Excellent customer service is a balancing act. Customers are looking for solutions to their problems. Companies are looking for consistency and reliability, aiming for every customer service interaction to go as smoothly as possible. However, nailing TTS for customer service requires a money and resources, and many brands are turning to AI technology for more creative, cost-efficient, and high-quality solutions to serve their customers.
For many brands, a fully-staffed customer service team is not feasible from a finance or resource standpoint. It’s extremely expensive to staff customer service teams around the clock, train them, and ensure they strike the right tone to represent a brand in diverse customer interactions.That’s why, in recent years, many companies have looked to non-human solutions. In fact, over 85% of customer interactions are without a living, breathing agent involved.
In place of live customer support agents, some businesses have installed automated systems to deliver pre-loaded responses based on the most common customer service queries. However, menu systems are not always adequate when complex answers are required, which leads to less than stellar customer satisfaction. (We can all picture someone yelling angrily into a phone at a maddeningly robotic autoresponder.) These limitations are why many brands are moving towards more advanced solutions like realistic text-to-speech.
What is text-to-speech?
Text-to-speech refers to software that converts written phrases into spoken audio.
However, whereas many automated systems sound robotic, today’s advanced text-to-speech voiceovers sounds surprisingly human.
For years, computers have been able to annunciate documents out loud. That part isn’t new. However, traditional computer voices have historically sounded stilted and clipped, undercutting any impression that the reader is human. Since people are accustomed to real voices, they immediately recognize any unnatural vocal quality or speech pattern
In recent times, however, there has been notable strides in human-sounding text-to-speech. WellSaid Labs, for example, offers Voice Avatars so life-like that listeners can’t tell the difference between a WellSaid Labs Voice Avatar and an actual human voice.
What is interactive voice response (IVR)?
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems have become a staple for customer service systems. This technology uses spoken service menus, with pauses for customers to say responses.
In the early days of IVR technology, pre-recorded responses would only be given if a customer spoke certain words. But now, these systems have become more conversational and adaptable to real conversion. But there is still a long way to go, and that’s where text-to-speech comes in.
Integrating realistic text-to-speech with an IVR system allows customer service conversations to flow naturally, with the system gathering information and providing responses as necessary in a way that sounds just like an actual customer service agent.
Many customer service interactions do not even require complex responses. If a bank customer asks for their balance over the phone, for instance, an IVR system can quickly respond and give the correct information. Especially in situations like this, IVR using text-to-speech can speed up and streamline many customer service interactions, all while sounding more human than robot. This helps frustrated customers feel the reassurance of a ‘human’ voice on the line.
Text-to-speech enables companies to create a myriad of customer-service replies. This is far more than they would be able to produce when using a voiceover agency and studio sessions. Text-to-speech enables companies to iterate on the fly, uploading new question and answer sets and rendering a human-sounding voiceover in moments as customer service needs evolve.
Top three challenges of IVR customer support today
Knowing the high expectations of customers and technological limitations of IVR, there are some significant challenges facing developers of IVR customer support systems.
Achieving the right tone, especially during a customer service call, can be difficult. Customers needing support might be highly frustrated or sensitive to the tone of the conversation. When a system uses completely neutral, pre-recorded dialogue, the tone is usually simplified and may not be as effective when calming or reassuring a customer. Text-to-speech can offer a more natural tone than current IVR-style systems.
Additionally, companies may also try to update, change, or focus on a specific tone for their customer service. Based on the company’s particular image, one tone might be more appropriate than another. Text-to-speech allows for adjustments in tone without having to re-record lines with a voice actor, leading to inconsistent tones throughout the system.
Pre-recorded IVR programs can be highly inefficient. IVR systems often list out multiple choices for each step of the conversation, frustrating customers and lengthening customer service calls. If a customer needs to contact a brand repeatedly, this lack of efficiency and naturalistic dialogue options can sour their experience.
Text-to-speech, or TTS for customer service, allows for more realistic, streamlined conversations, getting customers what they need faster and enabling more customers to be helped on a shorter timeframe.
Traditional IVR systems are limited when it comes to solutions. There are only so many options that can be on a recorded menu. When making changes, brands have the added step (and expense) of recording new voiceover every time. It can take months to reserve time with a voiceover agency just to update small single-word changes.
With text-to-speech, brands don’t have to schedule voiceover retakes months in advance. Instead, they can render a new voiceover in minutes on an online text-to-speech platform, creating thousands of iterations within a few clicks.
The perfect TTS for customer service
When it comes to customer service voices, some traits are universally positive. A good customer service voice is clear and understandable. The voice should sound calm and collected, helping put the customer at ease.
With text-to-speech, a company is not bound to a specific actor’s voice. A brand can choose from many different simulated options or create their own. It helps them find the best Voice Avatar for the business. Text-to-speech systems offer companies a chance to fine-tune the Voice Avatar that represents their brand and helps their customers. This enables brands to find and keep their own perfect TTS for customer service.
From the customer’s point of view, the best service experience is clear, efficient, and solves their issue. Older, recorded IVR recordings could often feel like a bottleneck in the conversation, forcing customers to wait for an option. A frustrated customer wants to feel heard and understood—not given more frustrations. Many customers want a service team to connect with them, meeting them halfway and offering solutions to their problems.
The future of text-to-speech
Consumers expect more interactive, efficient, and chat-related functionality. And brands continue to seek a more cost-effective, resource-light, and streamlined way to address customer needs. Text-to-speech will play a larger role in customer service situations.
For decades, companies have been striving to find the best customer service communicators. Perhaps the best answer in the future will be to make your own.