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How voice interaction changes corporate communications

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“Voice Interaction – shifting preferences from text to voice and the implications for corporate communications” is one of the five key trends identified by the Communication Trend Radar 2021.

Digital assistants like Siri or Alexa are already part of the everyday life. Besides that, voice interaction is more and more integrated into Internet of Things (IOT) devices including cars and smart home appliances. We believe that the trend will become even more relevant as the underlying technology becomes more mature. Communication experts will have to adapt content and channels accordingly.

How voice interaction is being applied

“Okay, Google, where is the next supermarket?” – voice interaction like these describe the trend towards more interaction between humans and technology using the voice and natural language. Instead of typing, clicking, or swiping on digital devices, the method of input is the voice. Digital systems, called voice user interfaces (VUIs) process these verbal commands, perform an action, and reply to the user by voice. Voice interaction is often used in the following ways:

  • in personal digital assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa, which are integrated into smartphones, laptops, or smart speakers
  • in Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including cars, smart home appliances, and TVs
  • in voice bots for call centers which can take calls from customers, manage standardized interactions, and allocate callers to human employees
  • in voice search, which allows users to search the web through voice commands
Usage of voice interaction
Usage of voice interaction

Five reasons why voice interaction is a key trend to watch

#1 User preferences shift from written communication to voice.

A shift from written communication to voice interaction can be observed which will fundamentally change how corporate communications should be designed and evaluated. Communication professionals need to learn how audio content can be made available, how it will be perceived by stakeholders, and how information can be presented by voice.

#2 The race to the top requires new SEO strategies.

The increase in voice-based searches, for example through Siri or Alexa, affects the visibility of any company’s public communication on search engines. Accordingly, a different search engine optimization (SEO) strategy will be required for spoken queries to increase the chances of corporate communication messages and platforms ranking high in the search results.

#3 Voice interaction offers new opportunities for content management.

To meet the demand for voice interaction and to increase the accessibility of digital content for all users, communication professionals should develop more audio content for existing platforms. Purely visual and textual content can be complemented by integrating voice search on the website, or by developing more voice assets, such as podcasts. Additionally, communication professionals could develop new communication formats for smart speakers. Both Google and Amazon allow third parties to develop services for their smart speakers.

Usage of podcasts in Germany
Usage of podcasts in Germany

#4 Voice interaction can support personalized communication

Voice interaction is predicted to create new opportunities for more personalized corporate communications as voice can reveal much about a user – their gender, age, mood and even personality and physical characteristics. This could be relevant to more targeted customer segmentation and communication. Additionally, by considering information such as the user’s past queries, location, shopping history, calendar, and characteristics of their environment, voice user interfaces are predicted to discover more about the context in which communication happens.

#5 The quality of the underlying technology has improved.

Even if voice interaction has been a trending topic for years, the quality of voice interactions has often been disappointing. However, we expect voice interaction to reach a critical level of maturity within the near future due to several reasons:

  • The increasing dissemination of voice interaction devices isn’t only a sign of user demand, but also a source of valuable voice interaction data, which can be used for improving human language models.
  • Voice interaction is related to other developments such as mixed reality, smart devices, and biometric authentication other industries are interested in and working on improving the quality of voice interaction.
  • Under the European Accessibility Act, by 2025 companies will have to ensure that their devices and services are accessible to individuals with disabilities, such as impaired vision and hearing.
Information seeking with voice interaction
Information seeking with voice interaction

Risks of voice interaction: Limited competition and security

When talking about all the opportunities that voice interaction can offer, one should not forget about the risks. Granting tech giants like Amazon and Google access to even more personal data, there are also fears that they will use voice interaction devices to lock out other competitors. This could be done by, say, restricting interoperability between their smart speakers and other smart devices (smart fridges, TVs etc.), or by using voice interaction devices to attract users predominantly to their own services.

Furthermore, smart speakers could potentially listen on private conversations. With many employees working from home during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, they may well make business calls in the vicinity of a smart speaker or device. In a recent survey, 23% of smart speaker owners said their smart speaker was positioned in their office at home (Beyto Smart Speaker Survey, 2020). This must be seen as a potential security risk.