Losing your voice

Losing your voice

I have been doing some research for a presentation I will be giving next month. I am going to be talking about our future customers – Generation Z. They were born after 1995, so the oldest will now be into their 20s and will already be travelling. They are a growing cohort of customers, so it is important to understand them.

Gen Z has never known a time when there was no internet, no mobile phones and no pervasive connectivity. Just as we all take it for granted that water flows from our taps, so Gen Z simply takes it for granted that information flows from their connected devices. As far as they’re concerned there are no geographic constraints to communication. Communicating with a friend living on the next block is no different to communicating with someone on the other side of the World. The only inconvenience is the difference in time zones.

I think of Gen Z as the ‘convenience’ generation. To accommodate Gen Z (and the rest of us), the online goal of every commercial organisation has to be to provide a frictionless service delivery experience. It should be so easy to do business with your organisation that your customers don’t have to think for even a second about how to interact with you online. Companies such as Uber and Amazon excel at this. In travel, trainline and easyJet’s mobile apps are excellent. How does your company do?

One trend I have noticed – and my own Gen Z kids are a good example – is that they have a preference for messaging rather than voice. WhatsApp, Messenger and Snapchat are the preferred methods of communication. Why bother talking to someone when you can more easily fire off messages, keeping your mobile screen in front of you rather than having to hold it to your ear?

There is a new technological trend, though, that is feeding into the mix and it is powered by artificial intelligence (AI). What AI is about is its ability to learn as it goes along; sometimes called machine learning. I see it taking ‘convenience’ (I don’t like the word laziness) to a new level. I am succumbing to it for sure. I wear an Apple Watch. When I receive a text message I can read it on the Watch.  Usefully, I am offered a number of possible replies that I can simply select by tapping. I don’t need to actually type the reply.

At the moment, these replies are not intelligent. They are just a list. They are words such as “OK,” “Sure,” “Yes, “No;” but other devices are using AI to produce context specific replies. So, if you receive a message such as, “Can we meet on Thursday?” AI might inspect your calendar and offer a range of replies such as, “Cannot make Thursday.  How about Friday?”  The original sender’s device on seeing this would likely offer a reply such as “Sure.”  And so we have AI technology conversing for us.

I would expect Gen Z to become perfectly at home with this. As the power of handheld devices continues to increase, you would expect AI to provide really quite sophisticated conversational capabilities.

How about asking your device, “Find me some good holiday deals to USA next month?” Contact centres are already using AI Chat to speed conversations with customers.  I wonder if we will reach the stage where contact centres need no human staff at all?

Take a look at below Sophia in action, the AI robot from Hanson Robotics.

We may be losing our voices but technology is taking over. Will Gen Z care?


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Paul Richer is Senior Partner of Genesys, a management consultancy specialising in providing advice on technology for the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. Genesys has built a worldwide reputation for its knowledge and experience of new system procurement, online technology and strategies including website audits and online booking systems, reviewing and formulating companies’ IT strategies and more. Clients include many of the best known names in travel. Paul has co-authored several reports examining the impact of technology on the distribution of travel, including “Distribution Technology in the Travel Industry” originally published by Financial Times Retail and “Marketing Destinations Online – Strategies for the Information Age” published by the World Tourism Organisation. He has presented at and chaired many online travel conferences, is regularly quoted in the press and has also been invited to make several appearances on television to debate the subject. Prior to founding Genesys in 1994, Paul was Business Development Director of Finite Group plc and Head of the Group’s IT strategy consultancy. He holds an MBA from Cranfield School of Management, is a Fellow of the Institute of Travel & Tourism and Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. More information at http://www.genesys.net/

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