Voice AI and B2B: Now and in the Future

When voice search and talk-to-text technology was first introduced, the quality was terrible.  While we may have screenshots of funny autocorrect fails to show for it, along with search results that had nothing in common with what we were actually looking for, fortunately the AI that powers voice tech now has improved dramatically.  And what does that mean for companies that rely on B2B sales?  You can’t ignore voice tech if you want to grow your business.

How big a deal is voice AI?  Take a look at a few statistics:

Consumers are busy.  Businesses are even busier.  If you want to grow your B2B sales, you need to serve yourself up to prospective clients quickly, easily, and in the format they desire.  That means you must factor in voice queries when you’re developing your strategies for reaching customers, both your present day prospects and those you might encounter in the future.

Everywhere you go, you see people on smartphones

Mobile Strategy

Mobile matters.  A lot.  Everywhere you go, you see people on smartphones.  They’re listening, shopping, searching…and sometimes they’re doing all three at the same time.  Just a couple of days ago, I realized I was sitting at my desk, facing my desktop computer, and using my mobile phone to look something up.

When you factor in the growing gig economy and freelancing boom, all those mobile searches are increasingly important for B2B sales.  We no longer have as rigid a divide between work and private spaces or time.  That guy wearing ripped jeans and a beanie in the corner of Starbucks may be an important B2B client.  Making your company easy to connect with via mobile and voice tech is vital to reaching those new B2B clients.

Your website should be optimized for mobile users so that pages load quickly.  Your images should be appropriately sized for the same reason.  You’ll need to include information about your location and operating hours so that anyone – individual or business – can easily find you when they’re searching for your relevant goods or services.

But here’s something really interesting:  Voice technology isn’t just about reading results in a list.  It’s not just a page of hair stylists or sporting goods stores in the area.  It’s reshaping the way we conceptualize searching altogether.

Voice Strategy

Increasingly, using voice tech to search isn’t about getting pages of results.  It’s about getting an answer.  And that radically changes the way we must think about our website in terms of relevant content and SEO.  Say you own an office supply business.  You sell the usual stuff from both your website and a couple of small retail locations.  Of course, since you’ve thought through your mobile strategy, you’ve ensured that you come up on the first page of a Google search for office supplies in your area.

So how does that change when we’re factoring in voice tech?  People in your area might simply be looking for the answer to a question.  For example, “Is card stock heavier than cover stock?”  “What sizes of paperclips are there?”  Investigating the kinds of real-language queries that might bring prospective customers to your virtual doors is vital.

Here’s the catch:  the changes in how we search for information and what happens when we search are moving far too quickly for most laypeople to understand.  What’s the effect of longer voice queries on your website’s Google page ranking?  Does your website’s content work as well for voice questions as it does for typed ones?

My point is that you may need to enlist the help of a pro when it comes to ensuring that the right prospective customers get to your website.

The Future of Voice AI

You think voice AI has already affected the virtual landscape?  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  The really groundbreaking stuff is going on while you’re reading this article.  When the first voice recognition capabilities were launched, even regional US accents caused major problems.  New Yorkers and Texans weren’t equally easy to understand (big surprise!)  But machine learning and AI work on solving problems like that.  More and more accents are becoming understandable, along with speech differences due to factors like physical disabilities.  Voice tech is becoming more inclusive, which means you can reach more customers.

And voice AI is becoming more nuanced.  Companies like Affectiva are working to learn to connect verbal cues with emotion, giving companies enormous insight into what customers feel as they go through their journeys.  Think about it:  If your chatbot can alert supervisors to irate customers, you’re giving your company a chance to solve problems.  If a customer’s voice indicates frustration, maybe your website isn’t intuitively searchable.

From tracking and scoring prospects to simply creating a means for other companies to find you, voice AI is critical, both to the present and the future of your business.