Voice-User InterfaceCompanies are racing to design voice-enabled offerings on platforms such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa, but the value of these capabilities hasn't been clearly and fully enunciated yet - for customers or businesses.

In 2016, approximately 6.5 million home voice devices were shipped, and analysts expect that number to nearly quadruple in 2017. Companies like Amazon and Google are rushing to offer voice-enabled devices so they can "own" the home experience of customers.

For businesses seeking to build an omni-channel brand engagement strategy, one that takes advantage of all touchpoints - mobile, desktop, social, in-store, and telephone - to create a seamless brand experience, voice user interfaces (VUIs) present an opportunity to engage customers in a new way.

Many industries could incorporate VUI into their existing services, leading to truly memorable and successful customer experiences. One of the more logical candidates is the banking industry. Capital One was the first to release such a capability, according to PCMag, with many more banks ready to follow suit. Being able to tell Alexa or Google Home to transfer money between accounts, check an account balance, or pay a bill would increase the availability of these types of services for customers without the use of a computer or even having to pull their phone out of their pocket. Of course, these capabilities present security concerns, which we'll discuss in a later blog.

Industries with a heavy customer call-center presence also could benefit from well-developed VUIs. If a customer had a question about a product, wanted to file a complaint, or had a general inquiry, initiating a conversation with Alexa or Google Home could lead to a faster answer - without the need to visit the company's website or perform an online search. Amazon is already preparing a commercial version of Alexa for use in call centers, according to a report by The Information. How to deal with frustrated customers and when to transfer someone to a real person are topics we'll cover in an upcoming blog.

VUIs carry promise for the travel industry as well. Using Alexa or Google Home to book a flight or hotel room could be easier and faster than using the internet - like a virtual travel agent in your living room. Expedia customers can use Alexa to inquire about an existing Expedia flight reservation and book a car rental. Kayak, which is owned by Priceline, allows travelers to use Alexa to check prices on hotels and airlines. Neither Kayak nor Expedia allows travelers to use Alexa to book flights - yet.

As VUIs become more advanced and widespread, voice-enabled capabilities will be available both in the home and on-the-go, serving customers wherever they are.

But what's missing in the ideation regarding VUI is consumer-insights research that can discover and validate the real human need this technology should be designed to meet. In upcoming blog articles, we'll explore some of the challenges of VUI and suggest proven customer experience (CX) methods to gather the actionable insights you'll need to move forward with your VUI product.