This month marks the 20th anniversary of the 1996 film Jerry Maguire. The movie, featuring Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger and Cuba Gooding Jr., tells the story of a smooth sports agent who experiences a moral epiphany which spins him into a professional and personal crisis. Jerry Maguire has been solidified in the annals of popular culture for its wealth of memorable quotes from, “Show me the money” to, “Help me, help you.” But perhaps the most enduring scene of the movie comes at its finale, when Dorothy (Zellweger) responds to an emotional monologue from Jerry (Cruise) and utters that famous line, “You had me at Hello.”
Powerful words, right? And it got me thinking. I work at a technology company that works extensively with businesses trying to improve their call center experience. We understand that making a good first impression is critical and that businesses must capture a customer’s attention immediately. As Malcolm Gladwell noted in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, people make instantaneous judgements. Gladwell writes, “decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.” Essentially, people have a habit of deciding if they’re with you or against you in matter of seconds. So, the question presents itself: How do we get customers at “Hello?”
To create a compelling dialogue that engages customers instantly, businesses need to create a human-like experience. But in an automated IVR context, how exactly do companies do that…without a human being? The answer is simple: a high-quality text-to-speech (TTS) solution. Through natural-sounding speech output, TTS gives a voice to the enormous amount of data in today’s automated world.
Beyond its technical capabilities though, TTS is particularly unique because it elicits an emotional response. It’s a “heard” product. People identify with the voices they hear. It’s the person on the phone that the caller is screaming at. It’s the person on the phone that the caller is happy with. And that voice has the potential to drive and improve the customer’s experience – and the potential for long-term customer loyalty if you can get it right. TTS allows businesses to deliver expressive voices that match the needs of customers and establish an authentic connection.
Additionally, TTS is inherently customizable. Just like an actor on a film set, we can “direct” TTS to do and say what we want, how we want it. We can tailor the intonation of voices based on the company, country or customer needs. This could mean sculpting a phrase to be more vibrant, changing the way a unique product name is spoken, or how exactly to say “Hello.” And when companies can deliver what their customers specifically want, it helps solidify a lasting first impression.
What’s more, TTS technology has improved substantially over the last several years. Gone are the days where it sounds distractingly stiff and robotic. Our TTS at Nuance sounds human-like because we’ve spent a significant amount of time recording with voice talent and refining the product. People often label TTS as simply a “computer voice.” But there’s a person behind each one, talking into a microphone. And the advances are truly audible. TTS is sounding more and more human (without entering the uncanny valley), as it becomes increasingly intelligible, accurate, and conversational.
People regularly make judgments in as little as five seconds. And that’s no different in the IVR, as customers will decide – almost instantly – whether they like the voice they hear. By leveraging TTS, businesses can start off strong in the customer relationship through natural, human-like conversations that resonate with customers. It’s not always easy winning people over. But with the right tech, you can have them at “Hello.”