Voice assistants are more than just user interfaces for the hands-free operation of digital devices. They interpret human speech, respond to spoken commands, and can immediately and easily provide the information that customers expect. Voice assistants, or virtual assistants, aren’t limited to Siri, Alexa, Google Home, or Cortana either. For brands, this form of assistive technology provides new and powerful ways to improve everything from websites and wearables to ecommerce and automobiles. Voice assistants have also injected new life into legacy phone-based auto attendants. Plus, they’ve made obsolete the iconic “press 0 for Operator”.

The Evolution of Interactive Voice Response

Today’s Interactive voice response (IVR) systems use voice recognition and act as a type of virtual digital assistant.  They use artificial intelligence (AI) and let people use the power of voice on a variety of platforms. Customers don’t have to wait to speak to an agent or get routed to a department or specialist. They don’t have to press the right keys on their telephones either. IVR systems that are well-designed can increase consumer satisfaction and improve customer support operations. Natural language IVR technologies are especially effective because they’re flexible.

Ten years ago, however, automated voice systems weren’t so popular. According to a study at New York University, some 67% of respondents said that they preferred live agents. Even worse, over 80% of consumers reported that IVR failed to provide them with any benefits, or only benefitted the service provider. Among the complaints was that automated voice assistants were difficult to use. With the introduction of smart IVR platforms, users no longer shy away from calling for assistance, to the contrary, today’s consumer is looking for more platforms and opportunities to engage using only their voice. The world has changed and the Voice of Things has arrived.

Comparing Voice Assistants

For example, Twilio is a cloud-based platform that lets brands build IVRs for personal, contextualized customer experiences. Through powerful application programing interfaces (APIs), companies can notify customers when orders ship, provide support over the phone, and confirm reservations by text. As this video explains, brands can also communicate on the channels that customers use every day. Whether it’s through What’s App, Facebook Messenger, text, or voice, Twilio works with apps, websites, and devices.

Today, more than 50,000 companies use Twilio as their platform for customer engagement. Yet, this top-rated IVR system is hardly the only choice. According to G2, a website which helps businesses select solutions, there are plenty of Twilio alternatives with ratings of 4.2 to 4.8 out of 5. For example, both Plivo and Vonage Communications APIs (formerly Nexmo) are convergent platforms that allow enterprises to connect to their customers via voice and SMS. Companies like MessageBird use conversational APIs to engage customers.

Voice: When, Where, How You Want It

As IVR continues to evolve companies need to find ways to empower customers to communicate in a direct and unmediated fashion, using just their voice when and if they wish. Voice Express Connect™, is a smart speaker in-print and serves as a good use case.  At the end of any interaction, the Connect™ offers the user the option to call a number or send an SMS text message with a code or tag word that connects the user to the appropriate web page or help desk to continue their discussion.  Visit our website to request a sample brochure and experience our programmable voice and audio branding by listening to the brochure on our homepage.

Thank you for engaging Voice Express, where we enable brands and consumers to communicate in a direct as well as unmediated way through self-playing media. If you’d like to learn more about voice-enabled technologies, we invite you to read these recent articles.