“The future is voice.” We’ve all heard the trend talk. Soon, the days of typing in the google search bar will be over, communication with technology will be as seamless as having a conversation with another person, and content will be so orderly and searchable that the answers to our queries will be brought straight to our ears from YouTube, newscasts, podcasts or any other media.
In the span of a few years, voice and smart devices have taken over our homes, our cars, our phones, and our wrists. In fact, experts predict that from 2018 to 2020, the reach of smart devices will nearly double, reaching 20.4 billion users globally, and 50 percent of all searches are predicted to be done through voice.
For startup founder Steve Tingiris, the possibilities of voice search just scratch the surface of what voice is capable of. Beyond pulling up any imaginable content at the bark of a command and the scramble for marketers to make their clients’ web content “voice-friendly,” the possibilities for voice are only just beginning.
Tingiris’ company, Dabble Lab, is blazing trails using voice for business automation. “We’re very narrowly focused on emerging technologies and more specifically artificial intelligence and machine learning and in the digital assistant space,” said Tingiris. “So, we’re helping companies leverage Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Twilio Autopilot, Microsoft Cortana, and there’s a host of other ones out there, for business applications.”
No, this is not just another chatbot. While many of the tools that Dabble Lab creates are for front-end interactions from business to customer, many more deal with automating back-end practices. Working with one client, Tingiris and his team sat in on a cumbersome product development meeting, a consistent pain point for the client because of its inefficiency. Every time the team would add a developer, the meeting would take longer. Soon, Tingiris realized he could build a solution to the problem. “We realized that the information that they were collecting was stuff that we could create a bot to collect and analyze,” said Tingiris. They then realized that same tool could be used for sales reporting.
“In this case, they had a pretty good size external sales team, and by external they were contractors … So, they really had no visibility into what the sales funnel looked like at all, because they couldn’t make people use any one CRM (content management system).
“So, we added to the digital assistant, and the assistant would just text people every so often and go, ‘Hey how many meetings do you have lined up for this week?’ They text back, ‘Three,’ ‘five,’ whatever. And of course, we would collect all that on the back end,” Tingiris explained. “So, when the sales meetings happen, same thing. ‘This is how many meetings we had scheduled for last week and this is how many of them closed.’
Using this technology, Dabble Lab was not only automating reporting and eliminating wasteful meeting time, but also automating data analysis.
“If you look at a [traditional] dashboard you can see a bunch of numbers that pull out of systems, but unless you know what those numbers mean those numbers aren’t very valuable to you,” he explained. Understanding the implications from one reporting figure on a traditional dashboard would generally lead to more questions, rather than answers. “You’re looking at an accounting system and it says, ‘Okay, here’s all of the invoices that are past due.’ ‘So real quickly – aging on invoices – has that been increasing or decreasing?’ ‘Well, we need to create another report for that.’”
That process continues along with the chain of questions, like “How does that affect our cash flow? At what point do we need to raise more capital?” The questions that would take a person a great deal of time to organize, analyze and answer can be built into the bot and run automatically.
Tingiris also knew that the need for these voice assistants weren’t only in tech businesses – he saw the need in every business to increase profitability and eliminate inefficiency. That’s why Dabble Lab functions as a remote research and development shop, building these tools for businesses which aren’t quite large enough or technology-driven enough to have their own development team.
In the coming years, the importance of these technologies will only grow, says Tingiris. “The industry is starting to get some legs under it. That’s been good for Dabble Lab.”
He continued, “Businesses that don’t adopt AI are going to find it increasingly challenging to stay competitive.”