By 2020 over 75% of US Households will have a Voice-First device in their homes. Many will have multiple devices, one for the kitchen, one for the living room and even one in the bedroom. The most popular use cases are playing your Spotify music and turning the lights up and the heating down in your home. This will soon extend to instructions to play a particular television channel, movie, or you tube video.
It may have passed your attention but over 20% of mobile phone-based searches are now initiated by voice instruction. These are examples of conversational interfaces and more and more of our household services are attached to them. Ask Alexa what your bank balance is, and it will understand that you mean your Bank account, and your current account. Ask Google Home to send you a dozen eggs, cream and parmesan cheese and it understands that you mean from the local store, which does deliveries. While this change is occurring in user behaviour the banks, supermarkets and other retailers in this scenario must be ready to provide these services in this new interface.
Added to this Voice-First revolution we have the move to Messengers. In your life you are probably a member of a local neighbourhood WhatsApp group, there may be a local football team you coach so you have all the players on a group; you have your family group. Messengers have become private social networks where we communicate, share our photos and experiences, and co-ordinate our plans. Facebook Messenger has become smarter, enabling you to add photographs, buttons, and even to exchange money and pay for things. All without leaving Messenger. The growth in Messengers is phenomenal. Without boring you with all the stats, but in 2016 it was reported that Messenger and WhatsApp processed more than 60bn messages a day. That's three times the more than all SMS messages. Today there are probably over 100bn messages today.
Why Conversational interfaces are here to stay
The main advantage of these conversational voice interfaces and conversational messaging is that they are incredibly easy to use and convenient. Messenger "knows who you are", "where you live", "what your payment mechanism is" and thus when you order groceries as in the example above, the service does not have to ask you these questions and the service is friction free. Amazon have shown how, when tied with a logistics platform and a service such as Amazon Prime, conversational interfaces become incredibly powerful. By removing the "cost of delivery" from your buying decision, re-ordering your basic products becomes far easier. We have also learned that over time on conversational interfaces, we stop using brand names in our search terms, so we ask for batteries, not Duracell batteries. We ask for Cheddar Cheese, not Mitchelstown Cheddar Cheese. We also choose things that are the most convenient. For instance, when we want food delivered, we may choose faster time to delivery over one type of curry or another.
Convenience also means fewer steps in a conversation, better choice structures, and being able to complete the whole interaction within the Messenger or Voice-First interface. It's pretty much impossible to get this right "straight out of the box" so you must plan for regular reviews of how your interface is delivering, where it is falling short. It also means you must understand where humans sit in this process because humans are great problem solvers. Being able to have a human step into a conversation and take it over, make some suggestions, or give some approvals, and then step out again is a key aspect of your conversational interface. In Messenger this is a known issue and can be handles by a competent vendor. Handling conversational breakdowns in Voice-First interfaces takes a bit more thinking about.
Converational Middleware...the engine behind customer engagement
Delivering this ease of use is complex though and, in many instances, will require integration with other organisational systems, data, and personnel. This is what we at Webio term - conversational middleware and it will be the engine behind your customer engagement experiences.
Webio, The Conversational Middleware Company™ brings true AI driven customer conversations to the enterprise. Webio 's channel agnostic conversational interface engagement platform uses the power of AI driven chatbots, machine learning and NLP to introduce a 'blended AI' approach to customer engagement that lets AI agents work alongside human agents to seamlessly engage with customers.