Smart Speakers: Why They're Basically Fancy Chatbots

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Rebecca Riserbato
Rebecca Riserbato


Alexa, Siri, Amazon Echo. In this day and age, most people have heard of these smart speakers.

Craftswoman uses smart speaker to ask customer service questions

Additionally, most people have also heard of these famous chatbots: ManyChat, WeChat, WhatsApp.

In fact, 66 million U.S. consumers own smart speakers, and globally, 1.4 billion people are using chatbots.

As we've seen AI continue to develop and permeate our society, chatbots and smart speakers have both become adopted as regular ways of gathering information.

When it comes to businesses, plenty of organizations want to know how to use these AI technologies to engage with customers and improve the customer experience.

In fact, according to research, 75% of companies plan to invest in AI in the coming years and anticipate that chatbots and voice bots can free up call center employees from routine support tasks.

Below, we'll examine the differences between chatbots and smart speakers and discuss the future of these technologies in customer service.

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Chatbots are a great tool for automated customer service because they can help countless customers at a time through text-based communication. Chatbots in messenger apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Skype, are dominating the customer service industry. Online chatbots can carry out conversations by having endless availability and access to a wide array of information to help customers. Chatbots are a great way to improve customer engagement and reduce customer support expenses.

On the other hand, smart speakers are used for more personal assistant inquiries. While people love asking about the weather at home or playing music, they might not feel as comfortable speaking into their devices in public when they want to ask a customer service question. Smart speakers can't cast images and videos during communication and just respond through voice. Additionally, smart speakers can only talk to one person at a time, while chatbots can speak to several customers.

A messenger chatbot is also easier to use in your daily life, when you're out and about, at work, or running errands. With smart speakers, you'll need to be at home where your device lives.

Another major difference is that chatbots are pre-programmed to respond in a certain way and can answer specific questions, while smart speakers can listen and respond by learning about user intent. Smart speakers don't just use pre-programmed responses, and instead, use text-to-speech responses.

Ultimately, the biggest difference right now is that chatbots are primarily used in the customer service niche, while smart speakers are used for personal assistance in people's homes.

Chatbots and smart speakers are both continuing to become more advanced, so we might see these technologies continue to develop in the customer service space.

The chatbot market size is currently estimated at $430.9 million and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 24.9% from 2021 to 2028.

The main reason for this growth will be the increasing use of chatbots in customer service.

Chatbot market size graph

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While chatbots are a great resource for customer service and have been adopted in several industries already, what does the future look like for smart speakers in customer support?

Future of Smart Speakers

When it comes to the customer experience, smart speakers can be an excellent way to interact with customers. As we discussed before, 66 million U.S. consumers own smart speakers.

Additionally, 31.4% of smart speaker owners said they'd be interested in using their device to contact customer service departments. On the other hand, 38% said they were not interested, and 30.4% said they were unsure.

Consumer interested in smart speakers for customer service

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So there might be a slight demand, but is there a use case for smart speakers in customer service?

While smart speakers are not currently designed to directly connect customers with customer service departments, businesses can put frequently asked questions in smart speakers so they can provide that information to customers.

Now, let's dive into how smart speakers can be integrated with customer service.

Smart Speakers and Customer Service

Currently, few businesses have recognized the opportunity to integrate customer service with smart speakers. Businesses that have launched voice apps in smart speakers with customer service features.

For example, Levi's has an Alexa skill and Google Action that will help consumers select a product, get information about returns and gift cards, and where they can find a local store.

Another instance is Neiman Marcus, which has an Alexa skill and Google Action to enable customers to check order status and learn how to make returns.

These are just a couple of examples of how businesses can use smart speakers for customer service. Essentially, it's about integrating the information that you have on your chatbot, and putting it into smart speakers so people can get that information from their Google Home or Amazon Alexa.

Not many brands are doing this right now, but adding customer support information to smart speakers can be another way to create a positive touchpoint with your customers.

Smart speakers can also help reduce friction in your customer service. Another example is Tide. Tide has an Alexa skill that allows users to ask Alexa over 200 laundry-specific questions.

Think about the questions that your customers might have in your industry. It could be "how to clean [product]". Helping customers with questions they have is a great way to provide an excellent customer experience and maybe even convert non-customers into paying customers as a marketing initiative.

While smart speakers are essentially chatbots with a voice, it's important to consider how both of these AI technologies can help improve the customer experience and help you engage with your customers.

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