Our voice is one of the most powerful tools we have to express ourselves. From heartfelt wedding speeches, rousing political addresses and university lectures, to award ceremony speeches and even in song, we can communicate effectively without necessarily speaking the same language. At the other end of the scale, silence where there would ordinarily be a voice, also speaks volumes. Ronan Keating said it best when he said nothing at all.
Whether it’s a catchup with friends over coffee, or a walk and talk in the evening, we are social creatures who typically enjoy verbal communication. In days gone by, talking meant one thing – face to face conversation. Then the telephone was born and exchanging news and views without physically being in the same place, became increasingly popular.
Next came voicemail, so you could let the person you’re trying to reach, know the purpose of your call, even if they were out when you rang. Then along came mobile phones which allow us to be contactable when we are out and about.
With the relatively recent introduction of video-based platforms such as Zoom and Facetime, we can enjoy conversations which are more than a voice at the end of the phone, even from the other side of the world. No more hiding the fact it’s 11am and you’re not yet dressed. And you don’t need to stop at one-on-one calls as you can now have multiple callers in the same conversation, which after a spell of COVID confinement, makes that need for human interaction, even more attainable.
Aside from the social aspect, conversation has never been as important for business as it is now. Networking has always been a ‘thing’ in one form or another, and if you’re based in a word-of-mouth location such as Cairns like Forte Marketing is, it is really important to communicate in a positive, engaging and friendly manner. Our tone of voice for example shouldn’t be monotonous. Our demeanour should be warm, and we shouldn’t hog the conversation. For some people, this comes naturally but for others, talking to people outside of our usual social circles, can take more getting used to, especially when walking into a room where you know nobody and are really out of your comfort zone.
As time marches on and technology continues to march with it, so too does the way we use our voices to communicate. We can now use voice recognition to interact with technology more than ever before.
‘Hey Siri’ is a phrase familiar to many, and most of us have also chatted to Alexa at some point. When it works, it works well but there are other AI uses which aren’t as effective and generally, met less favourably. Who hasn’t got frustrated by the automated ‘in a few words, tell us the reason for your call’ voice systems, or when the checkout machine tells you that there is an unexpected item in the bagging area?
Whilst it can be argued that engaging verbally with a machine isn’t an actual conversation, there is no doubt that as technology advances, conversational marketing for businesses will become more ubiquitous. Why? Because conversational marketing campaigns can have a phenomenal success rate and contribute significantly to growth. ThoughtSpot found through their artificial intelligence analytics platform that conversational campaigns produced 70% more qualified leads than email or newsfeeds. This is likely to be because chat is more personal and ‘human’. Also, the conversation is on your terms and relevant, rather than generic. Intelligent live chat is a big growth area and is likely to replace the bots before too long. Self-learning technology which interacts in an almost human manner, provides a wealth of opportunities. From learning your FAQs and listening to human conversations, live chat technology can provide a fully automated system which gets smarter over time. These systems can recognise recurring customers and adjust messaging accordingly, communicating relevant special offers or information that is likely to be useful, rather than generic.
Whilst we don’t expect intelligent live chat to replace the need for humans, it will increase the efficiency of businesses and leave the aspects of daily operations which require unique input to succeed, to the people. Sound scary? So too did hearing a loved one’s voice down the end of a telephone line for the first time over 100 years ago and best of all, if you don’t feel like talking, you simply don’t answer the phone.
This is also a reason why market research conducted on the street is so valuable. People will only engage if they want to. The same applies to engaging with customers in your bricks and mortar shop. It is personable, and you can either opt in or out depending on whether you want to chat. Not only that, but you can also gain feedback in an instant on your product or service.
Whether it’s a step too far or just part of the continual development of technology, conversational marketing will continue to be multifaceted. How businesses choose to utilise it, is of course a story for the future.