USAA to roll out speech-enabled iPhone app

Finally — a U.S. company is embracing smartphone technology directly in its customer service app!

Back in late 2010 I wrote about Groupama, an European insurance company, that produced a spectacular iPhone app for its customers. The app displays visual menus, estimated wait times, and even featured virtual hold. It was likely the first smartphone apps by a company that rethought how customer service should work in the smartphone era.

Today we have iPhones and Androids with specs and features that’ll blow your mind. One of the most powerful being a virtual assistant that understands your words. Apple incarnated it into iOS as Siri, powered by Nuance in the cloud. Google and a few third party developers also offer something similar, so by all means it’s not just an Apple thing, but Siri is perhaps the most widely known moniker for such a smartphone feature.

USAA is reported to announce an update to its iPhone app in early March that’ll enable voice recognition so customers can interact with USAA via their own smartphones. According to American Banker:

USAA, which has a strong reputation for innovating faster than other financial firms, will launch the first generation of voice assistance with support of more than 200 navigational commands, including allowing members to speak or type queries related to fund transfers, bill payment and answering questions like: what’s my balance?

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Put me back on hold, please

Your bill is due by COB today, so you dialed the toll-free number printed on it in order to pay over the phone as to not incur a late fee. But of course, thousands of other customers are just like you trying to avoid this fee in the last minute…

Ring, ring… Thank you for calling Coolastic Cable Company. All our representatives are busy with other callers at this time. Please stay on the line for the next available agent…

Then the catchy upbeat on-hold music comes on.

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Do you prefer to talk to your smartphone or an IVR?

Sponsored by Angel, a leading provider of cloud-based Customer Experience solutions for IVR and contact centers.

When Apple introduced Siri as the voice-enabled personal assistant on its iPhones, people went crazy with it. There are websites and videos dedicated to Siri, showcasing her “personality”… The funny Siri, the serious Siri, and sometimes the dumb Siri.

Siri works well for the most part, especially if your voice commands are words it knows how to process contextually. It works great for setting an alarm on the iPhone. Siri does a good job with scheduling. Her latest incarnation fetches sports scores quite handily. She can also give pretty good directions to a restaurant or landmark. Siri can even talk to herself, although the results of that conversation can be a bit silly.

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