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Voice assistants present new challenges for call clarity

Virtual assistant devices and applications offer ease and convenience when placing phone calls, but they could pose problems in terms of audio quality.

As consumers, most of us are familiar with voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, to help us find information, make calls and order groceries using just our voices. In fact, a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers found as owners of voice assistants become more familiar with their devices, they are "speaking more and clicking less." For example:

  • Nearly 90% of respondents use their intelligent voice assistants every day.
  • Nearly 60% use them to accomplish tasks they previously would have done on their smartphones via typing and swiping.
  • Nearly one-quarter of respondents reported they were making more calls to businesses than they previously did. And 35% reported making more calls to friends and family with their virtual assistants.

Ease and convenience are two of the main factors driving the use of voice assistants to place phone calls, as the popularity of virtual assistants continues to rise among consumers and businesses. Consumers are increasingly using virtual assistants to place calls they would have previously done on their smartphones, tablets or landline telephones.

Despite many pundits forecasting voice is dead, it's actually undergoing a modern renaissance and becoming more critical than ever -- especially for businesses.

Voice assistants should initiate clear calls

Al Castle, vice president of product and engineering at FlowrouteAl Castle

Clear and reliable call quality -- regardless of the device a caller may be using -- is imperative for today's businesses. Voice assistants can present unique challenges in terms of audio quality. Issues such as background noise or having multiple voices speaking concurrently can affect audio quality.

Being able to deliver reliable connectivity and strong audio quality when a call request is made through a virtual assistant can make or break a customer service interaction or an important sale, which places a direct correlation between call clarity and a company's bottom line.

While many businesses have worked to make the customer service process faster, efficient and easier, customers usually want to interact with a live human when they have a personalized or complex customer service question. As this Forbes article noted, "While companies are using AI to address customers' basic questions and requests, like a change of address or checking on a bank balance, it has not gone to the level of replacing people for handling higher-level questions."

In this scenario, whether a phone-initiated query comes to a business from a landline or a virtual assistant, customers simply want their calls connected flawlessly. The call audio should be clear and strong, and the call shouldn't drop during the interaction. Actual issue resolution becomes secondary if customers can't reach a business in the first place, or if they can't hear clearly during their call.

Ensure high-quality voice connections

In an age of voice assistants, smartphones and other intelligent devices, the role of voice and call quality is regaining its importance for businesses.

In an age of voice assistants, smartphones and other intelligent devices, the role of voice and call quality is regaining its importance for businesses. As consumers and businesses adopt smart speakers, this new technology will emerge as a viable alternative to traditional telephony devices.

Therefore, businesses should work closely with their communication service providers to ensure a clear, reliable and high-quality voice connection, regardless of the devices used today and in the future, as technology companies continue to innovate and offer new advancements for call connectivity.

Al Castle is vice president of product and engineering at Flowroute, a cloud-based communications provider based in Seattle.

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