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You only get one chance to make a first impression

20 May 2019

Article by Nuance Communications A/NZ managing director of enterprise, Robert Schwarz.

Regardless of where you come from one thing is for certain, businesses only get one chance to make a first impression. Research shows that it only takes one-tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face alone. In business, credibility and trust are critical to building and sustaining customer loyalty. A customer who believes in a brand can become an advocate, often times influencing other people.

First impressions become even more crucial when the interaction is conducted under potentially negative circumstances. When the first interaction a brand has is with an upset customer it makes the importance of creating a good impression that much higher. To add to that complexity, imagine that the first impression a distraught customer has with a brand isn’t even with a human. 

As Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), automation and voice biometrics continue to grow, customers will not only be speaking with virtual assistants more often, but virtual assistants will be able to manage complicated procedures. Scenarios such as cancelling a lost or stolen credit card, ordering a replacement and ensuring any money that was stolen is all refunded can now be handled in under five minutes and all while speaking to a virtual assistant. 

How may I help?

Not many things match the ease and convenience of being able to pick up a phone and make a single call to solve an issue. Through virtual assistants, it’s not only likely, but it’s an opportunity to create a positive customer experience. Businesses that leverage virtual assistants are enabling 24/7 access to their customers that allows them to self-service in a cost-effective way. 

There is a plethora of research that goes into building a virtual assistant, but each factor will have an impact on the first impression it creates with customers. Ultimately this experience will affect customers image of the business. On top of that, everyone has had different life experiences and comes from different cultural backgrounds that form other perceptions. Some studies even suggest that a higher tone and greater expression through high and low pitch contours are more trustworthy. 

It’s more than just a voice

When building a virtual assistant to seamlessly manage a business’s correspondence with customers, the importance should not be put on picking the ‘right’ voice, rather the energy should be put into the many tasks and decisions that go into defining a virtual assistant persona. These decisions will guide a virtual assistant in how it should speak. Without a strong AI foundation, businesses are betting big on luck rather than direction. When a business’s brand and often times, first impression hinges significantly on that first contact, businesses should be making calculated choice, not betting big. In order for businesses to ensure they take the calculated approach it’s critical to get several things right.

Be empathetic – Brand alignment is important, but an understanding of what users want to hear. The bonus of having user feedback is that there’s no better direction during a voice-over recording session than setting the stage with a user story.

Be open to change – Allow for tweaks to the persona throughout voice casting and user research. Different use cases come up and adjustments may be needed. Perhaps there’s one voice talent who doesn’t completely align with the persona, but there’s something about them that just works. 

Let writing and speaking style influence each other – Writing and speaking have a symbiotic relationship. If one succeeds, it helps the other succeed. If one fails, the other will struggle. Once a voice is cast or a text-to-speech voice is picked businesses may find that there’s an even better way to handle certain wording based on how the voice sounds.

Lasting impressions

While the development and implementation of a virtual assistant can be a daunting task, it’s the first impression customers get of a business. Customers just want their questions answered, so getting the first conversation right is paramount. Businesses must take the one chance that’s given and make the best of it.

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