Hands Free Technology Takes on New Meaning

Jonathan Patrizio
Publication Date
14 April 2020

Hands Free Technology Takes on New Meaning

The availability of hands free technology has changed markedly with smart speakers and voice assistants over the past five years. There are many great uses for voice-first applications, such as:

  • While cooking in the kitchen (at home or in a restaurant) 
  • Service technicians who need both hands to work safely and efficiently
  • Warehouse inventory control clerks
  • Drivers in transit, their hands on the steering wheel and their eyes focused on the road
  • Medical staff while caring for patients
  • The visually impaired, who rely on their hearing 
  • The physically challenged who may have limited mobility
  • In the home to control heating, lighting, and entertainment centers

Voice before COVID-19: Elevating consumer experiences and improving lives

At Mobiquity, we’ve been lucky to have helped brands across different verticals forge the path in thinking about how voice technology can complement existing customer or worker engagement. For example, we worked with Butterball to create their first Alexa Skill to assist home chefs in cooking the perfect turkey dinner, and with Nestlé to pioneer the multimodal Nestlé GoodNes Alexa Skill that paired a Visual Guide with helpful videos, and images with steps to complete the recipe. We also saw firsthand how valuable voice-first technology is for individuals with physical challenges in work that we did with Inglis House in Philadelphia.

Voice in the age of COVID-19: An important, touchless mode of interaction

Yet in recent weeks, another motivation for using hands free technology has come sharply into focus, as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is on all of our minds. It has made us acutely aware of how often we use our hands and touch surfaces. We have been following guidelines for social distancing, washing hands, and not touching our faces, as advised from multiple global resources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Though person-to-person spread is thought to be the main path for infection, it makes sense to minimize touching objects because it helps reduce risk. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. In fact, according to one CDC report, the coronavirus stayed on surfaces for 17 days aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Using your voice to conveniently control the operation of an appliance, or query an assistant, is both natural and effective if the voice assistant can deliver the results quickly and accurately.

Changing interaction behavior is challenging

If customers interact with you on a regular basis, they tend to already have established modalities of engagement and therefore changing their behavior requires some careful thinking.  If you have no significant interaction with your customers except for perhaps via email or social channels, then building engagement requires planning a new strategy that includes voice technology.  

At Mobiquity, we view conversational AI technologies as providing new and exciting opportunities to connect customers with your brand, or to enhance the productivity of your employees as they interact with backend corporate systems.  

Solutions have to be meaningful 

Empathy for the plight of the user remains your most important skill in putting yourself in their shoes and thinking about how and where they interact, where you are missing moments of interaction in their daily lives, and most importantly, why they might interact using voice. It’s these motivations that are at the heart of understanding how to create a compelling voice strategy. From there, you can start to experiment with simple initiatives in voice that consider all other modes of interaction at their fingertips. The goal is not to try to re-implement, for example, a mobile app in voice, but rather to identify a critical and useful part of the user’s journey that might work well in certain situations with voice. Can you make that a better, more convenient, enjoyable and satisfying experience?

Identify voice tech opportunities and ask yourself these questions early in the process:

  • Does it sound compelling and useful?
  • Would I use it over something that already exists?
  • Will it save me time or provide some other important benefit, e.g., touchless operation?
  • Would I use it again?  
  • What would motivate me to use it again?
  • How will I find out about it?
  • How would I roll it out?
  • How would it evolve?

Don’t worry if you cannot answer all of these questions, but remind yourself and your team that this is not just about checking a box to create new technology initiatives. It’s about creating a lasting and impactful journey in voice technology that will require perseverance, experimentation, and a tolerance for some failures that help you to learn and amend your strategy.

In light of the pandemic, you might also ask yourself about new opportunities that could be facilitated by conversational AI to help customers interact with your brand (or employees who are increasing safety measures in the office). Expectations for touchless interaction will be higher, and your customers will appreciate a human-like interaction that allows them to stay safe. 

How might conversational AI help your business? Let’s explore the possibilities together. Contact Mobiquity today for a consultation.

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