Report: Voice Tech Not Meeting Consumer Expectations

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Could the impact of voice technology be so profound that voice commands eventually replace typing altogether? That’s the belief held by many leaders in the media industry, according to a newly released report from the application monitoring platform AppDynamics.

Surveying IT professionals at media companies around the country, AppDynamics found that 52% expect voice commands to replace typing in the near future, even though speech recognition error rates remain exceptionally high.

That contrast between predictions of what’s possible in the future and the stark reality of today’s voice command technology is on full display in AppDynamics’ new report. Despite lofty expectations, AppDynamics found media companies that are investing in voice technology experience a speech recognition error rate above 6%, and 13% of those companies experience an error rate above 20%.

“When looking at this data, it’s clear that enterprises simply don’t understand consumer expectations when it comes to voice, or how frequently they’re already relying on the technology to make their everyday lives better,” explains Matt Chotin, senior director, technical evangelism at AppDynamics. “The survey shows that the majority of IT decision makers think it will take over three years for enterprises to really invest in voice. But by accelerating their investment in voice technology today, businesses can start addressing some of the core challenges like accuracy and align with consumer needs faster.”

The issue of consumer needs and expectations is one that’s highlighted frequently in AppDynamics’ report. Problems with speech-to-text accuracy can lead to a poor user experience, with 29% of respondents in the survey saying the issue has led them to text something inappropriate and 23% saying it has caused them to take the wrong route to a destination.

More than half of enterprises currently investing in voice say that ensuring accuracy is the biggest challenge they face. Chotin says the data shows IT leaders are underestimating how quickly the voice-driven economy is evolving, and those IT leaders could be putting their businesses and products at risk by falling behind the competition.

“It sounds simple, but a major problem that this report uncovers is that voice technology still has a ways to go before the experience is seamless for users,” Chotin says. “Voice technology has the potential to revolutionize the way consumers interact with businesses and products, but it won’t live up to that potential without improvements to the user experience.”

To that end, Chotin believes IT leaders should start prioritizing improvements in the end user experience by studying user expectations compared to their actual experiences with voice technologies. Then, they should dig even deeper to discover the root cause of those preferences, in order to meet consumers’ current expectations.

Already, Chotin sees the expectations of millennials growing. Seventy-one percent of millennials in AppDynamics’ survey reported using voice technology each day, but 40% of consumers are concerned about how inaccurate voice assistants can be. That statistic could be one of the reasons behind another intriguing finding in the AppDynamics survey, that just 24% of consumers would ask a voice assistant for their bank account balance, versus manually searching themselves.

With increased innovation and improved accuracy, there’s an expectation that products will evolve from simple “task-masters” to become true assistants, and that consumers will grow more comfortable asking more personal questions, about banking or healthcare, for example.

“In the years to come, with increased innovation and improved accuracy, the appetite for a more personal, companion-like experience that goes beyond asking for weather and restaurant recommendations will become the norm. However, voice products that deliver this level of intimacy, with full consumer trust in the technology, don’t exist yet,” Chotin says. “Investing in voice technologies that align with consumer expectations is a must to stay ahead in the competitive consumer space. The consumer brands and retailers that understand this and accurately invest in their technologies will see rewards in the form of product and brand loyalty.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.