2014: The Year technology took over the customer relationship

Cloud computing, cross-channel communications and voice biometrics will change how businesses engage with customers - for good.

As we close out the first month of 2014, we’ve seen dozens of technology predictions from analysts, media and businesses – everything from the rise of robots to the demise of the desktop. As Varolii continues its integration with Nuance Communications, there are three big technology trends that we see shaping the future of our business:

  • Cloud computing will become the standard – not the exception;
  • Consumers will make cross-channel communications a mandate; and,
  • Voice biometrics will redefine the customer experience.

Here’s a bit more on each of these trends:

1. Cloud Computing Becomes the Standard

If there’s one undeniable trend across the board, it’s that enterprises are increasingly leveraging cloud computing across their entire business. Today, cloud is now the norm for large businesses looking to take advantage of the flexibility and scale that cloud offers. In fact, Forrester Research predicts that Software-as-a-Service based applications will become the de facto choice for new solutions in 2014. And, it has already overtaken on premises solutions in areas like CRM and collaboration.

For customer-centric organizations, cloud computing offers a number of benefits over on premises solutions. It enables organizations to accommodate sudden increases in customer queries or inbound calls. For example, our cloud-based communications platform allowed us to reach more than 1 million customers over the span of four days during Hurricane Sandy. We also handled triple the message volume to consumers experiencing flight delays, changes and cancellations because of the storm. Having a cloud-based system in place allowed our customers to easily scale and adapt messages to reach customers quickly and easily with the information they needed.

The only way that a premise-based system could guarantee the same performance is if it were drastically overbuilt – meaning expensive costs and resources could sit there idle 99 percent of the time. By paying for only for the capacity used when it is used, a cloud approach can save tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating expense. Or, in a situation like Hurricane Sandy, it could save millions.

2. A Mandate for Coordinated Cross-Channel Communications

Smartphones have changed customer expectations dramatically. It is no longer acceptable for a company to have a disjointed outreach effort and customers have little patience for messages that are not personalized for their specific situation. As we said more than a year ago, they now expect the companies they do business with to acknowledge and respect their personal preferences. Consumers want to receive and respond to messages on the channel that they prefer, rather than being “siloed” into one specific means of communication.

Orchestrated cross channel engagement allows businesses to leverage explicit preference provided by customers and implicit preferences based on the customer’s actions to design an effective communications strategy. Not only does this make customers happier, it ultimately results in more effective business outcomes. As we head further into the Age of the Customer, the time for coordinated cross-channel communications is now.

3. Redefining Customer Experiences with Voice Biometrics

Who hasn’t called into a call center, verified their identity through the automated system and then, had to repeat the same information again as soon as a live agent comes on the phone? Today, identification and verification strategies used in the call center can create a frustrating customer experience and be extremely costly for the enterprise. In the United States alone, analysts estimate that calls centers spend $12.4 billion in caller verification.

Voice biometrics – the ability to identify an individual based on their unique voiceprint – changes all of this. By combining voice biometrics with natural language speech recognition, consumers can have an easier, less annoying and more secure experience. For instance, a consumer would be able to pay a bill within seconds by just saying two simple phrases: “My voice is my password. Pay my credit card bill.”

With just a simple spoken phrase, voice biometrics allows consumers to be securely authenticated when they connect with a service provider via a call center or IVR, a mobile app, or the Web. And, this form of speech recognition is gaining ground as consumers become more accustomed to virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri and Google Now.

Suffice to say, 2014 will be an exciting year as technology continues to change the way businesses communicate with customers and how we as consumers receive and interact with information.

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Will Cousins

About Will Cousins

Will Cousins, senior director of product management and strategy at Nuance Outbound, has more than 17 years of experience leading product management, engineering and marketing functions at Fortune 100 and early stage companies in the mobile and wireless, enterprise software, and utilities industries. He oversees product strategy and continued expansion of the Nuance Outbound platform for smartphone, voice, email and text-based customer interactions.