A layperson’s exploration of all things voice

March 18, 2019

How Customer Service Is Different With Voice

For me, I absolutely hate calling the airlines and being thrown into a seemingly endless wait to get what I want. I imagine I’m not alone in my feelings. And it’s not just the airlines. Many companies use automated voice systems for their telephonic customer service. That’s been the case for many years.

But customer service through voice assistants can – and should be – a different experience. First of all, there’s a different expectation. When I call up one of my providers on the phone, I’m expecting to reach a real human being. Even though I know that’s not going to be the case. That’s just what I expect. When I ask a voice assistant for customer service help at one of my providers, I have no expectation of talking to a human. I know I’m talking to a bot. So right out of the box, expectations are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

That said, there are limitations. As voice grows in prominence, customers are going to expect high levels of service – even if they know they’re talking to a bot. They’re going to expect conversational design – not something that is stilted & unresponsive. As Susan & Scot Westwater discuss in their “Pragmatic Talk” podcast (episode 7), providing customer service by voice can be harder to accomplish than expected. With voice, the customer is driving the discussion – because that’s the way that voice assistants work.

As the Westwaters explain, customer service via voice is sort of the opposite of traditional FAQs – because FAQs essentially are you predicting what the customer will ask. When you provide a set of FAQs, you are actually feeding the customer the questions they should be asking. But in reality, many customers don’t even know what to ask. So with voice, you can’t “feed” questions to your customers for them to ask – so you can’t fully predict what will be asked. The customer guides & drives. So voice is quite a bit different than FAQs.