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How Nice to Hear a Friendly Voice

John Day

John Day

Posted Jul 21, 2014

Voice recognition in connected cars is great as far as it goes, but there are times (at least in my experience) when it doesn’t go quite far enough, and in those times it would be nice to hear a friendly greeting from a competent human being.

“We focus on the smooth, elegant transition from technology-based service to live assistance, and there is a lot of opportunity in that space between the call center and the technological front-end, be it voice recognition, artificial intelligence, or what have you,” says Jim Flavell, executive vice president of MyAssist, a connected vehicle concierge service owned since January by a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. MyAssist counts Ford and Mercedes-Benz among its automotive clients.

“Voice recognition is great for limited things, but in the complexities of daily life it can be frustrating, because it doesn’t always work,” Flavell continues. “Wouldn’t it be nice if the system recognized that it doesn’t know the answer, or have the information, and an agent who may be monitoring a dozen or more conversations hears an issue, or sees it on their screen, then connects the dots and provides what the customer needs without the customer even knowing that a human was involved.”

Sometimes, based on an emergency or a higher level of complexity, an agent has to step in; perhaps referring the issue to a specialist; a travel expert, for example.

“Suppose you’ve missed your flight and want to know if a seat is available on another airline,” Flavell says. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone came on the line who knows your name and what flight you’re on and says ‘I can help you with that’?”

That level of service is not available today, Flavell concedes, but he suggests that over the next decade or so “there’s a great market in the artful combination of front end technology and integration to a human back end for the times when technology realizes it’s not going to give the right answer and you need to connect to a high-touch person.

“We believe there is a tremendous opportunity to really elevate the level of service if the handoff between the technology front end and the human operator goes smoothly. It’s making the customer feel special, and at the end of the day, isn’t it all about the customer? Our mission is to combine this great technology that’s evolving before us with live assistance to create that perfect mix, which doesn’t quite exist yet, but we’re working hard on it.”

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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