How voice assistants and AI are evolving customer service

February 11, 2024
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AI & ML Insights
Anastasia Gritsenko
How voice assistants and AI are evolving customer service

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In our always-on world, customers demand personalised attention and care from the businesses they support. While large businesses are commonly able to accommodate in-house or outsource customer care teams, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are forced to find innovative ways to enhance their customer service offerings.

Voice assistants (VAs) and smart assistants have emerged as powerful tools to help revolutionise the way SMEs interact with their customers.

The evolution of voice technology and smart assistants

The journey began in 1966 with the release of ELIZA, the world’s first chatbot. It was based on a simple decision tree with pre-written answers used to interact with users. It was designed to act as a therapist, asking open-ended questions and responding with follow-ups.

Based on the success of ELIZA, chatbots were used as phone support tools designed to allow callers to select who they wanted to talk to. These basic voice recognition systems paved the way for the development of more advanced speech recognition technologies in the coming years.

Credit: Bucher, Amy, 2020. Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change. New York: Rosenfeld Media.

The creation of ALICE (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) in 1995 gave the world a peek into what modern chatbots were destined to become. ALICE was the first chatbot to be able to have natural language conversations through the use of artificial intelligence markup language (AIML) to provide more relevant answers.

The merging of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into voice assistants through the internet boom until now has transformed simple chatbots into virtual companions capable of executing tasks, providing information, and even engaging in conversations with users.

The adoption of voice assistants in customer service

SMEs are leveraging these technologies to streamline operations and enhance customer interactions. Reports state that 73% of consumers prefer voice assistants for interacting with businesses, highlighting the growing demand for voice-enabled customer service solutions.

Additionally, new predictions reveal that 95% of customer interactions will be handled by AI without human involvement by 2025. As a brand, this evidence should tell you that you need a voice strategy in place if you want to benefit from the growing acceptance of voice assistants.

How AI is enhancing voice assistants

Artificial intelligence plays a crucial role in enhancing the capabilities of voice assistants, enabling them to deliver more intuitive and personalised customer experiences. Here are some ways in which AI is revolutionizing voice assistants:

Improved accuracy

AI algorithms continuously refine speech recognition models, allowing voice assistants to more accurately understand spoken queries and commands. Natural language processing (NLP) techniques further enhance their ability to understand the nuances of human speech, enabling more meaningful interactions.

Enhanced understanding and awareness

Advanced AI models enable voice assistants to grasp the context of conversations, decipher user intentions, and recognise emotional cues. These capabilities enable more empathetic and contextually relevant responses which enhance the overall customer experience.

Continuous learning and predictions

By leveraging machine learning algorithms to analyse past interactions and user feedback, smart assistants are able to learn and improve over time. By predicting user preferences and anticipating their needs, they’re able to offer personalised assistance.

Multilingual support

AI-powered voice assistants are equipped to understand and respond to queries in multiple languages, catering to diverse customer bases and expanding the reach of SMEs across the globe.

How SMEs benefit from voice assistants in customer service

Studies show that 50% of customers enjoy interacting with voice assistants in customer care. Additionally, businesses with high-quality smart assistants experience over 70% more customer interactions and responses.

If these stats aren’t enough to convince you, here are 3 more ways SMEs can benefit from smart assistants:

  • Streamlined customer inquiries: Voice assistants automate routine customer inquiries, including checking order statuses or retrieving account information, which reduces waiting times and improves operational efficiency. By offering instant responses 24/7, SMEs can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty by serving customers efficiently.
  • Enhanced customer experience: Voice assistants leverage data analytics and AI to deliver personalised recommendations and responses based on individual preferences and past interactions. This customised communication fosters stronger connections with customers and enhances brand loyalty.
  • 24/7 customer support: Because they don’t need vacation time or sleep, smart assistants offer uninterrupted customer support to help SMEs cater to customer queries and issues at any time of the day or night. This always-on availability enhances customer satisfaction and ensures rapid resolution of issues which, you guessed it, further enhances the customer experience.

Challenges and considerations

While voice assistants offer numerous benefits, SMEs must also navigate certain challenges and considerations when implementing this technology. Here are a few:

  • Accuracy and reliability: Voice assistants may face limitations in understanding different accents and languages which can impact the accuracy and reliability of interactions with customers.
  • Privacy and data security: As voice assistants commonly handle sensitive customer data, safeguarding the data and ensuring compliance with privacy regulations is important. SMEs need to ensure robust security measures and transparent data handling practices to protect customers.
  • Adoption problems: Some customers may be apprehensive about interacting with voice assistants, especially older generations. SMEs must make an effort to educate and reassure them about the benefits and functionalities of the technology.
  • Ongoing maintenance: Regular maintenance and updates are essential to keep voice assistants performing optimally, requiring dedicated resources and technical expertise. SMEs must factor this into their budget as these technologies are not a once-off cost.

When smart assistants are done right

Here are a few inspirational examples for SMEs of how large businesses with high budgets have leveraged voice assistant technology to drive brand awareness, enhance customer experience, and foster widespread loyalty. After all, a good idea is a good idea regardless of budget.

HEINEKEN Netherland’s Drinkies app

Picture of a smart speaker

WeAreBrain teamed up with HEINEKEN Netherlands to create a voice skill functionality for the Heineken Drinkies beer ordering app. Customers can order beer anywhere, anytime through a sophisticated voice functionality that uses Google Assistant via mobile or smart home devices.

Domino’s Pizza’s voice ordering system

Domino’s Pizza implemented a voice ordering system named “Dom” which allows customers to place orders using voice commands from their smartphones or smart speakers. This initiative streamlined the ordering process and enhanced customer convenience, leading to increased customer satisfaction and order frequency.

Talking Rain’s virtual bartender app

Beverage company Talking Rain developed Sparkling Ice Maker, a virtual bartender app which utilises voice recognition technology to provide personalised drink recommendations based on user preferences. The app has enhanced customer engagement and promotes brand loyalty by offering a unique and interactive experience.

Wrap up

It’s clear that voice and smart assistants are transforming customer service for SMEs. They provide unmatched convenience, efficiency, and personalisation that create a convenient and personalised customer care experience.

Leveraging AI and voice technology enables SMEs to streamline interactions, enhance overall customer experience, and gain a competitive edge in the market. Yet, successful implementation demands careful planning, and addressing challenges to maximize their potential.

With AI shaping our digital world, SMEs can’t afford to miss out on the overwhelming benefits of this game-changing technology.

Anastasia Gritsenko

Anastasia is our head of UX and Design. She was born into a family of designers, so you could say that creativity is quite literally in her blood. During her free time, she enjoys reading everything from sci-fi and fantasy novels to the latest on UX and design.

Working Machines

An executive’s guide to AI and Intelligent Automation. Working Machines takes a look at how the renewed vigour for the development of Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Automation technology has begun to change how businesses operate.