How Will Voice Computing Impact You and Your Business?

Voice computing, also known as conversational computing, is the next frontier for user interfaces—and it’s already changing the way people interact with computers.

Similar to the way mobile technology added new users and required redesigning existing processes, voice computing will require modifications to create voice-friendly platforms and services.

Voice computing encompasses three distinct categories:

  • Voice to text: Commonly known as voice recognition, this is when you talk to a device and it converts your speech to text.
  • Text to voice: This is when a device converts text to spoken words in order to provide verbal information. For example, your GPS gives you voice instructions to help you reach a destination.
  • Conversational: You talk to a device and it talks back to you. Early examples include Siri and Google Now, while more recent examples include Amazon Echo using Alexa and Google Home.

Successful voice computing is evidence of the closing gap between user intention and computer understanding—something that, until now, required keyboards, computer screens and extensive training. Amazon alone has funded 18 startups to date in order to expand on the services its Echo devices provide, according to TechEmergence. Meanwhile, venture capital firms have invested almost $10 billion in emerging voice technology companies over the past five years, according to tech pioneer Quid. These types of investments will likely yield significant advances in voice technology, though today we remain far from conversational computing.

As voice recognition technology and search capabilities improve, connected devices, vehicles and homes will become more mainstream. Integration with third-party applications will also offer many new options. Voice computing will have broad applications for daily life, including voice command for auto in the form of hands-free phone calls and GPS-controlled directions; voice command in the home via smart home applications, security systems and appliances; and voice command for mobile devices.

Voice computing in business will extend to voice command capabilities including an interactive customer experience, virtual assistants and voice-to-text capabilities. Businesses that are able to leverage voice computing may enjoy advantages such as enhancing productivity in operations, reducing barriers related to language, culture and ability, and centralizing and increasing sales outputs.

For the insurance industry in particular, voice computing may have both positive and negative impacts. Currently, Aviva, Grange InsuranceNationwideLiberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance all offer Alexa-enabled services to policyholders. At the agency level, voice computing may provide a new way for customers to interact with you, and they may even come to expect it over time. The technology can also help improve employee productivity—talking is faster than typing—in addition to providing additional support or contact with existing staff.

However, the industry is still testing how to best take advantage of this emerging technology. Could voice computing increase liability as voice-controlled devices are integrated into manufacturing organizations, for example? Might it create noisier offices or new sources of competition as InsurTech startups find themselves more capable of responding quickly to this interface trend?

In order to stay up to date on developments in this space, educate yourself and your staff about basic voice computing concepts and applications. Review current systems and processes to see whether your agency might be able to incorporate voice computing in order to improve customer experience. Research any coverage-related issues, and make sure your staff is aware of every opportunity for better covering customer needs and risks. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your vendors and carrier partners how they plan to approach voice interfaces.

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