Siri, can you improve my business?
Spoiler alert: she probably can't. However, there are a lot of ways that voice technology more broadly can help your operations. Most of the time, we see retail, warehousing or other supply chain entities using voice technology for one thing only: order picking.
And that's good! But it's only the beginning. If you look beyond picking, you'll see a whole world of opportunity for voice technology and your business.
Voice technology can: Improve your inspections
Line clearance, quality assurance and inspection: It's clinical, essential and repetitive. Many businesses we work with still conduct line clearance and quality assurance at the end of every product run with a clipboard and a mirror – tried and tested, but not the best way of doing things.
With voice technology, line clearance and quality assurance times can be cut into the tiniest fractions. Voice technology can listen to the information you speak into a device, automatically run it through a database, and perform a massive number of checks and balances. In one proof of concept we ran for a client, we brought inspection times down from 45 minutes to 18. Across dozens of production lines, running multiple products every day, that 27 minutes cut scales into huge cost savings – all possible through voice.
Voice technology can: Create dynamic workflows
This is something we addressed when we dissected some common technology myths, but is worth covering here in more detail – voice improves workflow.
Voice is used for order picking to great effect in warehouses all over Australia and New Zealand, but few use the technology to optimise their workflow. Tasks are punctuated with returns to a central database, a line manager or even worse, lengthy trips to repeat a cycle.
Hands free, voice-activated technology that communicates with a centralised database can feed directly into headsets, giving staff their next task or directing them to where they are needed without interrupting workflow. It's a dynamic, more efficient way of going about your day that has a massive impact on bottom-line productivity.
Voice technology can: Bridge the gap in retail
A customer asks a retail assistant if they have a particular top in a different size. The assistant freezes – they're pretty sure they saw a shipment arrive this morning, or was that a different top? Have they been logged in the system? Is it definitely what the customer wants?
In these blink-and-you-miss-it snap decisions that retail assistants deal with every day, voice technology can prove critical. Staff can ask questions directly into a device or through a headset – but rather than it being another human on the other end, it's an AI or app that has to-the-second information on your backroom inventory.
It's a synthesis of information and efficiency that vastly improves the customer experience, and helps retailers constantly improve their offering. Warehouses to back-of-store to the front floor in milliseconds. No awkward pauses or disappointed customers – just solutions.
Voice technology can: Understand what you really mean
There can be a stark difference between what someone says and what they mean. In the past, voice technology has struggled on this point, interpreting words literally without any consideration of tone or words left unspoken. Not anymore.
Natural language processing (NLP) is a type of AI that interprets the spoken word much in the same way a human would, learning an individual's speech patterns and responding to or interpreting information in the most appropriate way.This can work wonders for productivity – a simple "next?" spoken into the right app can be interpreted as a task being completed, tools no longer in use, vehicles available for staff and a new task ready to be started.
We can say so much with so little, and voice technology is now in a place to let that optimise the way we work.
Voice technology can: Streamline the customer experience
NLP isn't going to replace traditional stores, but it is going to revolutionise how they function. Take the current buzzworthy tech, Google Home and the Amazon Echo . These are just some of the voice-activated technology that can communicate with like-minded devices around your home and even do your shopping for you.
— Amazon Echo (@amazonecho) February 21, 2018
Businesses often see this kind of development and assume it's for the big names, the multi-billion dollar corporations, but it isn't. Apple, for example, have opened up their speech APIs to developers looking to integrate their apps with modern recognition technology. In retail and warehousing, there is a world of opportunity to use this at front-of-house, allowing customers to vocalise commands and have questions answered instantly, even from the comfort of their own home.
The spoken word is the most natural form of communication between humans – and at long last, technology has caught up with how to best work with that. At Cohesio Group, we specialise in taking those tech advancements and using them to improve your workflow, your productivity and your bottom line. Want to be on the cutting edge? Contact our team today.