The Power of Voice

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NEW YORK — The changing nature of the customer remained the focus here on the second day of CRM Evolution 2009, as the morning keynote speaker made the case that we may have entered a new age.

Jeffrey Rayport, founder and chairman of Marketspace, LLC, a strategy practice focusing on helping companies interact with consumers, spoke about what he described as the latest customer revolution. "I'd argue the biggest news these days is not the evolution of products or technology, but rather that of customers," he said. "It's about how to reverse engineer products, technologies, and services to meet their needs."

He went on to ask the crowd what he deemed to be one of the most important questions in the midst of catering to the new consumer: Are we at an age where every organization not only needs a brand, a personality, and a consistent set of experiences -- but also a digital personality? He argued yes. "Most of the interactions we have with new customers out there are actually interactions in which the moments of truth are -- nine times out of 10 -- delivered by technology or technology-enabling people," he said.

To help determine just how to develop a digital personality, and to indeed include speech technologies throughout the entire enterprise, Rayport looked at three key points:

  • who the new customers are;
  • the impact it has on brands; and
  • implications for speech.

Splitting up customers into three different "releases", Rayport began with consumers in the post-war era -- the 1950s and 1960s -- in which marketing was king. For the first time, he said, there were a number of choices available to consumers on the supply side -- and was truly the Golden Age for marketers. "On a macroeconomic level, the demand was infinite but the supply highly constrained," he said.

The next iteration of customers came in the 1970s and 1980s, in what he deemed as Customers 2.0. Businesses were more competitive, and consumers were more affluent. This is where the beginnings of service automation and multichannel retailers -- using traditional in store, snail mail, inbound and outbound telemarketing -- can be found. "Consumers now expected your brand to be anywhere they wanted you to be," he said. "Supply and demand were relatively in balance."

This is in stark contrast to today's consumer, Customer 3.0, in which Rayport explained people are overwhelmed by brand and choice, and supply is infinite while demand is "a finite or even constrained resource." In the midst of shrinking discretionary spend and myriad choices, people can take back power in specifying the relationship they desire with companies. "Combined with an increase in the competitiveness of brands and offerings underlying them, companies are no longer in a position to not care about customer experience," he said.

For companies looking to maintain or grow the strength of their brands, then, Rayport went on to explain to attendees that in case they believed that the influx of social technologies is just a fad that they should think again. "People dismissed this as things others would grow out of, but that is no longer a subject of debate, thankfully," he added.

Rayport said especially from a service automation standpoint, it is important to recognize there are three areas of human activity that are rapidly shifting now due to the growth of consumer technology use:

  • access information;
  • access one another; and
  • share with one another.

Speech, he argued, is primed to tackle this triad of activity. But, it is just one piece of the puzzle. "Speech is ready for primetime ... it actually manages to touch a barrier technology never reached before -- the threshold of emotional connection," he said. "Marketing is not everything anymore ... technology is everything. The key part and daunting task of putting touchpoints to create seamless customer experience is the challenge of our time."

To tie voice back into the digital brand experience, Rayport set forth five hypotheses that he believed to be helping thus far in the world of channel and touchpoint proliferation:

  • target the core -- overwhelm the microcosm;
  • activate the community -- ensure membership has its rewards;
  • work the Web -- let the outside in, and the inside out;
  • design for occasion -- tailor each interaction to its form factor; and
  • integrate the experience -- mandate a unified field theory.

All of these hypotheses share one essential element: voice. "Why aren't we using voice to target brand and the experience?" he asked the crowd. "Every brand must have a digital personality, and voice will lead the way."


CRM Evolution '09 concluded earlier this week in New York. Full coverage can be found here.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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