We take a look at voice technology, the widening gap between its adoption in homes compared to businesses and how organisations can avoid falling behind the curve.
Does technology change human behaviour, or is it behaviour which drives changes in technology?
It’s a question that fuels a lot of debate, with strong arguments on both sides. The spiralling adoption of voice-enabled tools and AI driven speech analytics represent the perfect arena to watch as the both behavioural traits and technological capabilities evolve.
The use of speech enabled tools is rising rapidly in homes, with YouGov reporting that ownership of smart speakers doubled over a period of just six months whilst ComScore predicts that voice-search will be the go to channel and account for 50% of all online searches by 2020. One could make a strong case that this is a powerful example of technology’s ability to change human behaviour, but this isn’t the whole story.
Businesses have typically been slower than consumers to embrace voice activated tools and conversational AI. The financial sector is a great example of an industry turning to technology to keep pace with the growing demands of the consumer.
Customer expectations have grown in line with developments in technology, leading to higher demands from business providers: quick responses, joined up communication across all brand touch points and swift resolution to enquiries are now expected as standard despite the challenges in delivering them over large organisations. Key to companies closing the gap and keeping up with rising expectations is anticipating how they are likely to evolve.
One of the big areas these expectations are growing is around brand transparency, which is underpinned in part by record keeping and audit trails. Traditionally, this is an area associated more with compliance teams than consumers, but the focus on areas like this could be starting to broaden.
The demand for transparency
Since the financial crisis, heavy emphasis has been placed on accountability in the finance sector. Regulated firms are required to maintain records of their customer phone conversations customers as well as written correspondence. However, face-to-face meetings have gone relatively undocumented despite it being the primary channel for some of the most important discussions.
You can see how this has evolved: written documentation comes with a natural paper trail and recording phone conversations is a core part of many telephony systems. Face-to-face meetings however generally haven’t traditionally been recorded, and doing so often represents a cultural change.
More and more firms are bringing in voice recording to face-to-face meetings. The benefits are usually clear: comprehensive audit trails, transparency and accurate records to name just a few. However, there is often concern about the customer response and whether people will be uncomfortable being recorded when speaking to advisers.
From our experience though, customers have gone the other way and reacted very positively to meeting recording. Why?
Firms typically ask themselves how customers will react to recorded meetings, but this is perhaps the wrong question: they should be asking why aren’t they demanding it already, or perhaps when will it be expected as standard.
Consider a mortgage consultation for instance. For many consumers, this will be the biggest financial decision they ever make, with a huge amount riding on it. There are a multitude of different elements which need to be carefully considered, and customers will want to be confident that they have been offered sound advice, made the correct decisions and that this is all reflected accurately in the final contract.
There will come a day when consumers will be deeply uncomfortable with the thought of having such pivotal conversations unrecorded and the risk of missing key intricacies from the paperwork that follows. Attitudes will shift: a thorough account of everything that was discussed will be expected by consumers as a given whereas unrecorded meetings will seem unreliable and lack credibility.
There are parallels in other fields of disruptive technology: take self-driving cars for instance. If you were walking down the street today and saw a car passing by with no one behind the wheel, you would stop and stare. The technology is new and people are still coming to terms with the concept, but this is destined to change: one day, people will expect cars to be autonomous as the algorithms driving them will be more reliable than a human operator. One day, people will stop to stare at a car when they see it is being driven by a human.
So is it behaviour that drives technological change or technological change that drives human behaviour? Whilst you could argue the case either way, it is hard to argue that there isn’t a connection between behavioural shifts and technological growth. Firms that do not pro-actively strive to innovate and adopt new technological solutions will not hold back growing customer expectations: they will simply be left behind.
A vital part of future proofing is understanding how customer behaviour and demand will shift. Without planning for this in advance, firms will be left scrambling to react to customer expectations as they continue to evolve. Get it right though and the opportunities are endless.