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.
But here’s the thing: we’ve reached a point where we are actually comfortable speaking to a digital device. Today when we see a person talking to a car or a phone, we no longer raise an eyebrow or stare. We’ve come to accept that sort of human-machine interaction.
There’s another type of human-machine interaction that predates the smartphone revolution: the infamous IVR. That menu-prone system preventing you from reaching a warm body who can actually understand your needs in order to help you. People enjoy talking to their smartphones, but they resent speaking to an IVR.
So the path to least resistance and greater experience would be human-smartphone-IVR. The person speaks to a smartphone personal assistance like Siri, which then communicates to an IVR for customer service. Perhaps a Siri-to-Siri interaction isn’t so silly anymore?
Imagine the personal assistant on the smartphone being intelligent enough understand the user as well as interact with an IVR. For example, having all the necessary account information stored on the smartphone, and then simply ask it, “What are the details of my last tranaction on my XYZ credit card?” The personal assistant understands this request, finds out the customer service number of XYZ credit card company (stored in address book or from the Web), dials it, and traverses the IVR because it can understand the menus and prompts. Modern smartphones have enough computing power complimented by cloud services to really come close to natural language understanding. Plus, IVR menus and prompts are often very specific and concise which should make this machine-to-machine interaction easier to process.
Other advantages of this are: 1) Keep the existing IVRs — no need to change anything. 2) Put the burden of processing on the smartphone which constantly improves on specs and features. 3) Users are already familiar with their smartphones. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved.