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Smartphone innovations and their impact on the customer journey

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Google I/O 2019, Apple WWDC 2019 and Amazon re:MARS events zero in on resolving friction points to help improve customer experience

Three mobile devices being used in-hand with a stylistic background

Each year Google’s major I/O and Apple’s WWDC developer events offer a first look at innovations from these technology leaders, while Amazon’s re:MARS event focuses on the practical applications that innovations such as AI can bring. This year both organisations are building mobile capabilities that will have a direct impact on customer experience in general – particularly as the vast majority of customer experiences take place on or through Android and iOS devices.

Taking Assistant technology to the next level

At I/O 2019 Google announced that it has developed completely new speech recognition and language understanding models by taking advantage of developments in recurrent neural networks. Previously its 100GB speech models had to sit in the cloud, meaning that there was an inevitable delay when customers accessed the intelligent assistant on their phones. Now Google has shrunk those models down to less than half a gigabyte, allowing its Assistant to run locally on Android phones and process speech on-device, at nearly zero latency, with transcription runs in real-time – even without a network connection! The result is that Google Assistant will be able to process and understand customer requests as they make them, and deliver answers up to ten times faster – quicker than even pressing and swiping on the touch screen for many tasks. Providing a much faster and more reliable service removes one of the major friction points of using speech on mobile devices and is sure to accelerate the adoption of speech recognition.

Apple is also focussing on speech. Its new Siri Voice, for example, uses advanced neural text-to-speech technology to sound more natural – particularly when speaking longer phrases – like reading the news or answering knowledge questions. This mirrors Google’s developments over the last year leaving Apple a little behind when it comes to speech recognition and language understanding – but the speed at which this technology is developing is breath-taking.

At re:MARS Amazon highlighted how it has been working on making interaction with its Alexa personal assistant more natural. Its key goal has been to make these interactions more fluid, enabling conversations that can progress easily from topic to topic without requiring sequential Alexa requests. By applying a dialogue process that aims to predict next actions and switch easily between different Alexa skills, Amazon is using machine learning to predict customer intentions from the direction of the dialogue. Once determined, this automated dialogue flow then enables joined-up interactions across multiple skills.

Amazon gave the example of going to watch a movie, starting with an Alexa request asking, ‘what movies are playing nearby’. This initial request can then extend to selecting a movie, purchasing tickets, making a dinner reservation, watching a trailer of that movie, and even ordering an Uber to and from the cinema. Anticipating customer intent and taking them through a seamless process to achieve their goals is of course a critical component of effective customer journey orchestration, and clearly shows how Amazon is expanding Alexa’s capabilities.

Simplifying the sign-in process

With the announcement of its forthcoming iOS13 operating system scheduled for this Autumn, Apple is clearly thinking hard about how it can improve the experience for its customers. Apple announced a huge set of new features that will change the way we use these devices to communicate with each other and engage in customer service.

Data privacy is increasingly at the forefront of consumer concerns, Apple continues to build on its reputation for respecting personal data. Clearly recognising that people really don’t like it when services ask them to sign in with their Facebook or Google profiles, Apple is now giving iOS users the opportunity to sign in to apps and websites with their Apple ID profile. Given current widespread security concerns, presenting users with choices about what data they share with organisations looks like an attractive option, particularly when it’s as easy as tapping ‘Sign in with Apple’ and confirming identity via a quick Face ID or Touch ID. The most information customers will have to share with an app or website is their name and email address, and they also have the power to share or hide email addresses, with the option of choosing to have Apple create a unique one-time email address that will forward messages to their real address.

Sign-in is clearly a friction point for customers, and Apple’s decision to challenge Facebook and Google by providing a simpler and more secure sign-in will be attractive for customers. Using Face ID or Touch ID to log in to a bank website, for example, will be particularly less stressful than many existing financial services sign in procedures.

Offering protection against spam calls

Putting users in control of their devices is a smart move in 2019, and for iOS 13 Apple has introduced a new setting that protects people from unknown and spam callers. When this is turned on, iOS uses Siri intelligence to only allow calls to ring your phone from numbers in your phone’s Contacts, Mail, and Messages. All other calls are automatically sent to voicemail. While this will prove popular with users, it’s clearly going to have an impact on outbound calling from diallers.

Customising Memojis for increased personalisation

When Apple first introduced its customer Memoji last year, we speculated how this would enable users to create Avatars to represent themselves when communicating in digital worlds. At WWDC 2019, Apple launched a broad range of new Memoji customisation features, enabling users to create and refine their Memojis as well as allowing a name and Memoji or photograph to be used with its messaging service. While the option to apply makeup and add piercings to Memojis won’t necessarily disrupt the CX world, the ability for customers to hyper-personalise their characters, choose exactly where and how they’re used, and have their Memoji represent themselves when communicating with both personal contacts as well as businesses that have adopted Apple’s business messaging service certainly brings a more personal approach to customer engagement.

Looked at separately, these announcements are certainly smart innovations – however, when brought together they show how tech leaders are working hard to identify and solve specific customer friction points.

At Sabio we expect the kind of positive experiences gained on personal devices – whether via speech, improved security or smarter personalisation – will combine to heighten consumer expectation for organisations to deliver better quality, secure interactions. We’re ready with the expertise and solutions you need to respond to your customers’ ever-changing needs and particularly understand the challenge of customers escalating from self-service to assisted-service channels.

Get in touch with me [email protected] to see how we can help you to bridge this gap and deliver seamless, friction-free engagement across the entire customer journey.

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