The role of voice in the future of customer experience – Interview with Gregg Johnson


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Today’s interview is with Gregg Johnson, CEO of Invoca, a provider of call intelligence software that allows marketers to drive, track and automate inbound calls for better leads, greater marketing insight, and more customers. Gregg joins me today to talk about a recent report they have released, the impact of voice assistants on customer experience and the role of both intelligent voice assistants and the contact centre in the future of customer experience.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Doing good and the Brand Citizenship continuum – Interview with Anne Bahr Thompson – and is number 255 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Highlights from my conversation with Gregg:

  • Invoca recently published a report called The Rise of Voice: What the Increase in Conversation, Voice Assistants and AI Means for Business.
  • A lot of brands have spent the last five, six, seven years focused on this concept of digital transformation.
  • The key question now is where does voice fit into that world of digital transformation.
  • Invoca break down the broad concept of voice into two:
    1. Human voice – which is focused on human to human communication; and
    2. Automated voice – which is focused on how humans are interacting with devices like Apple’s Siri, Google’s home system, Amazon Alexa etc.
  • There are multiple things about voice that are intrinsically attractive:
    • Number one is it is convenient.
    • Voice is also fast. An average human can type about 40 or 50 words a minute, whereas they can speak 100 words per minute.
    • It doesn’t require training. Even Gregg’s 4 year old son has learned to use their Amazon devices at home.
    • Voice is really powerful and is connected with many, if not all, of the most important moments in our lives.
  • Could the explosion of voice lead to a reduction in the number of ‘zombie walkers’ that we see walking around our streets?
  • To better understand how people are using intelligent voice assistants, the report surveyed a thousand consumers in the US who have a voice assistant today.
  • Key findings:
    • Nearly 90 percent of people who have intelligent voice assistants use voice assistance every single day.
    • Nearly 60 percent of them use them to accomplish tasks that they used to do via their phones.
    • One surprising finding was that 49 percent of the surveyed Millennials said they were looking at their phone less and using voice assistant services instead.
    • Even more interesting was the finding that 24 percent said that since getting voice assistance they were making more calls to businesses than they had traditionally and 35 percent said they were making more calls to friends and family.
  • The growth of voice assistance is helping renew our familiarity with talking to each other.
  • When it comes to considered purchases, the challenge for brands is how do they deliver the human touch in a scalable way and where in the customer lifecycle are customers looking for that human touch.
  • At what point along the different customers journeys do you apply technology and/or the human touch and what were the positions of those sliders for each of those moments.
  • For many large brands, 70-90 percent of their revenue still comes from channels that involve human to human contact (i.e. through the contact centre or through a retail store).
  • The trick is to find that right balance of what is your digital touchpoint strategy but also what is your human to human touchpoint strategy.
  • The death of the contact centre has been dramatically overstated and, in fact, the contact centre is experiencing a significant rate of change and transformation right now.
  • For example, since the financial crisis, Bank of America has closed nearly 25 percent of their branch footprint. Therefore, they have had to consider how do they continue to serve a broad geographic set of customers when you don’t have a retail branch in every nook and cranny of the country.
  • That’s where digital comes into play but it’s also where the contact centre comes into play because the contact centre represents an opportunity to deliver that human touch at greater scale.
  • All these things are really breathing new life into the world of the contact centre and giving the contact centre an opportunity to play a much more strategic role in how consumers and brands interact.
  • If you look at the technology adoption curve, we were really in that visionary state 18 to 24 months ago.
  • Now, we have moved into early adoption state and a large part of that is driven by consumer acceptance of these devices as well as falling prices as competition heats up.
  • We can see a clear path to voice assistants reaching the mass-market stage over the next 18 to 24 months.
  • Certain brands have been early to the game and are already getting voice skills out there.
  • This is supported by the fact that the Alexa ecosystem now has over 30,000 third party Alexa skills today.
  • In terms of the role that voice will play in the future of customer experience, Gregg feels that we will see two things:
    1. Automated voice is going to eat into and replace some of the things that we used digital for today; and
    2. The volume of of human to human conversations with businesses will rise dramatically. It is already going up and is going to reach an estimated 170 billion human to human phone calls to businesses in the U.S. by 2020 and so the amount of human voice conversations that are happening are going up not down.
  • Overall, we will see an increase in voice activity both on the human side and the automated side in terms of how brands and consumers interact.
  • Gregg cites the example of Dish Network in the US that, he believes, are out in front and getting it right. What they have done is:
    • They have thought about voice broadly both from a human to human and automated perspective.
    • They introduced a voice activated TV remote function back in July of 2016.
    • In the spring of 2017, they established a partnership with Amazon where they were the first television service to enable users to control their television via Alexa.
    • They have also recently announced Google home support.
    • They also realized that they are a considered purchase and that having a human to human touch point is really critical. As a result, they have optimised their contact centre experience based on who you are and what your digital engagement is etc etc.
    • All of this is done with a limited number of contact centre agents. To do this, for example, they have changed their call routing based on what your digital experience has been. So, if you click on a Google paid search ad and it’s the first time you have really discovered the Dish brand then they’ll put you in a standard queue. But, if you are deep on their site and, literally, about to checkout and you have a question then they can completely change their call routing so that the customer will get to somebody without having to go through an IVR or without waiting on hold.
  • One of the additional things that Gregg is excited about is the rapid improvement in the real time analysis and processing of human speech and unstructured data.
  • This is enabling us to mine insights from conversations that were previously ‘black holes’.
  • Invoca are working with a number of players to look at how can you take those conversations and how you can you use artificial intelligence to mine them, to digitize them and to really leverage that insight for all your future digital communications.
  • They have customers who are now using machines to understand whether a customer conversation is about a refinance loan or whether it’s about a new home purchase mortgage. That is helping agents to spend more time focusing on the interaction and less time logging 15 different fields of notes from the conversation they just had.
  • How do we let humans do what humans are uniquely unable to do, which is deliver that high touch, high intellectual, high emotional connection type of working?
  • Check out Invoca at and if you plan on being at Adobe Summit coming up in late March in Las Vegas then look them up as they will be there too.


About Gregg

Gregg JohnsonGregg Johnson is CEO of Invoca and is a seasoned digital marketing and SaaS leader, with over fifteen years of extensive experience bringing products to market in emerging categories, leading large teams, and working with the world’s best enterprise brands. Most recently, Gregg led Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s social marketing product line, where he integrated $1 billion of M&A investments into the Salesforce product portfolio. Prior to that he drove product strategy and development for Salesforce Chatter, helping define the nascent category of enterprise social networking and rolling out one of Salesforce’s most successful products. Earlier in his career, Gregg was a consultant at Boston Consulting Group and worked in sales, marketing and product roles at several startups. He graduated from Stanford University and holds a Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business.

Find out more about Invoca at, say Hi to them and Gregg on Twitter @Invoca and @gregg_johnson and feel free to connect with Gregg on LinkedIn here.

Thanks to Pixabay for the image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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