Despite the increased usage of email and text, voice communication continues to be considered the most effective medium of organization communication. Auditory communication channels foster a personal connection that other business communication channels may fail to create. The human voice increases the perceived value of business deals as it adds an element of personalization. New technological developments and software applications like virtual customer assistants, voice biometrics, speech and interaction analytic, etc., have given speech the role of reviving voice communications that continue to improve so that it is feasible in many more situations. The past decade has seen technology providers invest in developing and commercializing these capabilities. The FAMGAs — Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon — and their Chinese counterpart BATXs — Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and Xiaomi — recognize that voice communication continues to be a critical mode of interaction for interacting with applications and devices or when searching for information. The democratization of speech technologies has created an ecosystem of companies innovating voice applications. As large volumes of interactions shift from tradition communication models to self-service and automation; brands need to continue prioritizing voice conversations with their customers as a way to maintain brand loyalty and identify opportunities. In addition, SMEs are now able to obtain these benefits due to the scalable nature of this technology. And with CPaaS, an acronym for Communications Platform as a Service, organizations can cherry-pick real time communication features such as voice, messaging and video for their apps and services. CPaaS functions such as outbound voice calls, inbound call routing, WebRTC-based calling, and more can all be added to a business communication stack.
Too hot, too cold, just right: from Desk Telephones to VoIP and finally, Unified Communications
Desktop telephones were the first introduction that workplaces had to voice communications in the 20th century. Traditional voice calling (that the desktop phones enabled) required the purchase of equipment and a monthly service provided by a local provider. A range of calling features such as, automatic call distribution and voicemail were available to users and additional equipment could be purchased to support additional user or new features. However, the additional purchases and maintenance were costly. Limited features were also a cause for overall inconvenience such as a desktop telephone’s incompatibility with remote work.
Then come VoIP (voice over internet protocol) in 1989, which connected phones to the internet via modem or another connection. VoIP had many more features and lower upfront costs compared to the traditional phone system like free calls with just a Wi-Fi connect and a VoIP app. A shortcoming VoIP had however, was that it was designed solely for voice communication and the call quality would often be hampered due to poor internet connection (the average speed was a mere 5MBps a decade back). Quantified communications found that organizations as small as 100 employees end up bearing an annual cost of at least $525,000 due to unclear communications – reminding us of the crucial nature of smooth and seamless communication. In addition, organizations had to purchase additional services that incurred additional costs, which ended up curtailing the reputation VoIP was supposed to uphold in contrast to desk telephones. Another factor that ended up defeating the initial purpose of a newer off-site offering of voice communication was how these additional services needed to be deployed on-premise, which affected the feasibility of VoIP as it requires long-term commitment to maintenance and installation expenses are high. A common flaw both these modes of voice communications shared, however, was that the supporting connectivity infrastructure was not ready to deliver a sturdy connection. The early benefits were believed to be simply low cost or free calls between ‘on-net locations.’
While on-premise solutions exist and have been leveraged too, cloud-based solutions best serve a modern organization’s unified communications needs. With more and more organizations (about 90%) investing in digital transformation, according to Zeus Kerravala, Cloud Unified Communication annual growth rate is at 14%. What makes cloud communications attractive for organizations is how voice applications are delivered via the cloud providing advanced enterprise-level features and reliability without the burden of high costs and expensive maintenance requirements that are the part and parcel of on-premise solutions. The cloud unifies features from a desk phone to mobile devices and computers gracefully, allowing for integration beyond voice too. Moreover, with CPaaS, users can easily be added or removed without spending on additional capital equipment costs too. Ever since the on-set of Covid-19, virtual conversations built on CPaaS APIs for voice and text have picked up the slack of reduced in-person communications due to social distancing and quarantines, IDC analyst Mark Winther says. A cloud service provider is responsible for the service delivered via public or private WAN connections. In short, everything a traditional on-premise telephone can do, cloud-based voice solutions can do better and more efficiently.
CPaaS – an enabler for voice
CPaaS emerged as a means to deliver reliable and scalable communications technology, without needing to manage complex code bases or own expensive hardware. Organizations have the option to customize their existing applications, including voice, video or text, thereby increasing the value of the communication stack. CPaaS has typically been a service that encourages organizations to build their own technology. Organizations have complete control over their digital voice channels with CPaaS as it facilitates automated interactions with applications that enable IVR (Interactive Voice Response), In-app calling, PSTN (Public Switched Telephony Network) calling, call recording and intelligent call-routing, etc.
CPaaS providers enable innovative and sophisticated voice features to provide a seamless customer experience possible for each customer’s preferred device, application, and communication style. A variety of voice solutions are available for every requirement an organization may have. For example, those looking to save time and make a missed-call redemption can choose to opt for the Click-to-call service; for reducing costs on local and worldwide voice traffic, the voice termination service may be suitable; while those looking to ensure clear communication, can choose audio conferencing – all of these services can be integrated at once too! Instead of designing a single email campaign, organizations can follow up with voice calls, voice messages and so on. This gives an organization complete visibility into the effectiveness of their campaigns too. With on-demand features and same day provisioning, organizations can also add or remove users with ease — making voice communications vital for an organization looking to adapt to ever-changing needs and keeping critical operations functioning. An array of voice services ranging from cloud telephony and call center capabilities to AI voice assistants and Cloud IVR are tailored to deliver reliable communications for organizations of every size, in every industry.
With speech software applications now allowing customers to interact through voice, organizations are also reaching out to their customers through a range of voice-enabled smart devices like voicebots and voice assistants. These digital devices meet rising customer expectations, allowing organizations to offer innovative customer service by being available 24/7 and existing as an intuitive customer support channel. Calls with potential buyers have been at the forefront of an organization’s sales strategies once again as industries acknowledge the importance of having live conversations with their customers. A 2018 survey revealed that 44% of adult smartphone users in the U.S preferred Apple’s Siri to any virtual helper and 62% of iPhone users even use it in their car to make calls, send out texts or do research while on the go. As the voice revolution gains momentum, organizations explore plans that are voice-inclusive to align their internal and external communications with their digital transformation journeys.
Cloud Call center
Through a virtual call center, agents can answer calls through cloud call center technology from anywhere in the world. Geographical immobility did not allow employees to attend to customers with the efficiency and timeliness the cloud call center does. This enables employees to offer customer support 24/7 from anywhere. A cloud call center reduces operational costs and increases scalability to cater to increasing customer demands. It equips an organization with state-of-the-art capabilities that transform a legacy call center to one that supports both digital and voice interactions. Top cloud communication vendors for a call center software include 8×8, PhoneBurner, Adversus Dialer, Genesys Cloud, RingCentral Engage Voice, Vonage and Dialpad too.
Cloud based Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems with flexible cloud-based APIs can allow an organization to connect with their customers in new and meaningful ways such as IVR-based routing and post-call IVR survey, IVR scheduling, etc. Organizations are leveraging this technology to interact with customers 24/7 with a data analysis of historical call records to make communications even better. IVRs decrease spam call rates and only let quality calls proceed. Customers with complex needs or high-value concerns requiring human contact can be routed to the best agent and as a result, streamlining the process for everyone. In addition, a cloud IVR system can also increase efficiency by reducing call handling times, allowing them to respond to more customers than they initially could. Cloud IVR providers include the likes of 8×8, Twilio, Dialpad, RingCentral, Talkdesk and Vonage.
AI-enabled customer support
Speech technologies (speech recognition and text to speech) are central to the popularity of voice in recent years. Microsoft, Apple, Google and Amazon see strategic value in speech for interactions with applications and devices or when searching for information. As the world gets more comfortable with the convenience and ease of voice technology, the usage of voice assistants will rise exponentially. According to research by Voicebot.ai in 2019, 66.4 million adults across the U.S had a smart speech-based voice assistant that can make calls, send text messages, look things up online, provide directions, etc. Furthermore, AI is making methods of voice communication and collaboration more intuitive and user-friendly by employing machines to interpret data and analyze information faster than it’s ever been done before. Intelligent automated bots are capable of successfully substituting human communications to an extent. AI can enhance customer service through social listening, personalized web visits and chatbots by handling multiple queries at once and being available round the clock.
For an organization’s sales team, voice communication trumps all other medium of communication as it has the potential to foster a more personalized and intimate relationship with customers. One of the many benefits of voice communications is the ability to provoke a response. Speaking directly with current or prospective customers by phone allows organizations to make a good impression and find commonalities not possible with other forms of communications that are less personalized. Google found that 70% of mobile searchers call an organization directly from search results, which empowers the role of voice communications in the marketing field too. To nurture an effective relationship between a salesperson and a client, frequent communication is critical.
Cloud telephony, also known as cloud calling, is a type of unified communications as a service (UCaaS) that enables voice communication services through a third-party host. Cloud telephony services can be web or application based. It is a more cost-efficient, resilient and scalable solution compared to traditional on-premise options. It assists remote work by allowing employees to make inbound and outbound calls anywhere with a cloud-based telephone number and an internet connection. Previously, voice communication didn’t support remote work, but the fluid and flexible nature of cloud telephony makes that possible now. A self-service portal allows adding or changing employees’ telephone numbers too. The resiliency is reflected in the built-in failover modes most cloud telephony services have incase a connectivity issue occurs. With most responsibilities in the hands of a cloud communications provider offering subscriptions with a flexible pay-as-you-go model, organizations can reduce their overall costs. Cloud telephony vendors include Google Voice, Cisco Webex Calling, Dialpad, Vonage, RingCentral, Fuze and 8×8 that connect your customer engagement and enterprise-wide unified communications with the telephony option that best fits your organization’s needs.
Sales conversation intelligence software
From the likes of Chorus and Gong — a sales conversation intelligence software records, transcribes, and analyzes B2B sales conversations to uncover patterns of successful calls. It tracks a wide range of metrics including the balance of time talking versus listening or at which stage prices are being discussed. The new frontier includes real-time guidance of sales rep based on what is being said.
Call tracking and intelligence
Software pioneered by vendors such as DialogTech or Invoca help manage click to calls from search or ads. Popular in industries such as automotive or insurance, these applications analyze the intent of potential buyers, route them to the most appropriate agent or dealership, and provide marketers with comprehensive analytics on the prospect experience and the effectiveness of the promotion campaigns.
Over the next three years, Gartner predicts that 25% of employees will use voice to interact with applications in the workplace, a clear indication that voice technology is poised to dramatically change the digital workplace. However, only 24% of IC professionals consider they’re using their communication channels in an effective way. SaneBox revealed that only 38% of their employees’ inboxes had important and relevant emails which proves employees don’t have easy ways to express their ideas and thoughts. Expecting employees to speak up through emails or outdates intranets is not realistic any more. Furthermore, as offices are now reopening post-pandemic, contactless voice interfaces could be key to ensuring employees stay safe. 451 Research in a recent report predicted voice assistants and other contactless interfaces could become top investment choices for organizations, with the wide-spread adoption of voice user interfaces, intelligent assistants and biometric authentication.
Speech and interaction analytics
This follows a parallel track for customer service interactions. Vendors such as CallMiner and NICE Nexidia mine customer support calls. They can check adherence to guidelines or correlate what has been said with the support experience. They analyze the attributes of best-performing agents and use them to train and develop others. They spot emotions and specific spoken phrases to trigger the listening and review of calls.
Speech-to-text tools: Meeting transcription, Minutes and Dictating Emails
This voice capability can take care of notetaking, recording decisions, and logging allocated action points. It’s rapidly getting integrated into most conferencing services such as GoToMeeting or Zoom. Some providers like Microsoft and Cisco are taking this further with real-time speech translation of meetings. Integration with UC also enables speech-to-text tools that help dictate emails or convert voicemail messages into readable text format too.
Adobe’s 2019 State of Voice Assistants report revealed that 36% of consumers own a smart speaker and 75% of speaker owners admit using the device daily. Voice-activated services like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri allow users to make voice requests that gets streamed through the cloud and then converted to text. Though voice-based digital assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home have often been seen as home-based, Amazon has been pushing Alexa into the corporate world with Alexa for Business in the U.S., offering integrations that use voice commands for tasks such as managing meetings, controlling conference room devices and even setting the room temperature. Salesforce and Apple collaborated to create an app controlled by voice for a highly productive mobile workforce. The app enables workers to communicate with Siri voice commands and Salesforce Einstein to add tasks, take notes, and update an organization’s CRM. Users can ask Siri about their next meeting and the voice assistant will pull up business profiles of the person and other relevant details culled from Salesforce’s Einstein.
Deploy Cloud-based Voice communications; The TransformX Way
The TransformX approach enables organizations to rethink and redefine their business communications stack. Our signature Cloud Communications offering helps clients carefully select new CPaaS solutions (or replace existing ones) as a result of a deep study of organizational, functional, and technical dynamics. A comprehensive review of the merits and demerits of the existing CPaaS solution(s) is also offered along with CPaaS program oversight initiatives. We look forward to assisting you in your digital and customer transformation journey by combining elements of the above-mentioned Cloud Communications sub offerings — New CpaaS Acquisition, Existing CPaaS Review, and CPaaS Program Oversight. We help you boost revenue and build relationships with enterprises who want to expand beyond traditional telephony applications. Step into the world of convenient and contextual communication and stand out from your competitors, we will hold your hand along the way. Connect now!