The Rise of Touchless: Here’s Where to Implement Voice-Activated Technology
Parts of the world may be entering the post-pandemic era, but this doesn’t mean that the sweeping changes brought about by COVID-19 are going away soon. Quarantines and lockdowns forced people to spend more time at home, leading them to pick up new hobbies (like baking bread) and develop new habits (like using their smart speakers).
People are interacting with smart speakers more than ever, evidenced by the 245 percent increase in job postings for voice talent on the Voices platform. NPR and Edison Research also report that about 36 percent of smart speaker owners use their devices more to listen to music and entertainment, and the percentage of users issuing frequent voice commands grew from 46 percent to 52 percent since the outbreak.
It’s likely that these habits will extend beyond the home as more retailers switch to contactless commerce. Consumers are still concerned about their safety and want to frequent stores that have their best interests at heart. According to Capgemini, 62 percent of consumers plan to increase their reliance on touchless tech for sanitary reasons, and McKinsey & Co. research claims that touchless tech will offer a competitive edge. Data from Ipsos backs up this claim: In a poll of 2,000 customers, 62 percent said they would cease doing business with retailers that fail to take the health and safety of consumers seriously.
Using Voice-Activated Technology
You definitely don’t want to be ostracized by your customers, but investing in a technology initiative you’re not familiar with might seem like a big change. The good news? Implementing touchless, voice-activated tech is less about discovering innovative uses and more about incorporating readily available solutions into your existing workflows. Have you ever asked a smart speaker to play a song? Then you already know what people expect.
When considering how helpful touchless technology is in my life, there are a few areas that come to mind. For instance, it’s easiest — and safest — when I’m able to use a voice command to manage calls or navigate while driving. With voice tech, my eyes remain on the road, and I still reach my destination safely. Making a hands-free call or asking for verbal directions without checking a screen for accuracy is a seamless experience. It’s borderline “ambient computing,” which is the type of computing that's always on and constantly listening for the next command.
As for a more commercial experience, I often use the self-checkout lane when I go to the store. Combining voice prompts at the kiosk and tap-to-pay options results in a completely touchless technology experience. Beyond being convenient, this feels safer and more sanitary in a world in which we understand the potential risk of high-touch surfaces. Self-checkout kiosks noticeably reduce the concern I feel when in a shared public space.
Touchless tech should make everyday activities easier and simpler for the audience. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel; you just need to find existing solutions that you can integrate with existing processes or workflows. Think about what would save your customers time. Would it be faster to do a task via voice command? If so, that’s where you should look to implement new tech.
Capitalizing on Touchless Technology
Ready to explore all available opportunities? Here are three areas you should consider upgrading with contactless, voice-activated tech to take your business to the next level:
1. Voice Technology in Customer Communications
For customers who are apprehensive about the risks posed by COVID-19 and other easily transferable viruses, touchless interactions can make a big difference. Consider hotel guests who historically had to use face-to-face check-in processes and physical phones to call room service. With voice assistants, all of these touchpoints can become contactless. Imagine the peace of mind this would offer pandemic-era travelers.
Companies in other interaction-heavy industries will need to explore similar options. Already, Dunkin’, White Castle, and Circle K are working with MasterCard on artificial intelligence (AI) that can take drive-thru orders. And don’t forget that McDonald’s acquired an AI startup specializing in voice recognition back in 2019. After the pandemic, these technologies will help protect businesses from the risks associated with potential future outbreaks.
2. The Voice-Activated Business Office
Even after the pandemic subsides, it’s unlikely your employees will ever look at doorknobs or shared workspaces the same way. Objects that are repeatedly touched in the office environment are a breeding ground for germs, and it will be impossible for some employees to feel safe again unless these threats are mitigated.
In China, the government is taking action and fighting the spread of germs by introducing voice-activated controls in elevators. It’s also using facial and voice recognition technology to replace standard keycards and grant employees access to offices.
3. Contactless Commerce and Shopping Experiences
Touch-screen kiosks have already started appearing in fast-food restaurants and other common retail settings, and the advanced speech-recognition technologies of startups such as Touchless.ai could offer a seamless transition to touchless tech. What if customers could order and check out without interacting with another person?
This future isn’t as far away as it might seem. Amazon.com is now selling its cashierless store technology to other retailers, and Sephora is using its augmented reality tech to let people virtually try on beauty products before they buy. Companies that give consumers the option to shop using voice commands or other contactless tech will capture a larger share of the health- and safety-conscious consumer market.
Touchless tech isn’t new. Voice assistants have been in the mainstream since Apple introduced Siri a decade ago, and smart speakers from companies like Amazon and Google are common fixtures in millions of homes around the world. What is new is how the global pandemic served as a turning point for contactless and voice-activated tech. Companies that take advantage of this opportunity now will demonstrate their commitment to customers and carve out their place in the future of business.
David Ciccarelli is the founder and CEO of Voices.com, the largest marketplace for audio and voiceover products and services in the world with over 1 million business and voice actor registered users.
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David Ciccarelli is the founder and CEO of Voices.com, the largest marketplace for audio and voice-over products and services in the world with over one million business and voice actor registered users. David is responsible for setting the vision, executing the growth strategy, creating a vibrant culture, and managing the company on a day-to-day basis, and he's frequently published in outlets such as The Globe and Mail, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal.