Since the invention of the telephone, voice technology has exploded across the globe, changing the way that communication is viewed and used. With cloud technology now becoming commonplace amongst communication platforms, some are left wondering where voice fits into this modern mix.
Communication inventions, like the cellphone and, more recently, Siri and Alexa, have entirely changed the way voice technology is viewed and used by businesses and the public alike. Cloud communication is becoming commonplace, an offering expected by consumers, but it’s leaving some wondering where voice fits into the modern mix.
South Africa’s smartphone penetration has doubled over the past two years, increasing drastically from 43,5% in 2016 to 81,7% in 2018, according to Independent Communications Authority of South Africa's (ICASA's) new report on the State of ICT Sector in SA 2019. While the prevailing thought is that this may not reflect the true percentage of the population with a smartphone, it then points to individuals owning more than one smartphone. This shows a clear trend for the increased adoption of communication devices and platforms, but how is voice adapting to remain relevant within these communication platforms?
To answer this question, our communications expert, Johnny Kromer, looks into how prominent voice is in cloud communication and the telephony landscape, how it’s remaining relevant, and what the future of voice looks like.
Is voice still relevant? A Q&A with Johnny Kromer
- We know that smartphone penetration is at 81,7% in South Africa, but does this indicate that voice is still relevant to the future of communication platforms for businesses?
JK: If we look at the market, and more in particular what Nashua Communications customers are asking for, voice communication is definitely still a required means of communication. It’s no longer the only means of communication, but it’s definitely an important one, as it forms one of the core expected needs that customers have today. That won’t go away.
- What should communications companies be investing in? The integration of voice, or non-voice integration?
JK: A bit of both. But organisations should definitely still focus on integrating voice into their service offerings and platforms. If we look at some of Nashua Communications corporate customers, we see that there is definitely still a need for voice.
However, many companies are missing out on how voice can be integrated more fluidly into their platforms- and that is the necessary change for the future. Organisations should not look at voice as a stand-alone island anymore - voice needs to be part of the core package of services that an organisation provides. It has, in essence, become a standard feature that is expected, together with video and other communication capabilities. In response to this, consumer expectations of the quality and ease of voice has also risen.
- If consumers increasingly expect voice to be a part of their communication solutions, will we see voice becoming as affordable and attainable as data?
JK: Yes, voice solutions will become as affordable as data in the years to come. The reason for this is that voice, data, and video are increasingly being combined into one comprehensive offering, which skews the price.
People often say that voice is very expensive, but that is only because voice has been reported on for years. Video and data could also reach cost levels that are equal to that of voice, but they are much newer services. However, as people move away from traditional copper-based connections to newer (and more robust) IP-based connections, we will see a significant reduction in the associated costs.
- How will the evolution of non-voice messaging affect the future of communications?
JK: Although the media often separates the two, voice and non-voice communication need to evolve together.
As we spoke about previously, voice and non-voice communications are now expected as part of service offering. They need to live together. As people and clients are diverse, so too are their communication needs, and companies need to respond to this by offering services that include the full spectrum of communication. Voice and non-voice communications will work hand-in-hand in the industry, at least for the foreseeable future.
- How will AI voice bots (i.e. Siri or Alexa) influence the future of call centres and communication companies?
JK: Call centres are moving with the evolution of voice. People expect call centres to form part of their day-to-day business. Call centres have evolved substantially and continue to evolve as consumers’ widening preferences for different media need to be taken into consideration. No longer do call centres only need to handle solely voice; instead, they now too handle social media and an array of various other communication methods.
So, when it comes to the use of AI in voice centres, we have seen that new generations are much more likely to communicate with a machine than older generations are. This means call centres should begin to adopt the technology already, in order to make the transition easier. This rise of AI in voice comes as companies and consumers alike expect an always online presence, which directly affects call centres and their need to respond to any request that customers may have.
Call centres aren’t alone either. Security companies are already using AI to vet their emergency calls, because a lot of these calls are not emergencies. But, they have found that bots and AI are able to use the pitch of your voice and other cues to detect if you are in actual need of assistance or if you just tripped your alarm by mistake. The world is changing quickly.
“We are heading towards some exciting times and I honestly can't wait to see what new technology and ways of communication will arise,” says Kromer. Considering how the future of voice is bound to the evolution of communication platforms, his enthusiasm for what comes next is spot on.
Although consumers expect voice to be offered cheaper and easier than before, the telecommunications industry still saw a revenue growth of 14,4% in 2018, revealing that companies are still in need of voice solutions.
Despite the increasingly fast change that we are seeing in communication technology, especially in cloud-based AI platforms, there is no doubt that voice solutions still have a solid place as a communication platform.
If you’re trying to ensure the right voice solution is implemented in your business download our IT Manager’s Guide for helpful insights and tips on implementing your voice solution technology successfully.