Voice Assistants Still Underutilized for Business
While voice assistants are widely available in a multitude of devices, from smartphones and laptops to smart home appliances and cars, only 13 percent of business-to-consumer (B2C) companies have implemented voice assistants, 18 percent more are piloting them, and 29 percent said the technology is on their road maps but isn’t a priority right now, according to new data from Forrester Research.
Interest in the technology is up from 2018, the first year Forrester conducted the survey. At that time, only 8 percent of companies were offering voice services, and nearly one-quarter (23 percent) were piloting them.
The current research also found that the companies that are building voice assistants are doing so to improve customer experiences, to appear innovative, and to give consumers a choice of interfaces. Other reasons cited included the ability to deliver proactive service and to assist customers using the mobile app.
Companies not yet using voice assistants cite a lack of a use case (39 percent), low consumer adoption (24 percent), and unclear ROI as reasons to deprioritize the interface.
But consumer adoption is a mixed metric with conflicting numbers. More than nine in 10 (91 percent) of U.S. online adults own smartphones, while slightly less than one-third (30 percent) own smart speakers.
While consumers will use voice assistants for the simple tasks, such as accessing news headlines, sports scores, weather forecasts, and similar information, they still don’t take advantage of them for more complex capabilities, unless they are in a situation in which they need to interact hands-free, the research firm says.
Consumers are only half as likely to use voice assistants for business transactions as they are to use them to access information, Forrester analyst Julie Ask says in a recent report. “Consumers worry about their privacy and seldom prefer voice for any task unless they need to be hands-free.”
The comfort with voice assistants varies by age, with those 25 to 34 years old most likely to use it and with the comfort level dropping off dramatically for those 55 and older.
So far, nearly one-quarter (22 percent) of the companies that have some sort of voice assistant had built a skill for Amazon Alexa, while 5 percent had developed an action for Google Assistant.
“Brands primarily built skills to help customers get access to information,” Ask says. “Far fewer companies built the assistant to give customers access to account or purchase information, for making a payment or tracking a package.”
Some notable areas where most companies have yet to expand their voice assistants’ capabilities include the ability to shop for products or services—though this is expected to grow—as well as to find deals or coupons or to obtain basic information about the business.
Financial services firms are increasingly using the technology to deliver basic information to customers, but those Forrester surveyed had yet to embrace the technology for payments, transfers, or credit score checks.
In the meantime, Forrester suggests that companies should monitor the evolving quality of voice assistants to understand which types of experiences they best serve.
“In the coming years, a host of enabling technologies will continue to improve what is possible via voice, and so will consumers’ use and comfort with voice,” Ask says in the report. “As brands add to their consumer digital experience portfolio, they must analyze their investment in the context of likely consumer use as well as tangible benefits to the business.”