A voice-activated future that’s not all talk.

voice activated

Saturday Night Live did a spoof commercial not long ago about the Amazon Echo. While it pokes fun at seniors (“I don’t know about that!”), the theme of adapting technology to how people really use it is more universal. To anyone who’s used any kind of voice-activated device – GPS, dictation, search – the experience can vary between seamless / amusing / frustrating, especially during the voice learning phase.

As these tools grab a bigger share of our personal lives, people are becoming more and more accustomed to asking questions and getting immediate answers. Using smartphones or devices, like Echo or Google Home, to do every day shopping and banking has, for better or worse, raised expectations to very high levels. The growing use of digital assistants is interesting to us because of the increasing ubiquity in two of our key verticals: retail, and now banking and credit unions, where security is paramount (it’s interesting to note that after the SNL spoof, Amazon announced plans to launch two-step verification of the “Alexa” wake word.)

User expectations drives user experience.

Cast your mind back to the old days of 2008 or so, when the transition to smartphones was in its nascent stage. Ever catch yourself touching and swiping screens that weren’t yet touchscreens, just because you were getting used to the ability? Your initial experience created the expectation that all user experiences should be the same.

Voice recognition / activation is having the same moment right now. It’s even becoming standard on many computers, thanks to Microsoft Cortana. This additional layer of “intelligence” allows the technology to not only recognize voices but interpret the meaning of them. This a huge leap in improving the user experience because it removes any complexity of login and navigation to get information or do simple tasks. All you gotta do is ask.

Online shopping not good enough for you? Speak up.

Retail in some categories is getting a little blurry between what’s online and what’s not. Say you order stuff online, but pick it up at the store. Or, order something online, return it to the store and pick up something else while you’re there with the refund. Or, if you just say, “Alexa, order me a 4K TV from [Retailer]” while you’re sitting at the table having breakfast. Technically, you weren’t online. Or were you? See, it’s blurry.

It’s too early to tell where Black Friday / Small Business Saturday / Cyber Monday / Giving Tuesday spending will net out. But it is interesting to note that even direct competitors to Amazon, like Best Buy, have enabled sales through Echo. And it’s not alone – retailers as diverse as Walmart, Home Depot, Target have voiced their support by jumping on the technology. For a growing segment of the population, it may be the best way to reach the target market: RBC Capital Markets predicts that 60 million Alexa devices will be sold by 2020, bringing the total install base to 128 million.

Money talks. Literally.

While not as widely adopted as the retail industry, banks and credit unions are active participants in the world of voice recognition devices. (No, this does not include the say “one for savings, two for checking” phone systems that have been around for decades.) Just by speaking up, bank customers can check everything from bank, credit card, auto or home loan account balances, track spending and transactions, pay bills, get the latest rates.

Certainly, digging into your finances through a device requires a significantly higher level of trust than, say, ordering diapers, or turning up the heat in your living room. But who knows, in the same way phones and other technology have fingerprint, facial or iris recognition capability, your voice may soon be the key to unlocking your computer, starting your car, getting cash at an ATM, or even (and this deserves an SNL spoof if it happens) voting.

The point is, the financial industry is adopting and offering the technology because the demand is there. And as the demand grows, the expectation grows, and suddenly something unique and novel becomes all but invisible. You talk, things happen, done.

What’s the implication for Source-to-Pay?

According to Determine’s Chief Product Officer, Julien Nadaud, the concept – if not yet the reality – of voice recognition is applicable to any enterprise application. Take procurement, for instance. “Imagine simply asking our solution via your computer or phone if you have any documents to approve, getting a quick summary, and then simply saying ‘approve’ or ‘reject’. Think how quickly you could flip a PO into an invoice or even create a new invoice. Even obtain direct information, like ‘what are my top five suppliers providing IT services,’ just by asking.”

At Determine, we spend a lot of time thinking about and improving the customer user experience (expect more on this topic regularly). Some of this results in interactive tools you can see, a lot of it is the technology behind the scenes making your processes seamless (dynamic workflow, anyone?). While voice recognition may be something to look forward to, we work closely with customer needs – and expectations – to make our modular solutions on the Determine Cloud Platform as responsive and agile as possible right now.

To get a first hand look at our user experience, schedule a personalized demonstration of the Determine Cloud Platform.

Still quiet here.sas

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