Voice-activated devices are fast becoming a common channel for customers to interact with businesses. Utilities and telecommunications providers are using Alexa as an innovative way to provide customers with access to their products and services.
A year ago, I wrote an article on the future of prepaid top-up. At the end of the paragraph on voice assistants, I posed the following question: “Do you think mobile phone top-up through voice assistants is going to be the next big thing for prepaid users?” Whether your answer would have been yes or no, voice assistants are here now, and they definitely are the next big thing in top-up. Today, Mi-Pay is the first to introduce Alexa voice-assisted top-up anywhere in the world.
“Tea, Earl Grey, hot”
Back in the eighties, when Star Trek – The Next Generation was first aired, science fiction fans could only dream of one day being able to utter the words “tea, Earl Grey, hot” like captain Picard and actually get a palatable cup of tea. In the series, voice commands were an important and often used form of communication between the crew and the ship’s computer.
Still, up to just a few years ago, voice activation for services had been limited to customers navigating through rudimentary call centre Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems to retrieve information or get routed to the correct team. In those days, voice recognition was very poor and often led to poor customer experience.
Thankfully, technology has moved on. With the introduction of machine learning and major improvements in natural language recognition, the communication barriers between man and machine have started to crumble.
Who is(n’t) doing it?
Speaking to a machine and having it perform complex tasks, on command, is no longer the domain of science-fiction films and novels. Voice recognition has finally come of age.
Today, if you are buying an advanced household device or personal electronic device, it will most likely come with some form of voice activation capability. Voice capabilities are often linked to making phone calls, voice searches, or getting directions. But what about more complex tasks like online shopping and making payments?
In the UK, voice recognition is already being used by retailers, airlines, utilities and telecommunication companies. In 2017, Morrisons, one of the larger supermarket chains in the UK, introduced a range of voice commands for Alexa. These “skills” included actions like adding or removing items to the basket, checking the order total, inquiring about the availability of products and checking delivery times.
Other companies including Sainsbury’s, Ryanair, Easyjet, British Gas and EDF Energy all offer their customers access to products and services via voice recognition.
A quick history of voice assistants
In many ways, the introduction of the Amazon Echo smart speakers in 2014 marked the beginning of an era. These devices came equipped with Alexa; Amazon’s own voice assistant. While Apple and Google had been first with their introductions of Siri (2011) and Google Now (2012), it was Amazon that with its Alexa devices really pushed voice activation into the mainstream as a way to have voice activation for cloud services. By being quick to expand beyond their core services and allow users to interact with 3rd party services, Amazon’s Alexa solidified its position as the market leader.
“Alexa, top up my phone, will ya?”
Alexa provides businesses with new, innovative, friendly, engaging and enabling ways to interact with customers. Utilities and telecommunications providers are increasingly using Alexa as a new and innovative channel for customers to access and manage their utility/telco accounts.
So, how does it work?
Whether it’s topping up prepaid credit while cooking dinner, or paying bills while driving, the beauty of voice assistants is the ease with which customers can complete otherwise complex tasks. Undoubtedly, businesses that implement voice-activated services will have happier, more engaged and stickier customers.
Interested in how you can take your business to the next level by providing customers with voice-activated services via Alexa? Let’s get in touch.
Business Development Manager Mi-Pay E: [email protected]