Service, please! Employees in industries such as retail, hospitality, and restaurants are some of the busiest around – constantly on alert and focusing on the next customer or task that comes their way. For these service workers there is equal emphasis on being efficient and providing a top tier customer experience, not easy objectives to balance in a fast-paced environment that often requires a personal touch.
Consider the retail sales associate telling a customer about a product and needing to check on questions and lookup additional information. The hospitality front desk worker needing to see if a room is properly prepared for check-in. The restaurant chef troubleshooting a newly installed grill. These are all typical moments for service employees where they need to stop what they are doing and seek out assistance from a fellow employee or computer terminal. More importantly, these are lost opportunities for efficient operations or premium customer service.
While there has been no shortage of technology introduced to try and alleviate these pain points, from tablets to AR goggles to VR helmets, most organizations have struggled to gain buy-in from employees who these often clunky devices are supposed to be helping. In contrast, voice technology, by its very nature, is a perfect fit for many of these workers and their ever-evolving daily challenges. Instead of turning to phones, tablets or other touch-based technology, voice allows for hands-free access and continued heads-up work making it simple for employees to communicate, stay on task, and get more done.
Voice technology presents a major untapped opportunity for service industry companies to drive efficiencies and accelerate their customer experience. Three areas we are particularly excited about for companies looking to drive outsized value with voice include optimizing employee technology, providing guided workflows and training via audio, and enhancing POS and administrative systems. Let’s take a closer look at each of these areas to understand the benefits.
Optimizing Store Associate Technology
Service industry employees often need to communicate with one another to find information about products, help customers, and facilitate operations during the workday. Whether needing to connect with a specialist from another department for information, check the status on an order, or get inventory and stock information – there’s no shortage of request needs that pop up throughout a typical day. As a result, voice technology has begun emerging as a channel to connect these employees and provide them with easily accessible information they need to do their jobs better and faster. This is a far more intuitive and human-centric solution than current technology. For example, Walmart’s ‘Ask Sam’ employee voice assistant has been designed to allow floor employees to quickly do a variety of tasks such as lookup prices, locate a product, view sales information, and more without having to leave a customer to go to a computer terminal or spend a lot of time heads-down on their phones looking up the information.
Instead of turning to phones, tablets or other touch-based technology, voice allows for hands-free access and continued heads-up work making it simple for employees to communicate, stay on task, and get more done.
In addition to voice-enabled software for mobile devices, several intelligent headset solutions are available for employees that need to be consistently connected. For back-of-house workers, this can be a powerful solution to quickly connect them to front-of-house employees or easily log operational data without needing to turn to a computer or pen and paper. Any company in the service business would certainly benefit from enabling their employees to spend more time with customers instead of having to chase down other team members or leave impatient shoppers waiting for answers.
Providing Guided Workflows and Training
Another area that provides a great fit for voice assistance is processes and training for service employees. Whether dealing with product returns, inspecting inventory, preparing a room or learning how to work a new piece of equipment, an assistive voice solution can help employees feel confident in their duties knowing that help is only an utterance away. Training and new employee onboarding in particular, provides a strong use case for organizations to consider. While companies like KFC have experimented with technologies such as VR to help new employees get familiar with their kitchens in a gamified fashion, voice provides a more intuitive solution that enables teams to stay engaged with their tasks and learn while actually on the job.
Training and task guidance support not only helps the employees with their duties, but helps companies avoid the ripple effect that occurs when trouble rears its head. If something goes wrong or an employee is struggling with a task, not only are they losing time but often taking other employees away from their work to try and help them. Applying voice to help companies provide employees self-navigated tools to help in these scenarios will not only reduce the need for cost-intensive and time consuming training, but also limit the need for other employees to play out of position in moments when there are issues.
Enhancing POS and Administrative Systems
Although we’ve spent most of this piece illustrating use cases for workers on-the-go or who have their hands occupied with work, there is still a significant amount of innovation and speed voice can provide service workers from a software enhancement perspective. Every business from small hair and nail salons to QSRs to luxury retail outlets likely has employees managing details via an enterprise software system — making customer appointments, taking notes, reporting sales or stock amounts, and more are all typically inputted via computer systems. Imagine a voice assistant that could make data input and task management effortless for these employees. A cleanly designed voice solution that could quickly take in data and take actions on an employee’s behalf could save them time at the computer and get them back to customer-facing moments. Here again, we see voice technology as a consistent thread to enable service businesses to provide the best customer experience possible.
Applying voice to help companies provide employees self-navigated tools to help in these scenarios will not only reduce the need for cost-intensive and time consuming training, but also limit the need for other employees to play out of position in moments when there are issues.
Depending on your business, voice may make sense in a variety of contexts. If you are seeking to enhance your customer experience, voice can be a simple way to decrease the time sales associates need to spend away from conversations with customers. Alternatively, if you’re focused on creating new back-of-house or training efficiencies, voice is a fast solution to help your team get through their tasks without needing to seek assistance or take up other employees’ time with requests. No matter what your KPIs are for business operation, voice should be something you consider to improve performance.
It’s important to note that one of the great affordances of voice technology is that it is an interface that can be added to anything. From smartphone apps to industrial equipment to POS systems, adding voice is just an integration away from enabling intuitive and fast ways for your employees to work smarter. Looking around your physical spaces and evaluating existing technology solutions, it won’t take long to envision how voice can alleviate cumbersome processes and quickly add value to your business.
If you’re excited about the opportunities discussed here and interested in voice-enabling your workforce, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to discuss your challenges and build a blueprint for success.
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