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What Is a Voice API?

This article was published on January 31, 2023

Your customers are always talking to you in one form or another, and now they seek a real conversation — one like they would have with anyone else on a messaging app or social media channels. If you've already adopted an omnichannel customer engagement strategy, then you're on your way to delivering this conversational experience. You might be surprised to discover that voice can play a key role in this strategy, well beyond traditional phone calls placed to the contact center.

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Vonage Voice API

What Is a Voice API?

A programmable voice API (application programming interface) can help you create the conversational experiences customers crave. But what exactly is it, and how can programmable voice help foster closer relationships with your customers? Here's what you need to know about voice APIs and programmable voice and how these technologies keep the conversation going.

A voice API is a flexible technology your business can use to provide a richer customer experience. With it, developers can quickly create high-quality, scalable voice applications in the cloud or embed voice features into existing apps and services. The reason this technology is referred to as programmable voice is that it allows you to create a custom voice solution that meets your unique business needs.

What's crucial is that a modern voice API from a best-in-class business communications solutions provider will allow you to do all of these things without having to become an expert in telecommunications infrastructure. With the ability to focus on your core business goals, you can devote your talent and investment toward creating voice solutions that give your customers a better experience.

Although it's true that customer communication channels have multiplied in recent years, with video and chatbots being particularly popular now, customers also want the convenience and comfort of voice. You can, of course, use a voice API to allow your customers to make calls — they can talk with a customer service agent right from your app or website — but that's not where the value ends.

Programmable voice can ease some of the most frustrating customer pain points. Our 2021 Global Customer Engagement Report found that 52% of customers are very likely to stop buying from a business or using its services after repeatedly experiencing an annoying communications problem. Companies that take the trouble to solve these challenges are more likely to enjoy continued customer loyalty compared with those that do not.

How a Voice API Solves Common Customer Pain Points

You can use a voice API to solve customer pain points in several different ways. Anyone who's called a customer support line can recite the phrase "We are experiencing unusually high call volume at this time." In translation, it just means, "Get ready to wait." Rather than forcing you to spend your afternoon listening to hold music, the company could have had a voice-based chatbot answer your call right away and possibly help you quickly.

If the voice-based chatbot can't readily give the assistance needed, the call would be shifted to a live human agent, along with helpful context about the ongoing conversation to avoid callers having to repeat themselves. And they'd probably be connected with that human faster. With the voicebot taking care of simpler calls, the customer service team would have much more capacity, giving you faster, more meaningful support.

Verification Via Voice

Before reaching the human agent, though, there's another common customer pain point. Often when you call customer support, the agent has to ask you a series of security questions before you can even tell them what's wrong. Nobody finds that interaction natural or particularly useful, but it's necessary to keep your account from being compromised. 

Programmable voice can solve this problem by automatically validating a customer's identity using their voice instead. By just speaking a few words, your customers can painlessly complete the verification process. Your customers get support faster, and your company still keeps personal information secure.

Conversational Commerce

Novo Labs offers voice service to restaurants whose customers still prefer to phone in their orders. As Novo Labs co-founder Jeff Loukas explained, "Our thinking was: 'Hey, if customers have been ordering verbally forever and it's worked just fine, then we should digitize the voice channel rather than push people out of a channel that's been the most productive for them.'" 

To achieve this goal, Loukas and business partner Clinton Coleman built what they call a conversational commerce system through which users can either call in or use a drive-through to order via voice. "Customers still receive a high level of service and get their food the way that they want it. The only difference is that the interaction is with an AI system, not a human," Loukas said.

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How a Voice API Lets Customers Help Themselves

Some people would rather find their own answers than contact a customer support team. But people are also increasingly comfortable using digital assistants like Siri and Alexa for voice search. According to eMarketer, 46.9% of U.S. adults will use a voice assistant in 2022. But when customers want to research a company's products or services, voice usually isn't an option, so there's a disconnect — so to speak. A voice API can solve this problem, giving your customers the conversational experience they seek.

For example, you can use a voice API's automatic speech recognition features to let your customers perform simple searches for product and service information by voice the same way they do with the digital assistants they already use. If they're not able to find what they're looking for, they can then be connected to a human quickly. This off-ramp is crucial because, as Vonage research indicates, 46% of customers become frustrated when they have no option to speak with a human. Plus, with a digital voice counterpart taking over the easy queries, human contact center agents have more capacity to take on the complex questions that require a personal touch.

Voice Engagement Aligns With Customer Preferences

Although nearly every organization in every industry is looking for ways to meet customers' needs and deliver a better experience, customers' preferences can look a bit different depending on the sector. For example, our research shows that 35% of healthcare consumers prefer voice when speaking with a therapist for a counseling session compared to 28% who would rather have that conversation over video and 14% who would rather have the choice of any channel. For this reason, healthcare service providers may find it beneficial to offer voice connections to their patients.

The financial industry is similar. With digital banking on the rise, you might guess that customers prefer to reach out via video chat, chatbot, or another method. Yet in this sector, consumers have a strong preference for voice, with 47% saying they prefer a voice call when discussing investment options with a financial advisor. Just 15% would rather have the choice of any channel, and 13% would select video chat instead. Accordingly, finance and banking firms will have a better chance of keeping their customers loyal if they offer voice as an option for engagement.

Although the trend is less pronounced in retail, customers still indicate they would rather use voice (28%) as opposed to non-SMS messaging (17%) or their choice of any channel (17%) when shopping for an expensive or specialized item with the help of a retail advisor. And while video is often preferred over all other channels in the education sector, voice is still a strong second choice when it comes to learning and studying remotely with a tutor. 

The takeaway is clear: Regardless of the industry, customers still want voice as an option, and they are likely to reward organizations that make it available to them.

The Business Benefits of Programmable Voice

Your organization can reap multiple advantages from a voice API regardless of the industry you're in. Here are just a few of the benefits that programmable voice delivers:

  • A better customer experience. When customers can use the channel they prefer, they have a better experience. A voice API can even enhance the experience of voice beyond what customers would expect from a traditional phone call by personalizing it with contextual information that makes the experience both efficient and satisfying.

  • Increased customer engagement. When customers have a satisfying voice experience with your brand, they're more likely to stay engaged with you. Over time, this stickiness can lead to better customer relationships and increased conversion.

  • Increased customer loyalty. As Vonage's research shows, the customer loyalty breaking point arrives much sooner than it once did. By solving customer pain points with a great voice experience, you have a far better chance of boosting customer loyalty.

  • Higher conversion rates. When customers run into fewer obstacles when trying to use voice self-help options or making a payment over the phone, conversions increase.

  • Improved brand perception. Although voice systems may seem old school, they've resurged in popularity thanks to digital assistants like Siri and Alexa. By giving your customers the same options they already find useful in their daily lives, you're inviting them to see your brand as being on top of technology trends.

  • Global reach. Programmable voice lets you extend your calling experiences around the globe while keeping customers on your brand's platform.

  • Scalability. As with all APIs, programmable voice is inherently scalable. As your business grows, it can grow with you.

  • Reliability. Rather than having to develop your own costly and complex voice communications infrastructure, you can use a voice API's low latency, feature-rich, carrier-grade network.

  • Speed. Because your developers need minimal coding to tap the benefits of a voice API, they can create voice-enabled apps quickly. This results in a faster time to market for your company.

Create Satisfying Customer Conversations With Voice

Although it's true that there's been an explosion in customer engagement channels, voice still has a place in customers' hearts. According to our research, 56% of customers said that a mobile phone call was still their favorite channel in 2021. A voice API can help your customers connect with you over the phone and make that experience even more satisfying than a traditional phone call. If you haven't yet considered how voice can support your omnichannel customer engagement strategy, it's worth exploring the benefits that programmable voice brings to the table.

headshot photo of Steven Giuffre, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Vonage Voice API
By Steven Giuffre Senior Manager, Vonage APIs

Steven Giuffre is a Senior Manager for Vonage APIs. He leverages his Conversational AI and Voice expertise to promote personalized communications across channels for brands to deliver richer conversations and context to their customers. Steven lives in Los Angeles, where he enjoys beach life, films of most genres, Rams football, and his dog, Roxy.

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