Can Voice Close Its Trust Gap?

2020 OVN Trust Gap April Jon Stine
by Jon Stine

I had the privilege last month of reading the executive summary of’s latest Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption report.

Two immediate thoughts come to mind:

  • Bret Kinsella and his team are a gift nonpareil to the voice community.  Take a look at the methodology.  Read the carefully-chosen language.  This is a very well-researched and developed report, one that is worthy of user trust. 


  • The report broadly suggests that voice assistance – regardless of whether by smart speaker, smartphone, or automobile – is not yet worthy of user trust. 

This is a major issue for voice users of every stripe – from consumers and enterprise decision-makers, to the marketers, the platforms, and the thousands of voice developers, designers, strategists, and analysts who are looking to this technology for economic opportunity.

Let’s take a closer look:

With every new technology, two measurable gaps inevitably emerge – a gap between availability and adoption, and a gap between adoption and ever-more-complex usage.

The smaller the gaps, the greater the overall value of the technology to all the users.  From the Tier 1 enterprises to the development ecosystem.

When gaps narrow, value multiplies

In fact, it’s the closing of those gaps that drive market growth and value.   And especially for the enterprise users upon which developers and designers depend.

Of course, the gaps are always wide in the first years of a technology.   Inevitably, the creators of the technology sprint far ahead, and speak excitedly of a future of everyday and head-spinning, jaw-dropping use.  Analysts write frothy reports.  

Early adopters jump in, grab hold and hang on as the roller coaster of promise climbs the hype curve.  Others wait.  Or wander away. 

Given the inevitability of all this, should the voice community be surprised by these gaps?   No.

However: when we look at the reasons for these gaps, should the voice community be concerned?

Hell yes. 

Let’s take another step closer.  And inspect the critical, value-creating gap between adoption and usage.   

And let’s recognize the elephant question in the room:  what will it take to move an overwhelming majority of voice assistance users – regardless of device – into activities beyond home entertainment and the passing of time?   Beyond the listening to Spotify and Pandora and the setting of timers?

Into activities of interaction and transaction with Tier 1 consumer enterprises?

Some may answer that it will simply take time.  A little patience is all that’s needed.  The pandemic is accelerating use.  Just you watch.

That’s true, to a degree.

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But there’s a larger issue at play here, one that may be the primary barrier to closing the adoption-usage gap

And that’s user trust.  

The trust of the millions of potential voice assistance users – consumers, enterprise decision-makers, marketers, strategists, developers and designers.   

Trust in voice assistance. 

Right now there’s a clear undercurrent of distrust beneath the surface of voice.  An infectious undercurrent, if you will.

It’s a lack of trust about data ownership and data use.  For both personal data and commercial data.   The study showed that the second-most cited reason or not owning a smart speaker (let alone using it) was a clear and direct concern about data use. 

It’s lack of trust that the voice assistant will understand me.’s study noted that being understood is still the number one issue consumers value in a smart speaker.  Which indicates it’s far from a given.

It’s lack of trust that the voice assistant will understand me if I’m a woman, or of an ethnicity or dialect that doesn’t match that of current smart speaker owners.  

It’s a lack of trust that I’ll be able to use it without feeling stupid.  That I’ll be able to find destinations of my choice, as opposed to be routed God-knows-where, for God-only-knows-what content.  (Especially in this time of the pandemic.)   That I’ll be able to work my way through search, or through a transaction.  

It’s a lack of trust that my business will create incremental value with voice.  That voice is more worthy of investment than other consumer and marketing connections.   

Voice does not just have the standard, give-it-time gap between adoption and usage.  

There’s a trust gap in voice, and it will smother this incredible technology if we don’t address it, and address it now

Which is why you now have the opportunity to join and support The Open Voice Network.  The neutral, non-profit industry association that is now working to bring global standards to the world of voice assistance.  

To make voice worthy of user trust. 

You can find us here:  

About the author

JCS Headshot Sept 2019 Jon Stine
Jon Stine

Making voice worthy of user trust.

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