Live from VoiceSummit: Giving You the Voice to Make a Difference

Giving You the Voice to Make a Difference, by Emerson Sklar and Michelle Mullenax

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At the American Red Cross they’ve built a lot of voice apps, worked with Siri, they work like an internal startup. They pay attention to innovative technologies. The underlying drive for them is to provide value to the organization and align with the ARC’s mission.

Why Voice?

The Red Cross is excited about voice technology because they need to meet their consumer where they are. It’s an organizational imperative. They serve folks in need, folks providing life-saving blood.

The Red Cross needs to be early to the game. Voice isn’t at the threshold of maturity. But 2-3 years from now, Red Cross will need to already be ahead of the game.

On the other hand, Red Cross can also benefit from the cost-savings of automation. There’s an ethical question: if I automate this task, will it compromise any of my consumers? So the Red Cross checks and confirms that, to ensure they’re increasing volunteer capacity without harming consumers.

What are the Use Cases for Conversational AI?

Red Cross starts by thinking mission-first. So they’ve created a Blood Donation Skill for Alexa, to help people find blood drives. The challenge the Red Cross has is that people don’t know if they’re eligible. The Skill opens the channel, so that donors can find out if they can donate.

Then there’s a First Aid Skill, which helps people study for their first aid certification. Lastly, the Hurricane Alert Skill helps people during disasters. It provides life saving information during a hurricane.

That’s what exists today. But moving forward, the Red Cross is going to do more with disaster response. They are looking into how they can use the power of voice to provide shelter information, first aid information, and during disasters in general.

The Voice Hippocratic Oath

There are legal and ethical implications, which lead to development challenges. Main question: how do you get information out there without endangering someone? For example, the Red Cross needs to ensure people don’t see their First Aid Skill as something to use when someone’s having a seizure. It’s not 9-1-1. It’s a way to practice in advance, for certification.

Also need to ensure that all PII is safe, so that constituents can trust the Red Cross. Need to convey information to the users, and make sure they understand what’s being said.

And they need to ensure that they are honoring the needs of consumers. There are no best practices documented, so it’s necessary to create well validated, high quality items. The rush to get to market cannot overwhelm the need to slow down and test quality.

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