We are all becoming more accustomed to voice-enabled technologies. It is no longer unusual to hear someone speaking to their smartphone or device. We are increasingly connected to the objects that surround us, and it is voice technology that is making it happen. With voice assistants being added to more and more devices, it’s no surprise that 46% of adults in the US are now using them. In the business world, however, things are a little different. Businesses know all about voice-enabled technologies, and no doubt the majority of employees use them at home, but we are at the cusp of many deciding what to do about them within the workplace. A survey of senior decision makers found that only 31% of them use voice technology at work. With a predicted rise in the volume of screenless web browsing, the business world is due to see some changes.
Voice Technology Products for Businesses
All of the major technology providers have joined in for the race for voice supremacy within our homes. We have home hubs from Google, Amazon and Apple is not far behind. Meanwhile, the digital assistants are known to us all, Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana and Siri are household names. These voice-activated devices are set to impact consumers and brands as they disrupt the way we interact online. It’s been predicted that 40% of all searches will be voice activated by next year. The challenge for businesses is twofold. Firstly, to drive improved business performance through search marketing, organizations will need to shift to understand the changes in consumer behaviours. Secondly, they need to make themselves aware of how voice technology can be used internally to improve efficiencies.
Most of the devices we know of to date have been aimed at the consumer market. However, the big industry players are all working on platforms for enterprises. Some of the key tools currently on the market for businesses include:
- Watson Assistant – IBM’s white label tool enables enterprises to build conversational interfaces into any application,device or channel. It allows even non-technical users to build conversational AI-powered assistants.
- Alexa for Business – storing all of your business information about devices, user accounts, skills and more allows Alexa to support many functions within the workplace. The intelligent assistant can help productivity at your desk and in meeting rooms.
- Cisco’s Spark Assistant – specifically designed for business meetings, the enterprise-ready voice assistant uses deep-domain conversational AI technology. The plan is that the assistant will be able to participate in meetings, adding value with facts and suggestions and answering questions.
It’s been reported that three-quarters of businesses are planning to invest in customer-facing voice systems while smaller yet still considerable numbers will be investing in voice-activated virtual assistants.
How Will Voice Technologies Change Businesses?
Voice is set to become the universal interface for the way we communicate with not only each other but the technology that surrounds us. The wonderful thing about it is that it requires no training and is an interface that we are already used to using, the most natural there is. With voice being the critical point of interaction, organizations will entirely change the way that they operate.
Offices will become ‘smart’ as digital assistants complement the efforts of the human workforce to make them more efficient. Enterprises that embrace voice-enabled technology will see the following benefits:
- Increased productivity – as voice assistants evolve they will become like virtual colleagues. They will be able to take over repetitive tasks and give time back to employees to focus on their jobs.
- Meeting automation – the automation of the process of starting meetings, especially those involving conference calls, could save valuable time for businesses. What’s more, automation will enable participants to look up and be more engaged with the conversation.
- Enhanced communications – the use of natural language processing, artificial intelligence and machine learning will enable voice-activated tools to listen, take notes and identify follow up actions. The use of natural language processing will also drastically improve search capabilities.
- Improved accessibility – the barrier to entry for voice technologies is lower than many others and has the potential to help make more tasks possible for more people. There are many roles where the user is unable to use a keyboard; the likes of healthcare practitioners and maintenance technicians will be able to multitask in the voice-enabled world.
Voice-activated technology will power the smart office with IoT devices changing how everything works. Office management will be improved by intelligent devices that are able not only to understand what we are saying but to act upon it and make decisions on our behalves. Meetings will become hands-free, as attendees are able to look up from their screens. Meanwhile, communication will be transformed as smart assistants write emails based on notes and arrange meetings on our behalves.
Another aspect of voice technology in the workplace is that it can open up new possibilities. Employees who are currently considered as disabled will be able to fulfil new roles. Professions where note taking is impossible due to machinery or location will be transformed entirely. The huge time saving, across all industries, will hopefully mean that we will stop concentrating on using equipment and start concentrating on solving business problems with creativity. The friction that is caused by technology will be removed, freeing us up to be better at what we do both at work and at home.
The Future of Voice Technology in the Workplace
Voice technologies will become more than a simplified user interface offering an improved way to search; they will completely change how businesses operate and how customers are served. Firms need to prepare themselves for a voice activated world by considering how their consumers will use digital assistants and voice-activated technology. Working out the value a brand can add to the new customer experience will be crucial. Brand advocates won’t just interact with the companies they love; they invite them into their homes. Meanwhile, in the office, voice-enabled technology will give organizations the power to communicate, collaborate and create like never before.