Businesses are trying to build a more accessible culture. Gone are the days when we’d all surrender to the dulcet tones of a never-ending hold queue. A small number of online retailers have shunned the telephone altogether. It’s a daring move, but we’re not averse to sliding into a retailer’s DMs to solve a refund query.
Contact centre workforces are slowly becoming keyboard warriors. Whether it’s an email chain, series of Tweets or chatbot log – we’re all being seen by our customers, but are we really being heard?
The unified communications market is booming, with workforces now operating behind webchat, webform, even WhatsApp – and that’s just the ‘W’s’.
Hold the phone
When many call centres were forced to shut down back in March 2020, one of the first questions these businesses asked was ‘how will we talk to our customers?’. That’s right, talk.
Voice remains in high demand and it’s evolving in and outside of the office. Don’t be dissuaded by the memes – while picking up the phone to make a social call might seem passe to some, Gen Z’s are happily ditching text messages for the newly favoured voice note. In fact, they’re sending seven billion of them each day.
Losing our voice
Voice is the true connection we establish between ourselves. Your current business-grade voice offering may have stood the test of time, but against its peers and competitors, is it as nurtured and evolved as it could be?
There is a growing requirement for clear, robust voice solutions within business, but many of us remain voice complacent. Voice technology is developed to meet the changing demands of the user – its journey began on-site but has since accelerated towards the cloud. However, some businesses are still stuck onsite, dismissing the cloud, soon to be left behind in the digital dust.
Voice in the cloud
With so many forms of contact available to customers these days, what’s happening to cloud adoption in the voice market? The statistics speak for themselves, as research has estimated that VoIP services should grow to be worth over £78bn globally by 2026.
Hands were initially forced by the pandemic, but many are now shaking off old habits and curiously dipping their toe in the pool of cloud-enabled, hosted voice.
It’s a sentiment echoed through small, medium, and even larger businesses. As voice technology evolves, so does consumer behaviour. Your solutions need to join up with this trajectory.
Voice isn’t just key, it’s core
A customer’s issue always starts with a ‘I need…’. When we think about customer needs, we look at the benefits of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), Contact Centres as a Service (CCaaS) or even Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN). To us, these acronyms are second nature. To a customer, they may read like Harry Potter spells.
A customer isn’t always thinking about the full package, they’re stripping their issue back to their basic need. The need is to be connected. To be heard. Your workforce demands the same. Businesses need to be able to communicate with customers using technology that promotes the highest possible performance, allowing teams to collaborate without disruption, wherever they’re based.
While the basic customer or employee ‘need’ rarely changes, the technology does. Take 5G, for example: speed, bandwidth, and capability beyond what was once thought imaginable.
Or the PSTN switch off in 2025. It’s a change which is shaking the very foundations of businesses still relying on on-premises voice technology.
Calling these mere ‘changes’ is doing a disservice to what are digital revolutions. Yet many businesses are apprehensive to face them, relying on ‘traditional’ voice setups.
Voice technology isn’t just about recognising words. AI and data-modelling technologies are evolving to understand intent and measure emotion from speech. Amazon and Google have filed patents for such technology.
The voice of the future
So, how is voice developing for consumers in the modern-day marketspace?
Apple may have rejuvenated voice technology in 2011 by introducing Siri, but Amazon and Google quickly followed. Over 50% of households in the UK own a smart speaker.
There are hundreds of millions of voice-enabled devices around the world today. At the heart of this disruption lies innovative voice analytics and computing.
Consumers are driving the need for more enhanced voice technology (quite literally – we’ve even got voice control in cars). Even typing a question could soon be considered outdated, with 74% of smartphone owners using voice search weekly, and 37% daily. We want to be able to speak and be spoken to.
The power of Al
During the pandemic, when 200 million Microsoft Teams users were interacting daily, advanced voice solutions could help teams to work more efficiently.
But Voice technology isn’t just about recognising words. AI and data-modelling technologies are evolving to understand intent and measure emotion from speech. Amazon and Google have filed patents for such technology.
Soon, Alexa will know to offer up the nearest pizza chain when we’re feeling ‘hangry’.
As voice becomes more sophisticated, callers could be set to receive a more unique and personalised experience. This is great news for customers as a recent study found 48% of people spend more when their experience is personalised and 83% are willing to share data in exchange for a personalised experience.
In fact, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) software, coupled with a Natural Language Understand feature (NLU) and call tracking system has been shown to significantly improve sales and customer satisfaction.
Voice interfaces are advancing in all industries, with notable growth in health care and banking. American researchers developed an app in 2020 that could detect signs of COVID-19 in someone’s voice by analysing the speech and breathing patterns of thousands of sick patients.
Even social media platforms can’t ignore the demand for verbal communication. After paving new routes to connect businesses with customers, Facebook introduced a ‘click-to-call’ feature. With just one click, you can ring a business and speak to a representative.
Managing internal and external voice communication means integrating your applications but keeping voice as a central focus. This is something we’re expanding on at Gamma.
Knowing what will give your team the best call control is crucial, but factors such as omnichannel communications, call-recording and security around voice and card payments also need to be considered.
Customers want choice in how they contact you. With complex issues, they want to speak to a qualified expert. You might initiate a webchat for a contract update, but not to apply for your first mortgage.
Voice through choice
Customers want a choice in how they contact you. With complex issues, they want to speak to a qualified expert. You might initiate a webchat for a contract update, but not to apply for your first mortgage.
When it comes down to the crunch, 61% of consumers will call when they’re in the purchase phase of the buying cycle, and 57% of those surveyed call because they want to speak to a person. These calls are 10-15 times more likely to generate a sale or follow up contact compared to customers submitting an online form.
But what about those businesses that have shunned verbal communication altogether? Remember earlier when we referenced sliding into an online retailer’s DM’s to resolve a refund query? We received an email back to advise us we’d be contacted within 48 hours. That was seven days ago.
By burying phone numbers and making verbal contact impossible, businesses are missing out on potential revenue while compromising the concept of a customer journey.
It’s your call
There’s no denying that omni-channel communication provides flexibility for your customers and your teams, but voice continues to establish itself as a preferable experience. It conveys emotion and adds much-needed context.
Voice should be a key part of your omni-strategy. It can boost efficiency, streamline and accelerate tasks and give businesses a competitive edge.
It’s an opportunity for much deeper and richer experiences with customers, strengthening relationships while making devices more intelligent and responsive. Not only does it support a customer’s need to connect with a human being once in a while, but it can also improve wellbeing amongst your team.
Having a solid voice strategy that underpins your additional communication channels, managed by a well-trained team of experts, is the perfect business solution. Your provider must commit to quality assurance and use the most effective technology to meet the needs of your business and your customers.
Credit: Hollie O’Connor
The future of voice technology is a bright one and it will continue to mature. Soon, a robust and clear voice will be expected in every application in daily life, and it all starts with a phone call. Don’t lose your voice.
Call our team today to start the conversation.