Are smart speakers a game-changer for CRM?

Voice is rapidly emerging as the interface of choice, and not just for consumers

Smart speakers are everywhere. They are on everyone’s phone, in their homes, and on every display stand this holiday period as the perfect gift idea.

According to a recent Statistica.com report, integrated virtual assistants were found in Internet-connected homes of 16 per cent of respondents. The survey was based on 1047 respondents in March 2019.

In addition, the Voice of Us study by creative agency, The Works, in conjunction with the University of Technology Sydney, claimed almost three million Australians have a smart speaker in their home or office, making Australians one of the fastest adopters of the technology.

A gift to consumers they may well be, as searching for, and interacting with, brands becomes as simple as a spoken sentence. However, many organisations are also excited about what smart speakers can do for business – and customer relationship management (CRM) in particular. Suddenly, data entry, insight and management can also be as simple as a few spoken phrases, providing an opportunity for more, and richer, data insights.

Salesforce recently unveiled its voice offering for customer experience (CX) to empower admins and developers to build custom, voice-powered Salesforce apps tailored to any role or industry, giving every employee a personalised CRM guide. In addition, new solutions for service and sales teams will apply natural language processing to voice conversations, and deliver insights that drive smarter, more personalised customer engagement.

As Salesforce points out, voice is rapidly emerging as the user interface of preference, and it has immense potential to transform CRM. The vendor is also planning to expand the capabilities of its Einstein Voice Assistant for any role or industry, giving every app built on Salesforce a voice powered by new Einstein Voice Skills. The aim is to empower admins and developers to create custom voice apps across the Salesforce Customer 360 Platform.

From a simple set-up page, developers and admins will be able to build custom skills for any CRM action,such as updating a field, creating a task or reading out a prediction—and select the Salesforce fields or objects that inform each action.

Saleforce global CMO, Stephanie Buscemi, said voice has the ability to transform CRM and make it a game-changer.

I’ve believed for 20 years we have tried to get sales people to do data entry. And it goes against the grain of any sales person. You can make fields fewer, shorter, but it goes against the grain,” she explained to CMO.

“What happens is they put the least possible amount of information in. However, with the ability to take your phone out, drive away from a meeting and start to have a conversation that will map back into Salesforce, adding all the notes, adding a contact, changing forecast status, push an alert to marketing – that to me feels like if we get it unlocked, it’s a sea change in adoption and usage of CRM.

“We have always tried to make sales conform – so just let them use their voice.

“As this gets more sophisticated, it’ll be a huge game changer because we’ll get marketers and sales people to put a lot more information in. And all these platforms are only as good as the data you’ve got.”

The latest product offering comes after Salesforce joined Amazon and leading technology companies in the Voice Interoperability Initiative, a new program launched in September to ensure voice-enabled products provide customers with choice and flexibility through multiple, interoperable voice services. As part of this, Einstein Voice Assistant and Einstein Voice Skills will be compatible with a variety of devices, from smart speakers to smartphones.

According to Green Hat co-founder and CEO, Andrew Haussegger, we are starting to witness a revolution in voice technology for business, with solutions like Salesforce’s Einstein Voice and IBM’s Watson following the rapid uptake of services like Google’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa for personal use.

“The trend in both the personal and business adoption of voice technology is driven by a desire to automate time-consuming manual tasks, remove barriers in sharing information, and to be able to better interpret insights from the overwhelming amount of information we are encountered with daily. The end goal being an improvement in communication and productivity,” he said.

Of course it's still early days for voice technology, and Haussegger pointed to "understandable fear and disillusionment" regarding the changes it promises to bring.

"We currently hear from businesses two common arguments against its adoption: The technology is not ready yet and there is still a long way to go before the promises we are being sold align with the reality of its capabilities; and concerns regarding the security risk of allowing more technology vendors to record and retain our voices or unintended audio," he told CMO.

“As a technology-focused B2B marketing agency, our team has been around long enough to witness the development and evolution of a number of CRM and marketing automation platforms, and from a product roadmap point of view, this seems like a natural step in the right direction.

“We see great power in the future of voice technology in assisting businesses and their employees to democratise otherwise complex databases and reduce common pain points, such as user adoption, increasing collaboration and information sharing throughout your organisation, cost savings from process automation and improved efficiencies in repetitive, manual data entry and distillation; and improved customer satisfaction as employees are better equipped to predict and handle customer needs more quickly and effectively.

“Voice technology is still only at the beginning of the adoption curve, which means early adopters are sure to encounter teething problems. Though with a head-start on their competition, they will surely also be the first to be rewarded with the inevitable learnings and benefits derived as the technology improves over time – much like early adopters of CRM or marketing automation.”

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