Human voice: a critical component of your 2018 brand outreach

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VoiceSage’s Gregg Kilkenny says making outbound voice messaging should be a key component in all customer service outreach

Kilkenny: voice can communicate with personality

Voice-driven Alexa, Siri and Google Home are becoming a more ubiquitous feature of our lives. Voice interfaces to complex IT systems dwelling in the cloud feature large in how we now navigate our lives; Gartner tells us that 30% of browsing will be voice-driven by 2020, rather than via the traditional mouse-keyboard-screen triad. A study by NPR and Edison Research found 16% of the population of the US are now owners of a smart speaker, a 128% increase on last year’s figures. Voice is King – or indeed Queen, given the predominance of female voices.

Computer voice is ideal, after all, for short commands (turn off the radio, turn up the heating).

And what about the human voice? What else can support lengthy, in-depth conversations with customers? In addition, personality is largely absent in other technologies; voice, by contrast, can communicate with intonation, tone and warmth, in other words with personality.

This needs to be noted in business. Brands need to make voice a central part of sales and marketing. Retailers need to start using outbound human voice messaging as a key element of their engagement strategy.

Currently, too many retail strategists are over-focusing on other customer engagement technologies and neglecting the power of voice messaging solutions.

Choose a voice that resonates with your image

Importantly, human voice does not have to be delivered by a human contact centre agent. Technology makes it so easy for organisations to record a voice that works in sync with any campaign or business rule, empowering the outreach and campaign with a stronger identity to make it truly stand out.

As with other proactive technologies, outbound voice messages are also a valuable way of reducing inbound contact volumes and redirecting resources to value add activities. In particular, one-way voice messages are an excellent means for communicating crucial customer alerts, such as power outage updates or the status of an order.

Reducing inbound calls while instilling confidence in the customer message through voice engagement in other words. And given that Interactive Voice Messaging, or IVM, also enables retailers to automate deliveries and appointments, or run surveys for real-time feedback, with seamless transfer to internal or third party systems or to a live agent, or even an automated call-back for issue resolution, there’s a great deal of flexibility. Interactive Voice Messages steps Voice communications up a few notches, it seems.

Bringing it on home

Even better: modern contact centre technologies you can also integrate an interactive element into communications. This is because they can incorporate keypad input responses (initiated by an outbound call) that guide the user to take a precise action. They also benefit from being able to connect ‘ready to talk’ customers to agents.

UK consumer giant Home Retail Group, whose brands include Argos, Homebase and Habitat, has streamlined operations using a combination of IVM and SMS, for example. The retailer wanted to be able to pre-empt routine customer order and delivery queries to boost the customer experience while making its own operations more efficient and cost-effective. But before adopting IVM technology, agents would call customers to confirm order delivery dates and times. Using a dialler, they were typically achieving only a 30-40% success rate in getting through to people.

Yet using combination of text messages and pre-recorded voice messages, Home Retail Group achieved the same number of customer contacts per hour as through the dialler system – and with a significantly higher hit rate. It has also been able to reduce the amount of agents’ time that is tied up in delivery contact activities. Telephony costs significantly decreased too, as 60% of contacts are made via SMS.

Based on the positive experiences of retail customers such as Home Retail Group, we’ve discovered that using this approach brands can be twice as effective with half the resource. What’s more, using SMS in tandem with IVM, staff redeployment to value-add roles is a cinch.

Voice engagement needs to be an active part of retailers dynamic outreach strategy, it seems. For maximum impact, it should also work in tandem with other proactive technologies. SMS, for instance, is a time tested channel and major force for engaging with customers, particularly with millennials and, as we all know, channel diversity is a prerequisite for accelerated communications.

Summing up, voice remains an important avenue – providing the human touch vital to connect customers with your brand. And these days it can be delivered both by an intelligent device and a human.

Gregg Kilkenny is VoiceSage’s commercial services manager at VoiceSage, a specialist in proactive customer engagement solutions (www.voicesage.com)

Click here to find out more about the Power of Outbound Interactive Voice Messaging

(A Retail Times’ sponsored article)