If voice commerce is the future, then multi-modal commerce may be the future’s future.
Voice, as Kris Zanuldin, head of Connected Commerce at Amazon, previously told PYMNTS, is convenient, but it gains much more power when combined with other forms of interaction. Don’t believe it? Just look at how Alexa has moved out of the Echo speaker and made herself at home in other areas of consumers’ lives.
Alexa wasn’t built to live in a plastic tower, Zanuldin said. There may be some use cases in which pure voice represents the ultimate convenience, but other times, visual or physical elements become essential to the commercial activity. That’s why Zanuldin included multi-modal interaction as one of his top six tips for developers participating in this year’s Voice Challenge with Amazon Alexa.
At least one competitor is going to rise to this challenge: Keith Riddle, EVP Enterprise Solutions Development at Corporate One, explained why and how his company is building a skill that incorporates visual displays of financially sensitive information.
In short, said Riddle, “Ask and display allows for more discernment than ask and response.”
A customer using voice to interact with his credit union may not want his connected car or television or Echo speaker to read out the balances in his accounts, Riddle said, by way of example.
And if the customer wants to review his balance, he may not be looking for the sum total — he may want to know how much is in each account and whether he’ll be able to cover upcoming utility payments, credit card bills or even personal expenses for special occasions like anniversaries and birthdays.
The skill that Corporate One designed for the Voice Challenge couples the everyday task of understanding one’s financial management position from a holistic perspective with managing life’s ongoing expenses, including those anniversaries and birthdays.
These sorts of management tools aren’t included in most digital banking experiences today, said Riddle, but the utility of such a skill would seem to be self-evident — and it may be that financial institutions realize this and start to incorporate similar skills, Riddle predicted.
From a credit union’s perspective, the value-add would be more than just an improved customer experience. Voice is also an opportunity to cross-sell — say, to members who may hold a Discover card with offers that the credit union is willing to match.
In that instance, said Riddle, it would be easier for the customer to understand his options if they were placed in front of him on a display rather than read to him aurally.
There are other benefits to combining voice and visuals, Riddle said. Seeing the information on the screen of an Echo Show, a dashboard or another screened device ensures that the response is consistent with the ask. Screens are helpful for communicating more complex information, such as offers and mortgage loans. There’s also an opportunity for a financial services order-ahead function that customers could use to set an appointment at the credit union to discuss an offer.
All of these scenarios could be triggered by voice, said Riddle, even if the experience is concluded through a different avenue of interaction.
A future scenario of voice commerce in banking could be sending money between participants in a video conference. For instance, the Echo Show could run a facial recognition check for identity verification to quickly identify and analyze the sender and recipient prior to moving money.
Riddle believes that blending facial recognition and visual instruction will reassure all parties — sender, recipient and the credit union — that a rigorous check has been performed on the transaction before allowing it to go through. Of course, this would be most easily applied to quick transfers rather than to the full gamut of potentially complex banking needs.
Which raises another possible application: resolving escalated scenarios when the technology just isn’t able to handle whatever the end user is asking it to do. Riddle said what’s needed then is a seamless way to transfer the failed conversation to another channel without forcing the customer to start over.
For Corporate One, Riddle said voice is the obvious next stone in building its strategy. The company has done digital account opening, account switching, mortgage lending and now payments. It has already leveraged “voice of the member” techniques.
Now, said Riddle, as Corporate One continues to serve its 800 credit union customers, it’s important to enable a variety of access points for gathering data related to support services so that credit unions can learn directly from customers where they need to improve.
Credit unions come in all shapes and sizes, Riddle concluded. Serving them means looking at what’s applicable for Corporate One, for the credit unions and for the members of those financial institutions. Voice is one way to bring it all together and meet all these players where they’re at.