Voice Choice Impacts Customer Brand Trust

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Brands who are looking to develop their soundmark, or audio content strategy now have more options than ever, thanks to the emergence of synthetic voice, AI voice, and of course – human voice over.

And while each voice over option has pros and cons, perhaps one of the most important considerations that brands can weigh now, is how the voice they choose – and the technology it’s delivered through – impacts consumer brand trust.

It was just recently that Forrester’s vice president Dipanjan Chatterjee dropped this telling trust-test statistic in a Marketing Magazine piece: 37% of people don’t trust any brand to provide them with smart home devices or services.

It’s not exactly clear where this sentiment stems from, but it does lead one to wonder, ‘Is this lack of trust due to the fact that Alexa is an AI voice and not a real human?’

To investigate whether there’s truth to this theory, we’re looking at:

  • How the voice you choose impacts consumer trust in your brand, including trust issues with synthetic/AI voices.
  • Considerations for gaining consumer trust when integrating voice into your brand, product or service.

Is Alexa Always Listening?

Considerations around consumer trust and voice are twofold: on one hand are the considerations around trust and technology, and on the other, is the trust created through the voice over selection.

By now, you may have heard of the case of the State of New Hampshire v. Timothy Verrill. The one where a judge ordered Amazon to release recordings made by one victim’s Echo device for a three-day period in 2017.

This was perhaps the first time that curiosity over Alexa’s recording behavior became widespread.

Shortly after, videos of Alexa laughing, unprompted, in the middle of the night, were released.

It’s safe to say consumers who’ve welcomed the Echo or one of these smart home devices into their friendly four-walls may have had their confidence shaken. Privacy and security are major considerations around all forms of tech, and these occurrences are just two examples of what may rattle a consumer.

Accenture UK, a technology consulting firm, released a report finding that more than one in five people admitted to leaving the room or lowering their voice to make sure their device couldn’t spy on them. Forty-eight percent of the 1,000 people studied also believe their voice assistants are always listening, even when they’re not given a command.

Despite all of that, Amazon holds fast to the fact that not every conversation is recorded.

“Echo devices are designed to detect only your chosen wake word (Alexa, Amazon, Computer or Echo). The device detects the wake word by identifying acoustic patterns that match the wake word. No audio is stored or sent to the cloud unless the device detects the wake word (or Alexa is activated by pressing a button).” Amazon states on its website.

Brands Need an Audio Presence

Trust is a complex issue.

While one of the reasons why people can be distrustful towards voice-powered tech is because of fear over a possible breach of privacy and unfair use of personal data, at the same time, many are willing to set their concerns aside for the sake of convenience and entertainment. This is evidenced by the incredible adoption rate of home voice-assistant devices (almost half of Americans have a voice assistant in our home today).

In this environment, the question isn’t whether or not a brand should participate in our voice activated and integrated world: It’s how brands today need to develop their literal brand voice, as well as develop an audio content strategy. How they do this, and the voice(s) they choose will be integral to building trust.

New information from our 2019 Voices.com Trends Report may help us understand the underlying matter at hand.

An overwhelming 91% of creative professionals agreed or strongly agreed that a human voice is more powerful than a synthetic or computer-generated voice.

Alright. So humans like hearing and speaking to other humans, that makes sense. This next section will unpack the keys to how your brand can ensure you’re communicating to your customers in the most human-like ways possible.

How to Build Trust with Consumers

Ensure Your Voice Assistant Has a Personality and Great Communication Skills

In an incredible ZDNet piece regarding customer trust with AI, behavioral scientist Dr. Susan Weinschenk said the kind of communication your customer receives from the tech that’s talking to them changes everything for your brand.

“A driverless car doesn’t need to tell you what it’s doing in order to make a decision,” she told Vala Afshar. “But, for you to trust the car’s decision, you need to understand what it’s doing. You need that feedback. And the research is showing that if that feedback comes to you as a voice rather than just a visual display, you will trust it more. And if that voice has a name, you will trust it more again.”

Susan indicates how important it will be for your brand to have an actual audible voice and a human name to ensure trust is formed. One of Google Home’s biggest knocks is that their assistant doesn’t have a name (although you can customize the name).

Be Crystal Clear on How You Manage Personal Data

Below is where the previously stated trust issues with Alexa and any other smart home devices are surfacing. In a nutshell, it has to do with a lack of clarity on how the technology is using the data being given by the customer.

Customers were recently polled by Salesforce and 60% said they’re concerned about their personal information being compromised because of AI. To add to that, 54% said they don’t believe companies operate with their best interests in mind.

But they will trust your brand with their data when you do these four things:

  1. Give control over what data is collected (92%)
  2. Are transparent about how data is used (91%)
  3. Ask for permission to use data (88%)
  4. Explain how data improves their experiences (86%)

Understand That You’re Building a Long Term Relationship

Once you’ve given your customers that control over what data is collected and transparent about how it’s used, those trust bonds are formed. You need to make sure your brand’s audible voice with an actual name is communicating this clearly to your audience in every applicable interaction, whatever that may be for your brand.

And if you’re able to build that trust, Salesforce says 95% of customers that trust in a company are more likely to be loyal to that brand.

So to summarize, establishing customer trust with your brand’s voice means:

  • Having an actual audible voice (human is preferred) with a real human name.
  • Ensuring the voice clearly explains what the tech is doing for the customer
  • The AI allows audiences to have control over the information collected (if possible) and is transparent about how that data is being used.
  • Customers will be more likely to trust you and become loyal to your brand.

To use Synthetic, AI or Human Voice?

The new opportunity for you to use a customized, AI-generated synthetic voice for your brand is exciting. Your brand could own a voice that is distinctly yours which no other company can use.

The flip side of the coin is that those who don’t pay attention to the voice they select, and how it behaves, can risk creating a loss of human connection between your brand and the customer. For more consumers, a robotic voice isn’t their top choice (although synthetic and AI voices do have their own unique applications). For the most part, removing that soul from your brand by not using a real human voice will be felt. A sense of legitimacy (and maybe more important, intimacy) will be lost in the shuffle.
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