Nuance Communications, maker of Dragon Naturally Speaking and a silent partner behind Apple's Siri, today announced that Geico is offering its own "interactive voice assistant" - named Lily -- based on Nuance technology. It's an iPhone app now, with an Android version promised for later in the year.
The news raises a variety of questions, including: Will Lily and Siri be able to peacefully coexist on the same smart phone? What does the Geico gecko have to say about this new character in town? And most of all, why would anyone want an interactive voice assistant from their insurance company?
A press release issued by the companies quotes Pete Meoli, Geico mobile and digital design director, attempting to explain: "We gave Lily a lively personality to allow our mobile customers to connect with her at a deeper level."
Naturally. Because who in the moments after an automobile wreck doesn't long for a deeper connection with their insurance company's mechanical voice?
"Lily's witty and upbeat responses paired with her undeniable efficiency will change customers' expectations of what is possible in self-service customer care."
I don't have to contact my insurance company often, but when I do my expectation is that I won't have to depend on self-service customer care - even the deeper, witty and upbeat kind.
But if I must, can't you just let me talk to the gecko? I like the gecko, even if he isn't necessarily the coolest customer when car trouble arises.
(Update: This post has been changed to reflect the fact that both companies issued the press release. The copy linked to above is from Geico. The version I received via email was from Nuance.)