How voice and chat bots can help bridge the inclusivity gap

Friday, December 10, 2021
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When companies begin reaching customers, they need a variety of communication options to ensure that their clients can effectively converse with them. Great customer service often means giving customers a range of options to speak directly with the teams they need to reach, whether through the telephone, email, social media, or a website. Savvy businesses aim to create communications that are user-friendly and accessible to all.

But a lot of businesses are still focussed on standard communications via agent operated telephone, email, socials or web forms. The challenge here is that they sometime fall short of providing the depth of individual or alternative needs that their wider audience may have.

This is the inclusivity gap.

Thankfully, it is possible to overcome this limitation using proven technology.  Here, we focus on the power of communication bots, chatbots and voicebots, to widen a companies inclusivity by providing improved accessibility in 3 scenarios.

Scenario 1. Older clients with audio limitations.

It is probably unsurprising to discover that many older people lose some aspect of their hearing. Call centres can be staffed with the most patient workforce on earth, but if the communication medium is only phone calls, a hard of hearing user will struggle to converse.

This is a very real issue for Age UK partners around the country. Many users turn to an Age UK partners’ website for information and assistance. Housed on a growing number of partners, including our friends at Norwich, under a large "Ask a question" button, is Vera, the helpbot.

Vera has been designed to have an alternative larger format than most chatbots in page, helping to factor in that many users may struggle with small font sizes. The bot also has the power to directly signpost users to other websites in a much simpler way than can be achieved over the phone. For example, if a client needs help regarding their housing benefit, they can be directly linked to the relevant .gov page as well as a number of other services for their location.

Unlike many implementations of chatbots, Age UK's implementation openly offers their phone number for customers to call, when it is the correct course of action, avoiding frustration for older users and those looking after them, so they know that this is the right course of action.

Scenario 2. Non-English speakers

Websites that want or need to cater to many different language speakers can use online translation technology, similar to Google Translate, to adequately interpret the language of the content on the site.

This technology can be housed within the chatbot, to provide conversational translation automatically detecting the user's language, translating it, and then responding in the users’ language from the English responses programmed.

We also have a project to enable English speaking live chat users to talk directly to a user in a different language in real time using the similar technology.

The customer, in turn, can reply in their own language and have the translation occur in real-time as it is delivered to the agent.

This is ideal for organisations that may primarily deal with only one language and not have many multi-lingual call centre staff but who need to cater to diverse communities that still require the resources they offer.

Opening up access in this way can benefit many unseen marginalised groups, such as women who have been isolated and who struggle to access local facilities due to being unable to speak the local language, or allowing refugees and economic immigrant families access to basic benefits and advice and support where they would not have had the same access.

Scenario 3. Visual Impairment

The internet is a visual medium, for the most part. However, companies can create chatbots that can be implemented through Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa or even a phone.

For a voice assistant, the company creates a chatbot with a unique Google 'name' or Alexa 'skill'. This allows users to make verbal requests to the assistant devices and be served with information and 2-way communication with your bot, rather than scraping information from random websites on the internet.

This allows your clients to work with you or buy from you without resorting to using a traditional PC interface. That will suit the visually impaired and any client who can speak but cannot operate a mouse. This opens up your service to a pool of users who could otherwise not access your services.

As the most straightforward and accessible voice-operated options for searching the internet, these tools are vastly underutilised. Companies will begin to create applications that harness this power as they see the benefit against their competitors who have not done so while providing a non-visual route for users to access their facilities.

In addition to this, there are voice bots deployed across tradition phone systems, so that automation of incoming and outbound calls can be managed with very natural and superbly useful Voice automation. This is a growing space as companies understand that call waiting is now just not acceptable and staffing that support is just not financially viable. The power of this technology has grown and is now a proven technology, long gone are the IVRs that ask you to say or press 1 for accounts or similar and full service journeys are a real and effective option.

Conclusion

Bots are not just a limited tool that appears on a website. Whether from a direct call into a business or a conversation initiated on your online chatbot, the same software can use naturalistic AI ‘voices’ to carry out simple two-way conversations whether it is text or speech. With the power of translation and giving accessible routes to communicate with business, we can remove barriers that might otherwise prevent clients from accessing facilities that are open to them.

In all the forms we can imagine, creative implementation of voice or chatbots can work 24/7, providing access to clients whenever they need it and through a wide range of mediums. Whether it's a simple FAQ answering bot, or a more complex setup that allows for a range of data to be requested, the voice bot or chatbot is here to help make your business inclusive to as wide a range of people as is possible to achieve.

Posted by:
Sean Bussell
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