When Steve Jobs revealed Apple’s virtual personal assistant Siri, he unknowingly unleashed a powerful model for the new age of customer service. Though Siri wasn’t made for company support, innovators saw potential for a friendly, interactive support agent that doesn’t involve additional payroll. But she still feeds the public’s need for instant response.
Several companies have already identified this opportunity and created such intelligent mobile applications for customer service. The original developer of Siri, SRI International, released Lola earlier this year. Also, speech recognition veteran Nuance Communications rolled out Nina just last month.
Not only do these apps provide a personal touch, they have the potential to add an extra layer of security to customer service with voice biometrics. Chennai-based Uniphore Software Systems developed one such tool that authenticates your identity based on your voice. So even if your password was “password” your information wouldn’t unlock if anyone but you said it.
Why, you might ask, didn’t any of these innovations happen before? Several trends have converged recently to create this so-called dawn in mobile customer support innovation.
Powerful Phones, Apps Run from the Cloud
Modern mobile devices can run increasingly sophisticated applications faster than ever. At the same time, manufacturers have made it really simply for developers to make applications for myriad platforms. The Nina SDK, for example, can be built to any existing mobile application.
Also, now that developers can host data in the cloud, the phone doesn’t have to carry all the application’s technological muscle. This is particularly useful for speech recognition applications that require millions and millions of algorithms to interpret language.
This technology is delivered via the cloud, leveraging the increasing use of SaaS technology. This allows users to access the technology from any handset, be that an iPhone, Android or other cell phone.
NLP and Speech Recognition is Better Than Ever
Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the technology that enables these virtual agents to decipher meaning from the words interpreted by speech recognition technology. This is far beyond static Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) systems that only respond to prompted questions asked in a very specific way. Advanced NLP technology remembers conversation context.
A banking customer could ask for example, “What was my balance yesterday?” A NLP-enabled virtual assistant would recognize that “balance” refers to the dollar amount in the bank account and “yesterday” means to exclude transactions from today. It could also remember the context of the conversation if customer followed up with, “What about the day before?” The application would understand that the customer is still referring to their account balance, and that “the day before” means to exclude transactions from today and yesterday.
At the same time, speech recognition technology developed over years listening to landline customer service conversations has resulted in better language understanding than ever before. Siri was the first to put these two technologies together in one comprehensive mobile experience.
Potential to Become the Support Channel of Choice
These technologies have clearly tapped into an unmet need in the customer service market: better, more enjoyable self service. Customers don’t have to wade through frustrating IVRs, sit on hold, or fish through massive community forums. They get instant answers to their questions from a friendly, virtual agent that already knows everything about them.
Soon, customers will expect to talk to all of their devices in this way. Then, they won’t ever have to learn how to use new technology. They will just tell the device what they want it to do.
Research for this article was provided by Software Advice.
About Uniphore: Uniphore Software Systems is the leader in Multi lingual speech-based software solutions. Uniphore’s solutions allow any machine to understand and respond to natural human speech, thus enabling humans to use the most natural of communication modes, speech, to engage and instruct machines. Uniphore operates from its corporate headquarters at IIT Madras Research Park, Chennai, India and has sales offices in Middle East (Dubai, UAE) as well as in Manila, Philippines.