speak, what idioms or regionalisms they use, what words they use most frequently, in what tone they communicate, and so on. Only in this way will it be possible to upload the information to the engine and have a Voice Chatbot that understands intentions and natural language for each specific segment.

  1. Omnichannel

Automating telephone customer service is a very important step, but if it is the only means by which users can contact a brand, then there is still a long way to go. According to a study, 33% of users prefer to communicate with brands through social networks, and almost all millennials prefer digital media, whether web, messaging apps or social networks. This means that omnichannel is more important than ever: for a satisfactory customer experience, users must be able to contact brands effortlessly, on their favorite platforms.

  1. Content

What are the frequently asked questions that most users ask? That's the first question all companies should ask themselves before implementing a Voice Chatbot. The bot's knowledge will depend on what the company loads into the engine in the first instance. Therefore, in order to have a responsive and resolute bot, you have to provide it with the necessary information. Frequently asked questions are a great starting point.

  1. Integrations and personalization

Continuing along the lines of the importance of providing a responsive service, integrations play a key role. The ability to connect the bot with proprietary platforms is what will make the difference between a bot that just answers, and one that solves. For the customer experience to be truly efficient, it is important to provide the right information, at the right time, on the right channel.

Related article: The importance of integrations when implementing a chatbot

Challenges to overcome

Conversational AI voice chatbots are a relatively new technology that is still in development, so they still face some challenges to ensure their popularity and successful execution in every interaction.

  1. Voice input

The challenge of voice input is one of the most difficult tasks facing Voice Chatbots today. While the conversational engine is capable of interpreting regionalisms and misspellings (remember that the bot works by transcribing verbatim everything the user says), it is important to keep in mind that each caller has a different intonation, pronunciation and dialect.

To avoid errors produced by these parameters, it is essential that brands spend time researching and studying the audience they are going to work with, in order to load the engine with the words and textual constructions that are most appropriate for that segment.

On the other hand, background noise is another factor that can interfere with voice recognition. For Voice Chatbots to communicate effectively with a wide range of customers, they must be able to accurately interpret speech in order to transcribe and interpret the intentions behind each sentence. Noisy environments, interfering voices and even lower quality microphones can make it challenging to understand queries verbatim. 

On the bright side, errors of this type are becoming less frequent. As these technologies become more sophisticated and accurate, voice chatbots are increasingly becoming valuable customer service assets that enable quick resolution of queries without the need for human intervention.

  1. Gender biases

Technology, laden with the information it gleans from the web, is not free of gender bias. It is not uncommon that, when a male and female voice give the same query, the bot responds differently to each. This disparity may be due to the speech recognition software being more tailored to one gender than the other, or even a bias in the data sets used for training. One study showed that this can happen even in speech chatbots working with knowledge engines with a high density of loaded data.

To create a level playing field between genders, developer teams must take steps to ensure that their bots are completely gender-unbiased.

Goodbye to call center agents?

One question that comes up regularly when talking about voice chatbots is, will they replace human call agents? Our answer, for the time being, is no.

While it is true that conversational AI has arrived to offer human-like experiences, true human attention cannot be replaced in every case. Every customer is a world, every query is different, and there are users who need to receive a level of attention with follow-up and soft skills that could only be provided by a trained human.

This means that, while agents will not be displaced, the times when their job was to answer frequent or repetitive queries may be over.

Human agents will gradually perceive a shift in their responsibilities. As human attention will be reserved for specialized cases, they will require a high level of knowledge and involvement in each case referred to them. In addition, considering that they will reserve their skills for complex consultations, their working hours will become increasingly productive and they will have more time on their hands to dedicate to the tickets that really deserve it.

What the future holds for voice chats

Although there is still a long way to go, voice chatbots are already a functional part of the vast menu of solutions offered by conversational AI. Undoubtedly, they have the potential to shape a new benchmark in the history of customer service thanks to their greatest strengths: the opportunities for inclusion, personalization and speed in handling queries that they offer.

Spoken communication is the fastest and most efficient form of communication, and it is for this reason that the telephone is a medium that will not soon lose its relevance. With advances in artificial intelligence, voice chatbots are becoming increasingly flexible, robust and intelligent: the ideal scenario for modern consumers.

Now, the job of each specialized team is to continue improving the knowledge engines, eliminating biases and refining each one's proposition. In this way, it will be possible to continue increasing the productivity of human agents, making companies profitable and, most important of all, offering a truly responsive customer service experience.

If you want to learn more about Voice, our voice chatbot solution, do not hesitate to book a product demo

Are you looking for new ways to improve your CX?

Our customer service solutions powered by conversational AI can help you deliver an efficient, 24/7 experience  to your customers. Get in touch with one of our specialists to further discuss how they can help your business.